Meet the Seed Space team: Katrina Donaghy

Nov 14, 2020
SeedSpace Team

Welcome to Seed Space’s series of profiles introducing the core members of our team. Next up is Katrina Donaghy, Seed Space Advisor.

How did you come to this point in your career?

In my role for Seed Space the founders wanted someone who understood how to build a company, and how to use blockchain technology. Blockchain is one area of focus for the Seed Space portfolio, and when Dirk and Will were setting up they approached me and said “We’d love your expertise so if we look at blockchain startups, you can give an honest assessment.”

I got involved with blockchain five years ago. I always say this technology finds you, not the other way around. You’re in a certain place, at a certain time, looking at certain problem that’s difficult to solve in traditional ways, and it taps you on shoulder and says, “Have you considered this?”

In 2015 I had just quit my job and was working in another startup, when I found a book about bitcoin in my children’s suburban library. I got it out and read it, and it almost broke my brain because it’s really hard to think differently about the concept of money. What struck me the most was the concept of trust and transparency.

I had done many many years in government and not-for-profit, and it used to bug me that working with charities, I couldn’t create transparency around where donations went. Now for the first time, I had a narrative that explained to me how you could solve this. So I dived down the rabbit hole and have been there ever since!

In April 2016 I met Lucas Cullen, we did a proof of concept with the Queensland government before we founded Civic Ledger. It’s been a massive journey and I think the key is that you can’t just know and love the technology, you have to be able to build a good company around it too. Just because you’re working with blockchain doesn’t mean you’re not obligated under the Corporations Act, or to build with a duty of care.

The key is looking at the problem and asking, is this the right technology to solve it. Not looking at the technology and thinking how cool it is and trying to think of something clever to do with it.

I love that most of the big blockchain companies in this country have been founded by women — Leanne Kemp at Everledger; Dr Jemma Green at Power Ledger, Emma Weston at Agridigital, and Bridie Ohlsson at Geora. I think it’s because blockchain is fundamentally about society and making it better.

What is great about working in venture capital in general and fintech VC in particular?

Well I have to say traditionally, VCs in this country haven’t liked blockchain! The difference with Seed Space is they genuinely care about the industry, they care about startups, and they understand that they have to cooperate with the larger ecosystem and drive success for everyone. That’s a really different approach — they lean in and partner with other VCs to get that success factor, and that’s incredible.

What’s one of your favourite moments from your time at Seed Space?

We’ve been doing this as a decentralised team for a long time, I miss seeing everyone in person. I think very fondly back to the early days, having coffee with Dirk and Will and them telling me about their vision, and just how committed they were all those years ago about bringing this into reality. They’d done genuine research around the market, they’d got Cathy Lyall the legend, and the amazing Lynda Coker, incredible women who they’d hand picked and they wanted me to be part of it too. Most VCs hold up a mirror and build a team in their own image, so this approach was really different and quite special.

What sport or hobby would you love to take up if time and money were no object?

I used to play soccer, I was a goalie on the inaugural women’s team for New Farm United in the early 2000s. If I’d made some different decisions I’d still be playing, and I do miss it. it’s so much fun.

What was your favourite place to travel on business, back in the good old days when we could?

So many places! That’s one of the things about this technology, it’s taken me all around the world. A year ago I was at the OECD Global Blockchain conference in Paris. And I took it all for granted, zipping in and zipping out, not taking time to sightsee or really appreciate the amazing places I got to go.

But really what I miss most is Australia! The ability to fly to Sydney or Melbourne and be in my community to advance this technology. Again, I always flew in and out, but when we get out of this, every time I go somewhere I’ll be taking a couple of days to be a tourist and explore.

What three essential items would you take to a desert island?

My kids! I’ll take the kids and we’ll just work it out from there. Rocco, Millana and myself — they’re the three essential items.