Cyber Mentor Fund Promotes Muriel Kay to Venture Partner

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At CMF, we focus on identifying gaps in the industry that require the unique combination of innovative solutions and tailored mentorship. We dive in, even pre-investment, and surround the founders with hands-on mentorship to help them disrupt the future of cybersecurity. In this spirit, we celebrate Muriel’s invaluable contributions to the fund’s successes with her recent promotion to Venture Partner. Since joining CMF in 2018 as a Venture Associate, Muriel has risen as a shining early-stage cyber VC, a strong member of the partnership, and an avid mentor to our founders.

Coming from a background in policy and community impact, Muriel brings a unique approach to cybersecurity investing. She believes it’s not just about code and innovative technology, but requires a human-centered approach focused on diversity of thought and untapped connections and communities. She knows that when you address the human element, outcomes will improve.

Muriel’s passion for mentorship and diversity extends beyond the portfolio and is directed towards bringing more women into cyber investing. She is an enthusiastic member of the AllRaise, Women in VC, and Women in Cyber organizations. Muriel serves as the cybersecurity moderator for the Women in VC network, where she dedicates time helping other women excel in cyber investing, driving conversations on market dynamics, discussing the next generation of enterprise cyber needs, and sharing deal opportunities with women in the network.

Read on for a short Q&A with CMF Venture Partner, Muriel Kay, to learn more about what it takes to be successful in early stage cyber investing.

What are the top 3 things you have learned over the past 4 years working at an early-stage Mentorship Fund?

  1. To lean on others when you encounter things you do not understand. You can’t know everything so in order to be successful in this industry you need to always have a learners mindset. Take advantage of those around you who can provide mentorship and learnings who have lived experience in the areas you want to expand into.
  2. A conversation with a founder about their road to entrepreneurship can provide much clearer insights than a deck presentation alone. Early-stage investing is a people’s first job, and CMF truly comes in at the earliest stages — sometimes even before a deck is finished. A conversation on their “AHA” moment and talking about their purpose and vision might be the most clarifying of them all. This approach allowed me to know when a company and the founder is the right fit for success.
  3. The best conversations happen when all opinions are heard, especially in mentoring conversations. It’s important to be curious and seek input from not just the loudest in the room.

If you could go back and tell your former self to do one thing differently, what would that be?

I would have sought out a mentor from the very beginning. Mentorship is so important, no matter what stage of your career you are in. Having someone in your corner, especially if they experienced the same roadblocks as you, helps increase the velocity of growth. I definitely had imposter syndrome, and finding a mentor helped me strengthen my self belief. I approach work wanting to come with solutions to problems, and a mentor has accelerated my ability to do that in a supportive and productive way.

What has been your most impactful moment over the last 3 years?

Definitely working closely with our portfolio company, Kognos, from the beginning to end. It was one of the first deals we made at CMF, and it was the first subset of cybersecurity that I really started to dive into. I learned so much from investing in the seed round, supporting the strategic product positioning and GTM motions, building the channel partner program, and seeing the deal all the way through to an exit. My whole heart was in that deal and we built such a strong relationship with the entire Kognos team, so it was an incredibly fulfilling experience.

What is something you would like to see change in the industry?

As an industry we need to continue to push for more diversity-both in cybersecurity and venture capital. The cybersecurity field and scope must continue to constantly evolve to keep up with security threats, and pushing for multi-faceted and diverse teams is crucial in order to secure both governments and enterprises online. Additionally, having investors with diverse backgrounds opens up possibilities for founders that might otherwise not have access to investment opportunities. If these industries drive towards diversity, the world will be a more secure place.

How has your move to New York impacted you as a VC?

When I first started working at CMF, I was located in San Francisco, but ultimately wanted to move to New York to expand our reach. I love the energy of the VC community in New York, and we’ve been able to not only increase our connections but prospect companies we might not have had access to before our team was bi-coastal. As the Venture Partner leading our east coast investments, the move has also helped me grow my leadership abilities both within the team and the cybersecurity industry. Cybersecurity investing on the east coast is less mature, so it has accelerated my ability to provide support and wisdom to early stage investors who want to break into cybersecurity. I have also found an amazing network of women out here, which has provided me with unparalleled support and collaboration. It truly feels like we are all in this together.

How do you recognize the deals you want to invest in?

At CMF we really prescribe to the idea of a misfit because there’s a synonymous nature of a misfit and an early-stage entrepreneur. What is a misfit other than someone doing something different than the norm? That is exactly what an entrepreneur is doing–identifying unconventional solutions to address current problems in the market that are not being solved properly. Legacy systems or mature organizations may not have the bandwidth to drive innovation, so this is where we need misfits to start solving problems differently. I look for an entrepreneur who isn’t afraid to push against the grain or shy away from creating a solution that may not even have a market category yet. Hackers are always one step ahead, so I want to work with entrepreneurs who are thinking one step ahead of where the market is.