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From VC Deals to Diaper Duty: Kalsoom Lakhani's Journey of Juggling It All

From VC Deals to Diaper Duty: Kalsoom Lakhani's Journey of Juggling It All

Nani PK |

By Nani’s Correspondent

In the world of venture capital, Kalsoom Lakhani, a self-made trailblazer, has broken barriers and redefined norms. All on her own terms. As the Co-founder & General Partner of i2i Ventures, Pakistan's pioneering early-stage venture capital fund, Kalsoom is not only a powerhouse in the entrepreneurial landscape but also an inspiration for new mothers navigating the demanding terrain of career and family. Also, did we mention, i2i Ventures is Pakistan’s first and only female-led VC fund in Pakistan? Yup, you read that right.

Beyond her role at i2i Ventures, Kalsoom is the Founder of Invest2Innovate, a sister company that has been a pivotal player in nurturing entrepreneurship and fostering an ecosystem of innovation in Pakistan since 2011.

Life has woven a rich tapestry for Kalsoom, who identifies as a third culture kid. Born to a Pakistani father and Bangladeshi mother, she grew up immersed in the diverse cultures of both nations before spreading her wings to the United States for university. Now, as an adult, Kalsoom reflects on her multicultural roots as an essential part of her identity.

Yet, amidst her impressive professional endeavors, Kalsoom wears another significant hat - that of a devoted mama. Mother to a delightful, “tiny human,” named Nia, and a four-legged companion named Rosie, Kalsoom shares insights into the delicate art of balancing motherhood with her bustling career.

This new series of interviews by Nani aims to shed the spotlight on amazing Pakistani women who share their insights about work, motherhood, and more, providing a platform for their stories to inspire and empower.

Parenthood often brings about a different perspective on work-life balance. What changes, if any, have you made in your approach to work since becoming a mother to a little girl? 

I'd argue that work-life ‘balance’ is a myth, especially when you're an entrepreneur. Before becoming a mama, I had zero boundaries when it came to work and was ‘on’ all the time, including nights and weekends (especially because I live in the States and operate in/travel back and forth to Pakistan, I'm always on to overcompensate for being remote and in a different time zone).

To be honest, I didn't see an issue with this for myself, but it also wasn't a sustainable lifestyle, when I look back on the past 12 years (one year I had walking pneumonia twice!). Since becoming a mom this year, I still work hard, but I probably work smarter. I really want to be present for my daughter, so when she's at daycare during the day (again, I live in the US so nannies are a luxury here), is when I'm productive for work, and I switch off when I pick her up and before she goes to bed so I can focus on her, and then I probably get back to work, if needed, in the evenings. Aside from Sunday evenings now, I also try to spend my weekends purely with our family. It's definitely a shift in priorities and I really welcome that.  

Startups often involve thinking outside the box. What's the quirkiest or most unconventional idea you've ever come across in the startup world? 

Honestly, I don't even remember! I've seen hundreds (thousands!) of business ideas at this point and sometimes the most unconventional ones are the most interesting.

As a new parent, what's been the most surprising or unexpected joy that your baby has brought into your life? 

I think just the everyday moments are so joyous and wonderful - it's why I really make sure I'm present when I'm with my daughter. She's growing and changing so much every day, and watching her discover new things in the world or about herself feels so momentous, and I feel so wowed by it all. Becoming a parent, especially as an older mom (I had her when I was 40!), is also such a rediscovery of life through their eyes. My daughter is this little person already, and she's only 10 months old (mA), and I don't think I realized how early that starts to happen.

In the fast-paced world of startups, downtime is precious. How do you unwind and recharge when you're not in work mode? 

I get very little downtime these days as a parent (what are weekends? what are naps?), so any time I do have I savor - I recharge via long walks while listening to a great podcast, working out and going for runs, binge-watching a great show, and getting to see good friends. My mother-in-law is an artist and has a studio in her basement, so I've also found being creative through art is a great way for me to unwind and spark joy. 

Parenthood comes with its fair share of funny moments. Can you share a humorous anecdote from your journey as a new mom that makes you chuckle? 

My husband and I joke that we've dealt with many apocalyptic moments of the poop variety since our daughter was born (or a poopapocalypse, if you will). These are often at really inopportune times, like right after we've put her in a super cute outfit or when we're in the car and we're late to an appointment. In the moment (like when we're frantically changing her diaper in the car trunk), we're really stressed out, but we're often laughing about it later. I'm really lucky that my husband is a true partner in this parenthood journey, and it means we're often laughing together through moments that are absolutely crazy. 

Kalsoom, I'm sure you get this a lot, but what advice would you give to young women hoping to smash the glass ceiling in the startup space, particularly on home turf? 

It's really hard to be a Pakistani founder, period, but even harder to be a Pakistani female founder. There are a lot of opportunities out there that tokenize women - like awards and grants etc. - those can be great, but don't pigeonhole yourself by only using that as your litmus of success. The true mark of a successful business is execution, not awards, and if you want to smash the glass ceiling, you have to be able to outcompete on business execution. 

1 comment

Incredible Kalsoom – its woman like you who set the standard so high! More power to you. More magic. Hope you continue breaking barriers while we celebrate your wins.

Noor Mehal Kamal,

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