Lucinda Revell has never seen being a woman in a male dominated industry as a weakness. Instead, she credits having confidence in her work, the tangible evidence of her accomplishments, as the reason she receives the same respect as her male counterparts.As the co-founder of Boost Capital, a microfinance technology company transforming thousands of lives in Southeast Asia, she has achieved astounding success in only two years. With help from SOSV, she plans to continue her gains by taking the company global, a testament to her perseverance as an entrepreneur.
Revell’s entrepreneurial spark was seeded when she was a history major at Yale, studying the empires of the world. “I especially started focusing on informal empires, ones that were built on commerce and trade, like the Venetians,” she recalls her fascination with their systems. Years later, the knowledge of how commerce could drive alliance and growth has become the strength of Boost Capital: a microfinance technology company transforming thousands of lives in Southeast Asia. We caught up with Lucinda over Zoom to talk about her storied career spanning several industries and what it’s like being a women entrepreneur.
A life of problem solving
After graduating from Yale, her first job was in the petroleum industry, largely due to her studies of the petroleum sector in the 19th and 20th centuries as an imperialistic driver of commerce. Here, she was able to combine her interests of history, politics, and development.
She found great success amongst these categories, and as she continued her career, she realized that her strength came in problem solving.
“I kept unlocking different problems as I went along,” she said. “After my first job, I went into private equity and business incubation because I wanted to look at more than one sector, and then I moved into agriculture and infrastructure, [because] these sectors were like building blocks of economic development.”
Revell kept finding small inconveniences in each subdivision she worked in, which prompted her to find resolutions quickly and efficiently. Since problem solving came naturally, it was only logical to begin her own business that made others’ lives easier.
“While in these positions, I started looking at micro businesses, and began to see that the problem was that before these businesses can get to the point where they can absorb VC funding, they need microfinance because they’re small,” she explained.
Revell then had to ask herself, “what exactly IS the problem with these businesses?”
The problem, she realized, was that because micro businesses have such high overheads, they have many layers of inefficient paperwork. These processes are very time consuming, and in the end, the micro entrepreneurs end up getting neglected.
This was the decisive reason why she, along with her co-founder, founded Boost Capital. A troubleshooter at heart, Revell was determined to make microfinance more affordable and accessible for those micro entrepreneurs.
An even playing field
As a successful woman in STEM, Revell could have faced enormous pressure to be perfect. In reality, while working in several male-dominated industries, she finds her networks extremely supportive. She acknowledges how lucky she was to have grown up in environments that encouraged women to succeed and challenge themselves, rather than hold them at a lower standard than men.
“I had family members who never once introduced the idea that a woman would not be able to achieve something that a man could, and I went to schools where that was the standard, as well. I went into the petroleum industry, which everybody would have thought to be an old boys club, but I went into a company where women thrived. I did my MBA at an institute that has one of the highest percentages of women learning, and I received a scholarship for that MBA that was to support women going to the school.”
All of these gave her an advantage when it came to having confidence in her work.
“I think that that attitude has very much created what I could only describe as a virtuous circle; I think I’m an equal, so then I’m treated as an equal. But the problem is, it’s very hard to get into that virtual virtuous circle,” she said. She understands that women may not always have the same criteria to allow them this type of thinking, so she encourages them to have faith in their efforts. Favorable results will help maintain confidence.
“I think that the nice thing about being in business, and especially about being an entrepreneur, is that your work is so closely tied to results,” she said. “I’ve not ever been in a business where I can’t point to my work and say, “this is what I’ve done.” If anybody wants to criticize me or my work, I can point to results, and I think that that’s the only way that you can stay confident in your work. Pointing to achievements, that’s an advantage.”
Taking a step back
Ambitious as she may be, Revell thinks the biggest lesson she’s learned from creating her own company is to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
“I think that sometimes I really get stuck in the day to day of running a company and building a team. But, it is very important to take a little bit of time and always make sure that you’re cognizant of the strategy choices and the growth choices, especially because that’s what’s going to end up driving much of the success of your company,” she explained. “I think that’s ultimately why it’s really great to participate in something like the SOSV accelerator because it forces me to make time to go through that thought process. The team at SOSV really guides and supports the discussion, and I think that’s really valuable because it’s something that’s so easy to forget about.”
Beyond hiring: diversity & inclusion in every step
When prompted on what advice she has for others in the industry, she stood by the idea of confidence, and the value of seeking other opinions.
“Work hard, and let the quality of your work speak for itself,” she said. “But beyond that, I think it is important to actively seek out mentors who can help you open doors, and then also give back by becoming a mentor yourself and doing as much as you can to feed back in.”
To add value to your company, she believes in creating an inclusive environment and pressing for gender balance as much as possible. Put forward candidates, not just because they’re women, but because they’re qualified, and they have the appreciable evidence to prove that they deserve to be there.
“I think that if you create an environment in which you have enough women in the room, and you create this expectation that everyone’s an equal team member, everyone will expect to be respected. You’ll have the standard of conduct that makes that the norm.”
Revell has proven that being a woman in this industry is not a shortcoming, but something to celebrate. By challenging societal norms and proving that she is more than just her gender, Revell has exceeded expectations and found extraordinary success — and this is only just the beginning.