The FutureList – Step into the Future



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Meet our Innovation Ecosystem Manager: Kenna Taylor

We’re excited to introduce Kenna Taylor, The FutureList’s new Ecosystem Manager for the Southern and Eastern US. Kenna’s journey began as the Chief of Staff to a technology CEO, where she played a pivotal role in raising a $100M funding round and navigated the thrilling yet demanding process of taking the company public, eventually reaching a $3.8B market cap. Her subsequent experience managing strategic programs for an executive recruiting firm further honed her expertise in supporting and connecting startups. We’re looking forward to seeing Kenna foster meaningful connections and drive innovation within The FutureList’s global network.


Q: Could you share a bit about your background and previous experience that led you to this position?

I was lucky enough to start my career with a bang: I served as Chief of Staff to the CEO of a technology company that ended up going public on the New York Stock Exchange. I joined just after they’d raised their Series D round, and I was fortunate to play a part in raising a $100M Series E round and then eventually filing to go public in early 2021. Being a part of the IPO team was incredible (and incredibly stressful), but the relationships I made throughout the journey are truly second to none. Also, you can’t beat ringing the bell on the trading floor!

In my most recent position, I managed all strategic programs and events for an executive recruiting firm that served exclusively Seed through Series C startups. My biggest initiative was a campaign called “Will Reed’s Top 100”, an award created to recognise early-stage startups shaping the future of workplace culture. As part of that campaign, I met with founders to better understand their business challenges and connect them with our existing partners. We also worked closely with several investors to help support their portfolio companies. I truly believe there couldn’t have been a better experience to take into The FutureList’s Ecosystem Manager role – I’m so thankful for it!


Q: What does the role of Ecosystem Manager entail and how does it fit into The FutureList’s vision of identifying and scaling innovation globally?

The primary role The FutureList’s Ecosystem Managers play is that of a “super connector”. As we’ve continued to grow our team, we now get to provide more local support in each of our respective territories. As the Ecosystem Manager for the Southern and Eastern US, I’m grateful that my role is to connect our incredible US startup ecosystem with the global network. There is explosive innovation happening across the US, and I can’t wait to see what opportunities arise by facilitating the right introductions.


Q: What motivated you to become part of The FutureList, and how do you perceive your role fitting into the broader startup ecosystem?

When I saw that this role was described as a “relationship manager”, my interest was definitely piqued. I stand by The FutureList’s commitment to forging relationships with the goal of community connection, not necessarily business opportunity. I feel like this mentality is especially impactful in the startup community since the timeline of the entrepreneurship journey looks so different from company to company. You never know when someone will benefit from a  network “tap”, be it immediately after chatting or eight months later. This ethos allows Ecosystem Managers to focus wholly on being empathetic and authentic connectors. 


Q: Could you share a bit about your background and previous experiences within the startup realm, and how they’ve shaped your perspective on innovation and entrepreneurship?

I worked for not one, but two Founder CEOs, and let me tell you something you likely already know: there is a huge difference between a business CEO and a founder CEO. Everything is personal for founders. The good and the bad, it all comes back on them. And as the right-hand woman to the CEOs I supported, I witnessed first-hand the effect that has. The stakes are unbelievably high, especially when you’ve got investors expecting to see results, employees who have to get paid, and a product that’s still partly just an idea on the back of a napkin.

Understanding that kind of pressure from the offset of my career has allowed me to empathise deeply with founders. Building a company is hard. It can be lonely. It’s expensive. And very few actually get it. That’s why I believe so strongly in the role of the Ecosystem Manager. My job is to meet with entrepreneurs and share all of the tidbits of advice I’ve gathered over the years, and also help them connect and support each other.


Q: How do you envision leveraging your unique skills and expertise to navigate the challenges and opportunities inherent in the startup ecosystem?

My friends and former colleagues have always commented on my ability to remember even the smallest details about my connections. In my former life supporting CEOs, I would joke that I was like Emily Blunt’s character in The Devil Wears Prada – whispering the who’s and what’s about a client or partner in my CEO’s ear. I love learning what drives a person and what inspires them to do hard work. It’s equally important to learn what drives a person crazy. I think one of the best ways to prove relationship value in this space is to show you’ve listened and provide highly relevant recommendations.


Q: What do you find most exciting about working in the startup space, and what aspects of the ecosystem do you believe offer the greatest potential for innovation and disruption?

I love the possibilities inherent in the early-stage space. Founders have the creative room to forge a completely new path, and that’s always been exciting to me! I’ve been keeping an eye on startups in the climate-tech and agri-tech space, especially as I’ve been researching companies from the southern US. I studied Environmental Geosciences at Texas A&M, so I’ve been interested in the applications of new-age tech on the environment for several years now. 


Q: What advice or insights would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts looking to make their mark in the industry?

Celebrate even the smallest wins along the way. The journey of entrepreneurship can be a long one. It’s so easy to get discouraged when there is always something else to fix, and another feature to launch. Along with your one, three, and five year goals, don’t forget to also set some attainable goals that are easy to celebrate. Finally launched your website after weeks of tinkering? Received your first qualified inbound lead? Hired your first employee from outside of your immediate network? All reasons to meaningfully celebrate. And document that win in some way, because I promise when you reflect on all of those moments at the finish line, you’re going to recall the hours you and your team spent making them happen. I really believe that perspective shift is crucial to maintaining your mental health on the founder journey.

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