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  • Writer's pictureAarzoo Jena

FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Laviva Mazhar, Principal at Luge Capital

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Laviva moved to Canada to pursue an undergraduate degree at McGill University. She then began her career in investment attraction and economic development and eventually joined a fintech startup foundry called Ferst Capital Partners (FCP) where she, along with her team, helped co-created some of the early fintech startups in Canada and also invested in fintech venture deals. In this role, Laviva was responsible for operating alongside some of the startup founders and supporting them with different aspects of their businesses including operations, finance and fundraising. In addition, she also sourced venture investment opportunities and supported several deal transactions. This experience then led her to joining Luge Capital, a new fintech venture capital fund which was coming together at the time. Laviva helped launch the firm’s operations alongside the two co-founders and GPs.

Today, Laviva serves as the Principal at Luge Capital, where she is responsible for making early stage fintech investments across Canada and U.S., supporting their portfolio companies and collaborating with their strategic LPs.

Luge Capital is a fintech-focused venture capital fund that invests in early-stage companies in Canada and the United States. The firm is on a mission to build fintech champions with amazing founders and is committed to supporting them throughout their journeys. The team brings 50+ years of experience in operations, software engineering, product, sales, marketing, finance, law and investing to support their founders. They believe in collaboration and partner with large financial institutions, such as their LPs, to bring value to our companies.

Laviva is passionate about the entrepreneurial culture at Luge Capital where the team is encouraged to take initiatives and ownership. The team is highly collaborative but also does not shy away from challenging each other. They are invested in the long term growth of the team with the end goal of being a top VC firm, globally, in fintech and ultimately driving value to their founders, LPs and firm.

Laviva is constantly looking for ways to challenge herself by diving into things that are unknown, works to understand a particular space as much as possible, and identify gaps or opportunities for innovation in the space. "This can be challenging and, sometimes, you don’t even know where to start. But it’s also interesting to look into a vertical from an outside perspective, when you are not deep in the weeds, and hear different perspectives from people operating within the industry, identify certain problem areas, theorize on how they can be solved and determine whether investing in such an area could generate value for our fund," says Laviva. She also believes that having industry knowledge of a space goes a long way in being able to help portfolio companies in terms of their product direction, go-to-market and sales, introductions and being able to bring other investors to the table for future financings - something that most founders appreciate.

Laviva is proud of her impact on fintech. She joined the industry in 2016 and has been working in different capacities with different people in the industry and supporting the growth of the overall fintech ecosystem in Canada. The number of fintech startups in Canada has almost doubled since 2018 and Laviva has seen a significant rise in capital flowing into this sector over the past few years. "Given that finance is such a major part of people’s lives and the financial service and real estate industries, together, contribute to more than 20% of Canada’s GDP, being able to contribute to the future of these sectors is exciting. I love that my work can have an impact on how technology is being used to deliver financial services and better serve customers with their financial needs."

Looking ahead, Laviva is excited about the intersection of vertical SaaS and fintech - Companies that are building operating systems for specific industries, addressing a key need in that market, and then layering on financial services to deepen the customer relationship and further monetize that customer. This expands the universe of investible startups and she and her team are excited to add this to their list of investment thesis areas for their next fund, which they are raising right now. She continues to be excited about the ongoing modernization of traditional financial services such as insurance, banking, payments, wealth management, capital markets, etc.

More on Laviva

Where you currently live: Montreal, Canada

Living arrangement: Living with my husband in our condo

Family at home: Parents live in Dhaka, Bangladesh and my younger sister is in Montreal, Canada.

Hometown: Dhaka, Bangladesh

Favorite hobby: I’m a foodie. I love trying out foods from different cultures.

Favorite show to binge: Documentaries of all kinds (history, true crime, finance, etc) or mind-numbing reality shows which helps me to shut my brain off when needed.

What's the best job decision you ever made?

Two of the best job decisions I made so far have been 1) joining Luge Capital before the fund even had a name and 2) leaving my full-time job to join Ferst Capital Partners as an intern, with possibility of a full-time role after the 3-month internship.

I took risks with both of these opportunities and, so far, it’s been an amazing journey for me.

With Luge, the fund was just about to be launched when I joined, it was a newly formed team and firm. I felt that I would learn a lot from the co-founders, David Nault and Karim Gillani, both of whom had impressive backgrounds, and get really good experience helping build a firm from scratch, almost like a startup.

With FCP, I was only a year out of university and having job security was really important as I was a 23 year old in a (then) foreign country far away from home. But I believed that the three month internship could be a great experience regardless of whether I got the full-time offer afterwards (which I ultimately did receive). Again, I learned an incredible amount from the team there and got lots of exposure to fintech.

Taking those calculated risks, which I soundboard with my trusted circle quite a bit before taking those decisions, helped me to get to where I am today.

Can you tell us about a time someone encouraged you to try a task or take on a project you didn’t think that you would know how to do/or be good at?

Early in my career, when I was at Ferst Capital Partners, one of the Partners, Dominique Ferst, was really interested in doing a deal and, at our team meeting, he said that he wanted me to lead the due diligence efforts on that deal. I was taken aback as I was the most junior team member at the time and had only been supporting parts of deal transactions up until then. My instant reaction was to doubt myself and say that I will not be able to manage it on my own. He accepted my response, but I could tell he had wanted me to get out of my comfort zone in order to grow. I reminded myself soon after that I needed to continue challenging myself and, later that day, I brought up the deal again with Dom and admitted that I was doubting myself. He was completely understanding of the self-doubt I was dealing with and still encouraged me to take on the due diligence project, and offered his and the team’s support where required. Having that trust from my team that I can get the job done, and offer of support to lean on was super helpful for me.

Even at Luge, I have taken on many different projects and initiatives, but knowing that I have the trust and support of my team has encouraged me to go more and more out of my comfort zone and grow as a person.

Do you have any productivity hacks? What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance?

  • I love scheduling things in my calendar as much as possible to fit in all the things I want to do. I will actually book non-meeting things in my calendar like deep work sessions, tasks, gym sessions, dinner outings, bill payment dates, etc. It helps me stay on top of things, not have to remember 100s of little tasks, and set aside time for productive work.

  • I try to get more deep work done in the morning and book more calls in the afternoon.

  • I use Toby’s Chrome extension to organize my browser - this is a great tool that can help categorize topics which you can reach for later.

  • I used the Pocket app to listen to articles if I don’t have time to read them. You can use the Chrome extension to bookmark articles which will then show up in your phone app.

  • Lately, I’ve started tinkering with ChatGPT and have been finding good early results for certain tasks.

What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past?

Owning your mistake and being transparent about it, notifying the relevant people involved right away and working on a resolution together. Being transparent about a mistake prevents creating strange dynamics in relationships where you have to hide things, and it allows you to focus on what’s important, which is to resolve that mistake.

What is one piece of advice someone told you that resonated with you that can give to other women in FinTech?

I’ve received a lot of great advice throughout my career so it would be hard to pick on specific one. But if there was one advice I could share from my personal experience, it would be that when you network with people in business, make sure to invest in building authentic connections. In a hybrid world where we are meeting lots of people virtually as well as in person, that authentic connection is super important for lasting and meaningful working relationships.

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