Why Do I Learn from Kathryn Roy Every Time We Speak?

I love talking to Kathryn Roy because I learn something every time we speak. She has a powerful mind but that’s not what makes her a source of wisdom. The secret lies in how she uses that mind.

Kathryn studied applied math and operations research and went on to an MBA at Harvard (Here is my interview of her: The Problem of Knowledge). Her professional work took her to a leadership position at Boston’s iconic Lotus Development corporation until its acquisition by IBM. Since then she has helped leading technology companies such as IBM and Constant Contact to hone their marketing strategies and messaging. I’m glad to know she is on the board of a promising startup in my portfolio, LeaseQ.

As an MIT alum and an investor in tech startups in Boston, I run across a lot of smart people. I can’t think of any other person who uses her or his mind quite the way Kathryn does.  Smart people, and I am certainly guilty of this, tend to think they know more than they actually do. If you can master quantum physics, how hard can it be to figure out what customers need? Something in Kathryn keeps her from making these assumptions. Despite her vast experience and sharp intellect, she approaches every problem with a mind free of stock solutions or formulas. She hypothesizes but is willing to expose these hypotheses to evidence she digs up

And dig she does. She is utterly relentless in seeking to understand the market in which she is working. Kathryn is willing to do the often-mundane work necessary to understand what clients need and how those needs can be addressed economically. This is exemplified by this quote from our interview:

“The real benefit or the most important thing that you can do is understand the customer's needs, no matter how boring they are.”

Another contributor to Kathryn’s sagacity is her disciplined dedication to honing a message. She understands that being able to explain your business in a few words is extremely important because it means you actually know what business you are in. Here is another telling quote from her:

“The hardest thing about marketing and messaging is figuring out what you're notgoing to say.”

I’m really fortunate to be able to work with Kathryn as a member of Walnut Ventures, an angel group in which we both participate. You can also benefit from her wisdom by listening to this interview of Kathryn The Problem of Knowledge as well as the Ask an Angel Investor I panel in which she participated: Ask an Angel Investor Panel I