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Women on Top in Tech – Paola Bonomo, Non-Executive Director of AXA Assicurazioni



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Today’s interview is with Paola Bonomo, a tech investor. Paola has been a member of Italian Angels for Growth – the leading group of business angels in her country – since 2009. She is also active as a Non Executive Director at AXA Assicurazioni.

In 2015 and again in 2016, Paola was recognized as one of the Inspiring Fifty, the fifty most inspiring women in European technology.


What makes you do what you do?

What drives me is helping new companies succeed. We live in the middle of an unprecedented disruption where new business models are created each day and a small team can seize the opportunity to radically reimagine a product, a process, a business. As angel investors, our group contributes not just capital, but also and perhaps above all our skills and our network. My main driver every day is meeting entrepreneurs, coaching them, helping them grow; and I often end up learning from them.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I had to make a major change in my life to pursue my dream of working in the digital industry. In 2005, after a long consulting career, I left McKinsey, where I had grown and become a partner very quickly, but where I would no longer progress enough to satisfy the Firm’s “up or out” rule. I have worked since then both at digitally native companies (eBay at first, more recently Facebook) and at traditional companies who needed to reinvent their customer experience (Vodafone). I would say that it took being humble, being willing to learn, and also to relearn each day. The Web I learned as a marketer in 2005 is no longer relevant today: the mobile revolution has gone full circle, browse and even search are no longer the dominant interaction modes, it’s all about scrolling feeds and communicating (placing orders, transacting) via chat. Video on mobile simply wasn’t a big thing three years ago, now it’s the future of creating and sustaining brands. So don’t go into this industry if the speed of change makes you uncomfortable!

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?

When I joined Italian Angels for Growth, the group only had a handful of women members. Today we’ve grown: we’re still only 15% of the group, but we have a Vice Chairwoman and many women active in screening and investing. Another advantage of joining an angel group is that, while in the real world I am somewhat of a veteran, in the investing world I am still considered on the young side!

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

I had a senior partner I considered a mentor while I was at McKinsey. After that, what I did ended up being too new for experienced mentors to understand, and I really had to start charting my own course.

How did you make a match if you did and how did you end up being mentored by him?

At McKinsey, the match happened quite naturally, based on a string of successful projects together, especially in the telecommunications industry. Several years later, he became a published author and I was behind the scenes of some of his books as an early reader, offering suggestions on working drafts and people for him to contact and interview. If I ever write a book, I’ll get him to read the drafts!

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

I’m always on the lookout for bright young people. Sometimes it’s connections through mutual friends: I recently became an advisor to a fintech startup because I was introduced to the founder by a friend from Florence and I introduced him in turn to a London-based investor. The only way to keep those relationships going is really through loyalty, commitment, and always thinking about what would make sense for the talent. And because startups often fail, hold up the good work that they did and give them a second chance.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

I am consciously very much of a diversity supporter, for many reasons including eradicating groupthink and fostering better team performance; at the same time, I’m also aware that, just like almost everybody else, I do harbor some unconscious bias towards those who do not share my particular type of privilege. I try to identify such bias when it happens, in myself or those around me, and bring it out in the open.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

Great investors are those who’ve had successful exits in their portfolios – I’m still working my way towards there. In general, being a leader isn’t about what you do, it’s about what you can get others to do. Remember that the smartest followers often get to choose their leaders. How do you get chosen? So, for example, if you’re investing in a hot startup, the founders probably have more than one option when it comes to whose money they’ll take. Think about your value proposition very clearly: what can I do for the company that will get me this deal? How can I inspire them towards what they don’t yet know they’re capable of? And if I’m the lead investor, but I’m not funding the whole round, who else do I want to invest together with me? Finally – just like in this example – you may lead when the founders need direction, and you may follow when the business is firing on all cylinders. If you get hung up on titles, labels, decision-making powers and so on, that’s a big distraction from truly leading.

Advice for others?

