Managing Partner, Americas
Prior to joining SBIA, Lydia was with SoftBank Group Corp International (SBGI) where she led investments in Guardant Health and 10X Genomics. Lydia was also previously a Vice President at M/C Partners, a growth equity firm, and an Associate at Goldman Sachs in the Principal Investment Area where she invested across the media and technology sectors. She started her career at JP Morgan. Lydia is a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the London School of Economics, and Smith College.
What's the most exciting aspect of your work?
My role at SoftBank Investment Advisers provides an incredible learning opportunity. We are among the most active investors in the sectors where I focus—e-commerce as well as fintech and robotics—and we have a global mandate. That means our team can see how very similar-looking companies and business models evolve in extremely different ways based on their respective markets. We try to bridge learnings across these companies, which strengthens all of them. And on a personal level, it's just fascinating to watch economies, populations, and countries develop and to look for ways to help accelerate that development.
How is e-commerce changing local economies?
Many of the e-commerce founders we work with are fundamentally reshaping how the populations of their countries consume, and how small businesses form to serve them. These entrepreneurs are creating platforms that are bringing a significant amount of customers' disposable income online. They are also creating income opportunities for local artisans who have been isolated from the national or international market. One of the founders we work with in Asia created a platform that has enabled the launch of over 100,000 small-to-micro businesses. That’s incredibly exciting from an economic-development standpoint. And by changing the way merchants collect payments, our portfolio companies are changing how people access goods and services, which has lasting consequences for people's expectations in other aspects of their lives and opens up a substantial opportunity for innovation in the market.
What do you bring to your work with founders?
I believe SoftBank Investment Advisers, driven by Masayoshi Son, shares a strong commitment to aggressive, expansionary thinking, and that gives us a unique alignment with our founders. We have the ability to see a broad landscape, across business models and geographies. It’s our responsibility to bring those learnings, connections, and support back to our portfolio companies to help them execute toward an even larger vision than they could on their own.
Our founders are going to keep pushing forward until they find something big that really opens up new possibilities in the market.
What do you look for in a founder?
I look for intellectual honesty and the ability to deeply understand and simply explain the details of how their business works. When they start with that curiosity and open-mindedness, they're not going to settle for small answers. Our founders are going to keep pushing forward until they find something big that really opens up new possibilities in the market.
What principles guide your work?
I believe in listening first, direct dialogue, and diving deep to understand the key issues each company is facing so that I can effectively point the firm’s resources toward the right problems. I also believe in building a relationship of trust so that founders know that I am their advocate and will be their partner, working through problems big and small.
Separately, a passion project for me is empowering women in technology and investing. To me, as a graduate of a women’s college, the slow rate of progress over my 17 years in investment firms—where I have typically been among the most senior women—has been surprising. Innovation is no less important here than in our other areas of focus!
Finding e-commerce gems across the globe
In conversation with The Consumer VC’s Mike Gelb, Lydia Jett talks about uncovering exceptional opportunities in emerging markets, the strength of icons such as Coupang and Fanatics, and how to improve the e-commerce experience everywhere.