Pod Leader of the Week: Deborah Bronston-Culp

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Deborah is a Managing Partner at Samothrace Partners as well as an MD and Co-head of Enterprise Technology at Golden Seeds. She invests in early-stage companies, serves on boards and mentors entrepreneurs.

Deborah has over 25 years experience on Wall Street and spent 15 years at Prudential Securities where she managed and trained Equity Research analysts. She was a top ranked consumer analyst for each of the 7 years she followed stocks.

Deborah is a graduate and Trustee of UC, San Diego.

 

Describe your career journey

My father took me to the gallery of the NYSE when I was about 14 after I had bought a couple of (literally two) shares of IBM stock with some of my babysitting earnings.  I loved the frenzied environment, the unpredictability, the math and how it looked (at least on this particular day) like everyone was having fun.  The seed was planted that I would have a career in the stock market. 

Fast forward fewer than 10 years and I started working in EF Hutton's equity research department.  Ultimately, I became an equity analyst covering textile and apparel manufacturers and some specialty retailers.  It was a very rewarding and challenging career.  One of the most important skills I learned was how to listen to what and how people were telling you their stories--whether it was clients, CEOs, middle managers, bankers, customers of the companies I covered or their suppliers.  I loved analyzing business models and pouring through financial statements. 

After rising to the top of my field and staying there, I decided I wanted a new challenge and thought I could help other analysts be successful.  I developed a training program.  Over time, I took on more management roles and I have mentored more than 60 stock analysts. My last traditional Wall Street employer was Morgan Stanley where I co-ran US Equity Research with some amazing colleagues.  

I left there in 2003 and traveled the world with my husband on and off for several years.  But, I got antsy and started looking for more professional stimulation.   I looked all over for my next gig and ultimately found that I could apply all the skills I had already honed--strategizing over business plans, analyzing financials, mentoring new and seasoned executives, etc.--in the world of angel investing.  It was a perfect match.  

Over the past several years, and with a couple of partners at Samothrace Partners, we focused on investing in female entrepreneurs in exciting new B2B and B2C technologies.  These entrepreneurs are truly inspiring.

1. What about your career has surprised you the most?
If you had asked me that midway through my career I’d have said how creative investing can be.  Economics can be pretty dry to learn but applying it in a variety of disciplines is very artistic.  Now, I am surprised by the number of people I have interacted with over the years and how many have circled back through my orbit or I in theirs.  It is almost always a positive experience to reconnect with someone I haven’t spoken with in awhile.  

2. What about the future excites you? 
All the new technologies that are being commercialized.  Obviously, blockchain and AI technologies are off-the-hook exciting.  They will truly transform so many ways we interact in commerce, banking, communications, medical records and diagnostics, transferring and tracking assets of any kind, including real estate, how we drive.  The applications for these protocols and platforms will touch many, many aspects of our lives.

3. What about the future scares you? 
Political partisanship and closed-mindedness.  Nuff said.

5. What is the best invention ever? 
There was a time I thought it was Bazooka bubble gum.  Then I thought nothing could top TV remote controls.  After losing my father to melanoma, Interleukin 2 seemed the answer.  As my horizons expand and technology pushes the boundaries of what is possible, this is a very difficult question to answer.  My mother is 92 and no longer drives but is very active.  LYFT and a smartphone are hugely liberating inventions for her and therefore my sisters and me.  Many disease therapies must go on the list, but is that better than the Internet, which is a never-ending source of learning?  I know that in 20 years, perhaps fewer, these replies will sound as juvenile and narrow as bubble gum does today.

6. What is your estimate on when we will have gender parity in the US? 
It certainly won’t happen before we stop calling ourselves “girls."  Nothing is more nails-on-a-chalkboard to my ears than when I hear grown females (or males for that matter) refer to other women, themselves, their friends or colleagues as "girls."  If we don't respect ourselves enough, how can we ask others to?