I’d like to see more women with the courage and drive to start a business and get it off the ground. I’m also concerned about the relative lack of women in the STEM education pipeline. In the European Union alone, by 2020 we will have 800,000 tech jobs to fill that don’t exist today: surely we don’t want to leave them all to men?

To learn more about AXA Assicurazioni, please see

I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
AMPLIFY Conscious Business Leadership with me.


“When Adam Draper does Crypto Standup, Singapore listens”



I live and work in Singapore and Santa Monica. Yes, I am blessed. However, my life has been by design, I think of what I want and so I make my life choices and make them happen in my life. Hence the bi-continent living and that comes with bi-continent and now global community living, being and ecosystems building. So I am now never surprised when one part of my world meets another.

I went to Wavemaker Partners venture capital event this evening, keen to meet Adam Draper, who is one of the many great presenters at Crypto Invest Summit, April 30- May 2 in Los Angeles.

Since I actively support leaders who are building scalable, sustainable businesses and movements for the betterment of many; of course I am learning about Blockchain and Cryptocurrency. I had been keen to report on the Crypto Invest Summit as I would be back in May to LA for my PhD programme. I was in communications with the organizers. However, I am being awarded an award at the Women Economic Forum in Delhi that same week and could not be physically present.

Still I wanted to report on the event, somehow.

I wanted to listen to the speakers and support some of the speakers who are already friends and experts I rely on for greater insights on cryptocurrency. I like learning and sharing with the greater audience, I have in Asia what I am learning from the US and vice versa. So I feel I had my chance tonight to do a bit of that.

I could not help but smile as Adam Draper shed light into his world of investing in more than 85 crypto related products because he was such a breath of fresh air to the last few Blockchain and Financial conferences I have been reporting on; especially here in Asia.

He just says it like it is.

He kept stopping the audience when they said Blockchain and he said, “You know you really mean cryptocurrency.”  He hit the nail on the head because I have seen so clearly how this phrase had been said in Singapore time and again – “I am not into cryptocurrency but I believe in Blockchain.”

When he said how there was an incongruity as he sat across bankers who personally invested in cryptocurrency and when faced with an inbound of requests from their clients on the same investment; are tied by regulations and are unable to respond.

Here’s some of his best lines. If you don’t laugh or “ah-ha” the way I did, you probably just had to be there. The truth is funny because it calls out for something we all see but sometimes just do not want to admit.

There is a growing understanding of the underlying thematics that the cryptocurrency world has been experiencing as the interface between centralize; de-centralize and personal autonomy becomes more and more apparent and lines get drawn.

Adam Says:

1) The newest phenomenon is that some of the ICO founders are now just so rich from their ICOs that they really don’t need to work on the project they asked for money for.

2) For the crypto-world, money doesn’t matter anymore!
They need talent

It’s so founder friendly now.

3) What Bitcoin made us ask is “What is money?”

The next question is “What is government and governance?”

He highlighted if an entrepreneur is looking for a problem to solve., then the entrepreneur is always looking for horrible industries with poor services and high costs. So yes – Governments are those horrible industries and they need to be disrupted.

4)  Any company who comes to an investor and leads with how much ICO has raised; is a red flag. Leave immediately and go read a Harry Potter book instead.
If they are leading with value and not the problem they are solving. Beware. (read more here

5) If you are going to invest in where the brains are. It’s in crypto.

6) Philosophically, Coinbase is against ethos of what Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency movement is trying to do. However to do such a move from fiat to digital currency, there would need a way to do that. So Coinbase acts like a browser does for internet. One day there will be no need to cash in or out as everyone is already there on digital. Cryptocurrency is the exchange of value. His advice and we know his bias as he is invested in  Coinhako; is to hold onto an exchange for 3-5 years since onboarding of all users to the new digital currency will take some time.

Adam met with many banks and government bodies on his trip to Singapore – I hope they got his truths.

I ended the night by thanking Adam for making me laugh. He reminded me of how much I miss LA.

Want more of this?

If you are in LA on April 30 – May 2.



