Lakshmi Shenoy is the Vice President of Strategy & Business Development at 1871, a hub for technology and entrepreneurship in Chicago that supports over 500 early-stage, high-growth digital startups. Before joining 1871, Lakshmi served as the Engagement Manager at Prophet, a brand and marketing consultancy with focused on strategy, digital, design and customer experience, and as a Corporate Strategy & Development Associate at Time Inc. She holds a MBA from Harvard Business School and B.A. in Sociology from the University of Chicago.
How did you first develop an interest in business development and corporate strategy?
Lakshmi Shenoy: Working in strategy and business development means working on projects that help organizations grow. It requires creativity and collaboration, which are two things I seek out in whatever I do.
You are the VP of Strategy and Business Development at 1871. How did you first join 1871 and can you tell us about some initiatives you’ve led with 1871?
Lakshmi Shenoy: Prior to joining 1871, I worked on strategy teams both for big brands directly as well as consulting teams. That gave me great exposure to big, global endeavors, which was incredibly fun to work on. Despite enjoying my other roles, I was seeking to make a local impact for my home, the City of Chicago. That is why I joined the team at 1871. 1871 (named after the year of the Great Chicago Fire) is Chicago’s tech and entrepreneurship hub – home to 500 startups and the other partners required to help startups grow, including mentors, corporate customers, venture capital investors. My role at 1871 allows me to pair my experience with global corporations with my love for the new and interesting business models being built at 1871. In my time at 1871, I have had the chance to be part of the team that has grown 1871 both physically and programmatically. My favorite project was helping to launch WiSTEM, which is 1871’s women’s entrepreneurship program, now in its 5th cohort. The success of the women who have been a part of the WiSTEM program continues to make me so proud.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities facing Chicago’s entrepreneurial landscape and how is 1871 poised to address them?
Lakshmi Shenoy: I think that the talents and technologies of Chicago are so strong and need to be spotlighted globally. Many of those teams are part of the 1871 entrepreneurial ecosystem, and 1871 is lucky to receive international attention. My hope is that through 1871’s reach and network, we can further increase the exposure of our entrepreneurs and their teams globally.
What are the biggest challenges you faced in your work and how did you seek to overcome them?
Lakshmi Shenoy: Maximizing my time. It’s hard to say no to great opportunities, but unfortunately there are only 24 hours in the day. I rely on organizational techniques like my Bullet Journal to stay present in the moment, yet efficient in the day.
Outside your work, how do you like to spend your time?
Lakshmi Shenoy: I love to swim – I find such calm and relaxation in the water. It’s also very important to me to spend time with my family whenever I can. They do a good job to remind me that work is not everything in one’s life.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
Lakshmi Shenoy: An early boss in my career was Amy Kleckner. She taught me how to be thoughtful, professional and polished as I was just starting out in my career through her consistent and very actionable feedback. While she expected me to perform at a high level and was often very tough on me, she always had my back and lifted me up. I have modeled my own leadership behavior based on what I learned from Amy.
What advice do you have for individuals interested in business development?
Lakshmi Shenoy: Be curious. Having an ongoing desire to learn, whether it’s about different technologies, business models or industries, is critical in this line of work.
What are your favorite books, websites, films and/or resources?
Lakshmi Shenoy: I love podcasts, one of my favorites is “The Axe Files” with David Axelrod. His interviews are so well researched and share the narrative of the podcast subject’s life in such a captivating way. I highly recommend the recent interview with Senator Cory Booker.