THE BLOG
09/15/2014 09:42 am ET Updated Nov 15, 2014

Women in Business: Q&A with Shereen Shermak, CEO & Fund Manager, Launch Angels

Shereen Shermak is the CEO of Launch Angels. In addition to her position as CEO, Shereen serves as a fund manager and as a member of multiple investment committees. Shereen brings a deep background of financial services and entrepreneurship to Launch Angels. Prior to joining the company, she held positions including Co-Founder, VP Product Management at Buyside FX; VP, Financial Products, at Currensee and VP, Technology Product Management at Fidelity Family Office Services.

She holds her M.B.A. from MIT's Sloan School an M.P.A. from Harvard's Kennedy School.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
From working in my father's small drugstore at a young age, to putting myself through MIT, I've always had a drive to learn, an appetite for entrepreneurialism and a passion to follow my interests. It's so important for people to enjoy what they do. As a leader, my goal is to build a team with the right people, in the right roles. If people feel passionate about their position and role, it creates a greater energy that can ultimately help drive business results.

Throughout my life, I've also learned the importance of collaboration, so my leadership also reflects that. I believe in inclusivity because people work well together when there is a free flow of information.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Launch Angels?
I have been on the management teams of multiple startups, some from day one, so I have come to really understand the challenges of starting a company. I've learned the importance of being a strong but dynamic leader. Startups are fast-paced and constantly evolving, so they require leaders who can adapt to changing conditions and are able to find takeaways from each shift in direction and learn each step of the way. This insight informs my investment decisions, and tends to weight our decision more heavily on the entrepreneurs.

This role is a really exciting one for me. I've spent years as an entrepreneur, and now I'm in a position where I'm able to help other entrepreneurs build their own success through funding.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Launch Angels?
While we're still a young company, the biggest highlight for me has been making our investors happy. It's really fulfilling to see them get excited when a new investment is selected. It underscores that we're picking the right funds.

In terms of challenges, we're facing a common early issue among startups--spreading awareness. Now that our first fund has closed, we're using that as an opportunity to help showcase our exciting model. We anticipate that awareness will organically spread.

Why did you want to want to start your own business?
I have entrepreneurialism in my DNA. From the very earliest days of childhood, I helped my family start a business, and since then have grown into a serial entrepreneur.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
Most importantly, don't focus on the fact that you are female. Instead, focus on two things: 1) making the product or service you offer great and as solid as it can possible be and 2) driving the sales--sales cure many ills for an early stage company.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
While the nature of being a CEO and entrepreneur requires that I work many more hours than the typical "9 to 5", I adapt by maintaining a fluid and flexible schedule. For example, sometimes I open my laptop at 5 am for a couple hours before anyone else in the house is awake. That allows me to have breakfast with my family and enjoy their company before heading out to the office.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The lack of affordable, flexible childcare is a real issue for women, who unfortunately (in most cases) take on the slack.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have had both men and women as mentors over time, but given the industries I've been in, most of them have been men. Gender, however, hasn't really played a factor in the role of a mentor. I believe that what's most important is that a mentor is someone you respect, so that you can take his or her advice and apply it to your own life, either personally or professionally. All of my mentors have inspired me in different ways, but I can look back and see how their influence has made a direct impact on how I approach my business goals and my personal career goals.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Sallie Krawcheck for her ability to reinvent herself after the world of banking and to encourage us to invest in women.

I am also a longtime Madeleine Albright fan, I've read most of the books about her. I like her style of approaching life and believe that she was a terrific leader who focused on solving problems ahead of her personal agenda.

What do you want Launch Angels to accomplish in the next year?
We want to redefine the fund raising and investment experience for groups. Beyond making investing more accessible, efficient and diverse, we want to build out the concept of what we call "funding with friends." Our plan is to help mobilize and unite groups of allies, friends or colleagues who share an investment goal, have similar investing interests or want to unite around a social mission. From there, we can create a custom fund that is based on an organization, alumni, or specific beliefs and causes. It's a really a unique investment experience--one where friends can share the excitement together. We are very eager to kick these off!