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Callum Connects

Adrian Reid, Founder of Enlightened Stock Trading



Adrian Reid escaped the rat race and became a knowledgeable trader. He now shares his trading knowledge and empowers others to take control of their stocks.

What’s your story?
After working 12-16 hour days in the corporate world for many years I had a moment of realisation on the 1 hour bus ride to work. It was here at this moment in time, I realised that I felt trapped, desperate and isolated. Trapped in a job I hated, and a life I had not designed. I had long been interested in investing, but I made the decision at that point to become the best trader I could possibly be and escape the rat race.
My dream was to be free; free of the 9 to 5, the commute, the stress and the exhaustion. I threw myself into my stock trading research and study and emerged 3 months later with the trading rules that would ultimately buy me my freedom. I am now retired from the corporate world, I trade full time and share my knowledge with other aspiring traders through my online education program which puts them in control and empowers them to take control and accountability for their trading results.

What excites you most about your industry?
So many people are trapped in jobs they don’t like or are feeling immense financial pressure in their life. Trading education is typically done extremely badly today because of the conflicts of interest in the industry. Fund managers want to hold onto your money forever; brokers want you to trade more frequently; forex brokers want you to use more leverage. Why? Because that is how they make their money.
By teaching traders how to develop and test their own stock trading systems I am able to empower them to find trading rules which fit their own personality, objectives and lifestyle. This is the only way for new traders to be successful. This process transforms people’s financial future, their relationship with money and wealth and gives them hope. I love that!

What’s your connection to Asia?
I recently spent 3 years living in Singapore which I absolutely loved. This put me in a good position to observe the other Asian markets. As a stock trader I am interested in many markets and economies around the world, however the Asian markets have some of the best potential for trading profits. I have traded stocks in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo and I have developed trading systems that work in many other Asian markets as well.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
My favourite city is Singapore. After living in Singapore for 3 years my family fell in love with the city. Life is great in Singapore for the whole family and the pro-business and investing policies of the government make it a wonderful place to build your financial future as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
On a personal front: Find something you love, throw all your energy and passion into it.
On the wealth front: Spend less than you earn and invest the difference. Take control of your finances and always accept 100% responsibility for your investment decisions.

Who inspires you?
My wife Stephanie inspires me. Her commitment to everything she does, her compassion, her insights into people and her ability to uplift those around her, make me want to be a better person.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
No matter what we think we know, there will always be a different perspective that can change our opinion. In my own trading, I continually find that the truths I cling to are not absolute and they can be misleading if held onto dogmatically. Striking a balance between taking a stance and knowing when to change that stance based on new information is critical in all areas of life.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more action earlier on. My fear of mistakes (which still limits me on occasions, like most people) has always proven to be baseless. Playing small to avoid the embarrassment or pain of mistakes is very limiting and I would have taken more action earlier, if I had my time again.

How do you unwind?
To unwind I like to read, meditate, run and ride my mountain bike in the forest.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I just love the small island resort at Batu Batu. It is beautiful, isolated, quiet and surrounded by clean water, full of sealife. After a week at the resort I felt like a different person.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto. This book teaches the art of clear and structured communication. My time working as a business strategy consultant gave me a great appreciation for the importance of communication in business. Clear and effective communication can solve a myriad of challenges in your business and professional life, and as a strong communicator your employment prospects, business relationships, team performance and family life are all dramatically improved.

Shameless plug for your business:
Enlightened Stock Trading ( is the only stock market trading education business that empowers you, as an individual trader. It shows you how to design and test your own unique stock trading system that fits YOUR Personality, Objectives and Lifestyle. We have no conflicts of interest and we are focused on teaching you how to trade stocks profitably in a way that fits your life.
After working through the Enlightened Stock Trader Certification Program you will find yourself confident and empowered with your own battle tested trading system and trading plan to guide you through the markets.

How can people connect with you?
Email me directly at [email protected] or through my Facebook Page (

Twitter handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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