Sasha Yablonovsky of Loanspark: Why We Need More Women Founders & Here Is What We Are Doing To Make That Happen
Empowering more women to become founders is essential for fostering diversity and innovation in the business world.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sasha Yablonovsky.
Sasha Yablonovsky is a dynamic and visionary business leader known for her remarkable career journey, from a technical role as an Oracle database and Unix server administrator to becoming the Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Loanspark. With a proven track record of success, Sasha has demonstrated exceptional drive, leadership acumen, and adaptability throughout her career. Not only is she a prominent advocate for women in the workplace, but her expertise in revolutionizing business lending and her commitment to innovation make her a true trailblazer in the fintech industry, setting new standards for excellence and customer-centric innovation.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Certainly. I was born into a world of communist former USSR, where poverty and scarcity were our daily companions. Despite these challenging circumstances, I had a remarkably happy childhood, thanks to my parents’ unwavering determination to create joy in our lives. In 1991, my family made the bold decision to immigrate to the United States, seeking political asylum due to the prevalent Jewish persecution in the former USSR. Our move was driven by a profound desire for opportunity and freedom. We believed in the potential of a land where dreams could be realized.
Upon arriving in the U.S., my family faced the daunting task of starting anew. However, witnessing my parents’ resilience and pursuit of success profoundly influenced my outlook on life. While I initially desired the predictability of a corporate career, I eventually embraced entrepreneurship as I saw the transformative power of owning a business. This shift in mindset led me to co-found Loanspark, where I now navigate the exhilarating journey of startup life with enthusiasm and passion. My backstory has instilled in me an unwavering belief in the potential for individuals to overcome adversity, seek opportunities, and achieve success through sheer determination.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
One of the most intriguing and memorable experiences in my career was during my involvement in solving the largest Ponzi scheme in history. As the person responsible for creating electronic data rooms to aid in the recovery of stolen funds, I found myself in an exceptionally high-stakes environment. What made it truly fascinating was the complexity of the case and the unprecedented challenges it presented. I had to work closely with law firms, financial institutions, and government agencies, all striving to recover the funds for the American people.
The intensity of the situation, the sophisticated legal intricacies, and the sheer scale of the operation were incredibly demanding, but they also provided a unique opportunity to witness the power of collaboration and determination in the face of adversity. It was a profound experience that showcased the importance of technology, innovation, and teamwork in the pursuit of justice, leaving an indelible mark on my career and my commitment to making a positive impact in the financial industry.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the mistakes I made early on in my career was not diligently documenting all of my achievements and the impact I brought to various projects and roles. The valuable lesson I learned from this mistake was the significance of proactive self-advocacy and maintaining a comprehensive record of my contributions. I realized that it’s not enough to excel in your job; you also need to be able to articulate and quantify your achievements effectively. This documentation not only boosts your confidence during negotiations but also provides concrete evidence of your value to potential employers or collaborators.
Since then, I’ve made it a habit to regularly update and maintain a portfolio of my accomplishments, both big and small. I call this “my list of awesomeness”. This practice has been instrumental in advancing my career and is a lesson that has served me well and one that I often share with others, especially women, to empower them in their own professional growth.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There isn’t just one person, but rather a network of individuals throughout my life whom I am immensely grateful for. My journey has been shaped by a chain reaction of events and the willingness of people to see potential in me. These mentors, colleagues, and supporters have provided guidance, opportunities, and unwavering belief in my capabilities. Their collective influence has been instrumental in helping me get to where I am today, and I am profoundly thankful for the role each of them has played in my personal and professional growth.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
While it’s challenging to pinpoint a single book, I would say that the collection of novels by Alexandre Dumas had a significant impact on me. I read most of his books in order when I was in elementary school, and what resonated with me the most was the theme of strategic pre-planning in one’s life. Dumas’ narratives illustrated that things don’t just randomly happen; you can plan for and execute against those plans. His stories taught me the value of assessing my actions and those of others around me daily and weekly, reflecting on what I’ve learned and how to improve for tomorrow. This practice of strategic thinking and continuous self-improvement has been instrumental in shaping my approach to life and career.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
One of my favorite life lesson quotes is “Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt,” from the movie Ronin. As a leader and entrepreneur, self-doubt can be a constant companion, leading to hesitancy and uncertainty. This quote serves as a powerful reminder that when doubt creeps in, it’s a clear signal that something needs attention or clarification. It has taught me the importance of addressing doubts head-on, seeking clarity, and making decisions with confidence. Embracing this mindset has helped me navigate challenges and uncertainties in both my personal and professional life, ensuring that I approach each situation with clarity and resolve.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I have always viewed my success as a platform for positive change. Throughout my career journey, I’ve leveraged my skills, knowledge, and influence to contribute to various causes close to my heart. From my involvement in the Madoff Litigation, where I played a role in recovering stolen funds for the American people, to my commitment to fair and compliant lending practices at Loanspark, I’ve strived to ensure that financial systems are more equitable and transparent. Beyond my professional endeavors, I’ve actively engaged in mentoring and supporting women, sharing insights on leadership and salary negotiations, and empowering them in their careers. My dedication to volunteer work, such as serving as a board member for Little Brother Friends of the Elderly, reflects my commitment to supporting vulnerable communities. Overall, I’ve used my success as a means to drive positive change, promote equality, and contribute to a better world.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
I would say there are several factors that contribute to the relatively low number of women founding companies. First, there’s still a lack of access to capital and investment opportunities for women entrepreneurs, which can hinder their ability to start and grow businesses. Additionally, societal expectations and biases often play a role, as women may face more significant challenges in navigating the traditionally male-dominated world of entrepreneurship. Confidence and self-belief can be affected by these biases, making it crucial to provide mentorship and resources that bolster women’s entrepreneurial aspirations. Moreover, the work-life balance and family responsibilities that women often shoulder can be a significant barrier. Empowering women to found companies involves breaking down these barriers, providing equal access to resources and opportunities, and fostering a supportive ecosystem that encourages and nurtures their entrepreneurial ambitions.
Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?
At Loanspark, we recognize the incredible potential and talent that women bring to the business world, and are committed to providing the necessary resources and support to turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality. To achieve this, we actively seek out partnerships with women-led organizations and networks, ensuring that our services are easily accessible and tailored to their unique needs. In this regard, I’ve had the privilege of being interviewed on a few podcasts to discuss the importance of advocating for working mothers and professional women. These opportunities have allowed me to share insights, experiences, and strategies for empowering women in the business world, reinforcing our commitment to fostering a more inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial landscape.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
When women step into leadership roles and become founders, it sends a powerful message to the next generation of women entrepreneurs. Seeing more women in these positions inspires others, providing tangible proof that they too can pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and succeed in a traditionally male-dominated field. Here are a few compelling reasons why more women should consider becoming founders.
Firstly, women bring unique perspectives, experiences, and ideas to the entrepreneurial arena, enriching it with diversity, which consistently fuels innovation and creative problem-solving. Secondly, entrepreneurship provides women with a profound sense of empowerment and autonomy, allowing them to shape businesses that align with their values and break free from conventional workplace constraints. Entrepreneurship also offers a proactive means to address and rectify gender inequalities in pay and leadership roles while providing invaluable flexibility and work-life integration, especially beneficial for working mothers. Furthermore, women founders are uniquely positioned to address women-specific issues, such as women’s health and work-family balance, thereby making a substantial and positive impact on society. Embracing entrepreneurship empowers individual women and contributes to a more diverse, inclusive, and innovative business world that benefits us all.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders?
Empowering more women to become founders is essential for fostering diversity and innovation in the business world. Here are five essential things that can be done to achieve this. First, we must prioritize access to education and mentorship, ensuring that women have the knowledge and guidance needed to navigate the entrepreneurial landscape effectively. Mentorship programs, in particular, play a pivotal role in providing aspiring female founders with valuable advice and support. Additionally, addressing the gender funding gap is crucial; we must encourage financial institutions and investors to provide equal access to capital for women-led startups. Creating women-focused investment funds and venture capital initiatives can help bridge this gap, enabling women to access the financial resources required to launch and scale their businesses. Lastly, building supportive communities, ecosystems, and policy changes are equally necessary steps toward creating an inclusive and empowering environment where women entrepreneurs can thrive. It’s also worth emphasizing that accountability rests with each individual, both women and men, to actively support and champion women in their networks, pulling each other up and collectively owning the next steps in this journey towards empowerment and equality.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could inspire a movement, it would be one dedicated to global financial education from an early age. This movement would prioritize equipping individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their socioeconomic background, with essential financial skills, including budgeting, investing, and managing debt, starting from a young age. Financial literacy forms the foundation of economic independence and personal well-being, and it has the potential to significantly improve the global economic structure.
By providing people with the tools and knowledge to make informed financial decisions early in life, we can set them on a path toward financial success, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty and creating a more stable economic structure globally. This movement would emphasize accessible education, mentorship, and resources, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their initial circumstances, has the opportunity to thrive financially. Ultimately, it would contribute to a more equitable and prosperous society where individuals are better prepared to navigate the complexities of personal finance and contribute positively to the global economy.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Angelina Jolie; without a doubt. She is not only a renowned filmmaker but also an incredibly intelligent, witty, and multifaceted individual. What truly sets her apart is her unwavering commitment to humanitarian causes and her dedication to making a positive impact on the world. Angelina Jolie’s ability to manage a busy career, a large family, and a multitude of philanthropic endeavors is nothing short of inspiring. Her strong sense of agency in crafting her own schedule and life choices is a testament to her resilience and determination.
Meeting her in person would offer a unique opportunity to gain insights into her experiences, her approach to balancing her many roles, and her perspective on creating meaningful change in the world. Her passion for humanitarian work and her ability to use her platform for advocacy make her a role model for anyone aspiring to make a difference. A private conversation with her would be a source of profound inspiration and a chance to learn from a true changemaker.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Sasha Yablonovsky of Loanspark: Why We Need More Women Founders & Here Is What We Are Doing To Make… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.