Why this woman quit Wall Street to become a social entrepreneur

7 Mar 2019

Netta Korin. Image: Orbs

In the latest instalment of our Leaders’ Insights series, Netta Korin tells us about her pivot from investment banking to philanthropy.

Netta Korin is a partner at blockchain start-up Orbs and the founder of the Hexa Foundation.

Korin began her career on Wall Street in 1994 as an investment banker for the Israel team of Lehman Brothers. She later moved on to work at well-known hedge funds, managing teams and funds for Ron Lubash, Noam Gottesman and Steve Cohen before founding her own hedge fund in 2002. She retired from Wall Street after moving to Israel in 2009, in order to dedicate more of her time to philanthropic efforts in the country.  

Korin currently chairs Impact, a scholarship programme that has helped more than 7,000 graduates and 4,000 students in Israel to date.

We are looking to use blockchain for social impact

Describe your role and what you do.

I am a partner at Orbs – a leading blockchain technology start-up – and the founder of the Hexa Foundation. The Hexa Foundation was created to power wider social impact through blockchain technology. This perspective has become a critical component of our collective focus at Orbs as well.

At Orbs and the Hexa Foundation, we invest a lot of time and resources into research projects, education initiatives and other processes to support the growing ecosystem.   

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

The key to any management role is recognising there will never be enough time to actually just get work done, even if you try and plan it. Even when gaps in the calendar do appear, they are immediately taken up with mentoring colleagues, brainstorming new ideas and initiating new projects.

The key is knowing how to hire the right people to execute effectively and understanding how to delegate tasks efficiently. The distance between team members can be frustrating, but it creates an added joy in the work. The team element is so critical that you’re constantly pursuing group successes. So much effort goes into building up others, which makes it even more rewarding.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

A lack of education within the sector is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry as a whole. For many, blockchain means only cryptocurrency, and even then the understanding can be very limited. For example, it is still almost impossible to open a bank account in many countries if the word ‘blockchain’ appears anywhere in your business description. So much of the foundation’s work is focused on educating regulators, banks and businesses on what blockchain really is and why it will be key to their success moving forward.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

At the foundation, we are looking to use blockchain for social impact. In our region, there are many issues that can be improved with blockchain technology. For example, tracing government aid or donor funds for infrastructure or humanitarian projects would be very beneficial. Blockchain can be transformative here, and the foundation is focusing on helping governments and aid organisations understand its potential to enable greater efficiency for their investments.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

For decades, I was heavily involved in a variety of philanthropic projects as a donor and served as an adviser to governments working on aid projects in the region. These experiences highlighted the need for transparency – a crucial issue for truly unlocking the power of aid.

My ‘Eureka!’ moment was recognising that blockchain has a unique ability to combine transparency and efficiency in a manner that can transform the way aid and donations are made, monitored and analysed. We live in one of the most complicated areas of the world and if we can develop an effective blockchain humanitarian solution in Israel, then the ‘copy-paste’ to other regions will be much easier. It’s a truly transformational project, with an upside that could reimagine the way we solve major global challenges.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

I am not sure I have a ‘biggest mistake’ per se; however, the most important lessons I’ve learned have come from a plethora of mistakes I’ve made in my career. Mistakes are OK, everyone makes them. The important thing is not to look at them as tragedies, but as opportunities for improvement. Every wrong that you do is an opportunity to learn and improve next time. The older and more experienced you get, the fewer mistakes you make just because you have ‘been there, done that’ already.

It is important to use the technology to drive the sector forward but even more invaluable if you are making the world a better place at the same time

How do you get the best out of your team?

In order to motivate and get the best out of a team, it is imperative for there to be a sense of meaning and purpose to your work. That is one of the driving factors behind starting the foundation for Orbs. I wanted to empower our entire organisation with a sense of social meaning. It is important to use the technology to drive the sector forward but even more invaluable if you are making the world a better place at the same time.

At the foundation we do not hire staff; instead we borrow employees from the company, and participation on projects is entirely voluntary. It is amazing the amount of people who approach me to work on foundation projects.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to be more inclusive?

I started working on Wall Street as an investment banker in 1994 and moved to the buy side in 1997. At the time, there were very few women on Wall Street and the environment was not ideal.

Given that, I think we need to be careful with the words ‘inclusive’ or ‘diversity’ because in some instances I think it causes harm. The best people are not hired, or the worst people are not fired, because there is a ratio that is followed in order to avoid legal issues. Instead, I prefer to look at how talented a candidate is and what they have to offer as opposed to their gender or race. It is a far more effective method to address the root causes and focus on education and empowerment.

Who is your role model and why?

I have always been inspired by Winston Churchill. He proved that one person can stand in the face of evil and still change the world.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

For books on cryptocurrency, I would recommend The Bitcoin Standard by Saifedean Ammous. Two other books that I believe are phenomenal and would recommend to anyone who is interested are Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

First of all, my husband. We both work full-time and we have two small children. Our ability to co-parent and respect each other’s schedule is paramount. He is a rockstar and my rock.

Second of all, my team and their ability to loop me in when needed – but not when I am not – is very helpful.

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