Cindy Padnos, Founder and Managing Director at Illuminate Ventures, discusses the impact of Covid on the fund’s portfolio, as well as the trends she sees.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by welcoming back Cindy Padnos to our show. She is the founder and director of Illuminate Ventures and one of the active female investors in the Silicon Valley Movement. We have a lot more female investors, but she is one of the earlier ones. We had her here before and she has been doing a lot of work in this area for a long time.
Cindy Padnos: Thank you. It is wonderful to be here.
Sramana Mitra: It’s been a while. Let’s catch up. How has COVID been for you?
Cindy Padnos: There is not a whole lot that you can say that is positive about COVID other than it actually benefited a few of our portfolio companies in ways one could never anticipate. Others had some hardship because of it. The buildings closed down, and so sales teams aren’t working in offices anymore. Things like that have had some impact. We are looking forward to the world opening back up. All of the things that we can do and enjoy would be much appreciated in the future.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with the positive. You said that you have had portfolio companies who have benefited from COVID. We have heard this from many investors. There are certain categories where companies have done well even during COVID. Let’s take a couple of case studies and discuss them. Why were they successful? How has COVID benefited them positively?
Cindy Padnos: The most obvious one is Coupang. In a world where shops are closed and people don’t want to go out, e-commerce picks up dramatically. The credit that I will give to Coupang is that they were prepared to be able to take full advantage of the opportunity that opened up in front of them.
This meant that they had to have all the logistics in place. They had to hire many drivers for delivery. They do their deliveries. They don’t rely on third-party the way Amazon and others do here in the US. They also had to put in place amazing policies and processes to keep employees healthy in the workplace. We are talking about warehouse workers picking up all the items for the people that are ordering online.
They took the next step and initiated something that they call instant delivery. It means that you can go online and order a product up until midnight and by 7:00 AM the next morning, it is on your doorstep. That is just incredible. The logistics of doing that is extreme.
They just went public a few weeks ago. They had an extraordinary IPO. I am most proud of two things there. One, the reason we are investors in that company is because a company that we were investing in merged with them six years ago. Our team, the CEO, his co-founder, and two of the other members all picked up and moved to Korea.
Our CEO became the CTO. His co-founder became the head of all products there. They helped them make the transition from what they were then which was more like the Groupon of South Korea to become the Amazon of South Korea. Without them, it would have much more of a struggle.