May 30 2021

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

May 30 2021

May 30, 2021
Dear readers,

Exceptional leaders come from all backgrounds. Time and time again, we’ve seen this proven out: great teams are better served when they reflect the diversity we live in.

This month, we were so thrilled to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage. The AAPI community is diverse, vibrant and growing here in the United States. We’re taking this issue of the Incite Post to highlight the AAPI leaders in our portfolio -- all of whom work purposefully to build businesses, nonprofits and political initiatives that the world needs. 

Incite Ventures

Praveen Penmetsa, Monarch Tractor

Praveen and his team brought together diverse experiences in engineering, agriculture, automation, electrification, and manufacturing and through their collaboration, came Monarch: the world’s first fully electric, self-driving tractor. Learn more about Monarch Tractor.


How do you/your family celebrate your heritage? 
I come from a large extended family that is based in India and am very close to my grand-parents. Every few years we try to find some occasion for all of us to meet up. When we go to India and have a chance to meet the whole extended family, we all spend time exchanging stories of our past including stories from our grandparents and their grandparents with all the new members like my son. This is a great way to understand where we came from and the journey of our parents and grandparents that lead to this point. But to hear of these stories and our heritage in person and with their perspective and context is very powerful for me and my family

What is your favorite quote?
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the experts mind there are few."

What makes you the most proud when you think about the company you're building?
I get a lot of pride from the opportunities and development curve of the team members and the unique experiences we all share together on our path to major accomplishments as a company. These shared moments along the journey are most cherished. Also when I look at team members(including myself) and see our learnings and personal development, it makes me very proud.

Incite Ventures

Shashank Samala, Heirloom

Second-time Incite-backed founder, Shashank and his team are on a mission to remove 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2035, using natural processes to engineer the world's most cost-effective Direct Air Capture solution. Learn more about Heirloom.


What is your favorite quote?
"Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" - meaning, "The world is one family!

What makes you the most proud when you think about the team you are building?
The sheer passion/resilience/persistence every team member has to give us the best shot at helping reverse climate change. 

Incite Ventures

Ying Liu, Blue Lake Packaging

Ying finds joy in creating a sustainable future. She co-founded Blue Lake Packaging to create 100% fiber-based packaging solutions to fight plastic pollution. 


How do you/your family celebrate your heritage? 

We observe every Chinese traditional holiday by cooking Chinese food in the traditional way, such as dumplings for Chinese New Year, sweet rice with bamboo leave wrap (Zong Zi for Dragon Festival), sweet rice flour ball (Tang Yuan for Lantern Festival), Moon cake (Yue Bing for Moon Festival)

What is the best piece of advice and/or a favorite quote?
I really think our company is built upon this Lao Zi's quote: “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."

What makes you the most proud when you think about the company you are building?
We love our heritage and culture.  At the same time, we believe what Blue Lake is building is boundary-less.  The innovations to make the world more sustainable is applicable to every corner of the world.  This is what makes us so proud when we think about our company.

Incite Labs

Andrew Hsieh, Feasible

Andrew Hsieh and his team founded Feasible to be the pioneer in advanced battery diagnostics using ultrasound and machine learning; he and his team are doing just that. Learn more about Feasible.


How do you/your family celebrate your heritage?
When I was young, my family tried to do the standard American Thanksgiving dinner; several years of burnt and/or baked-upside-down turkeys ensued. Now, our family tradition (which I love) is to do Taiwanese-style hot pot with pumpkin and apple pie.

What is the best piece of advice?
This is very much a work in progress for me, but I’ve found so much value in being comfortable asking others for help and finding community with people with whom I can share my challenges openly. It’s not something that came to me instinctively, but combined with a strong work ethic and integrity (which my parents were great role models for), it has really enabled me to accelerate my learning and growth as a leader.

What makes you the most proud when you think about the team you are building?
I’m really proud of my team and the culture of trust, inclusivity, support, and growth that we’ve developed. From the beginning, we’ve emphasized hiring along multiple axes of diversity, and have worked hard to make sure everyone feels heard and considered. This is not only the right thing to do - diversity of thought also yields the best outcomes. We're working on something really hard, in a complex and challenging market - the most innovative solutions often come from teams that bring together people with different perspectives and backgrounds.

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Cover photo from Good Housekeeping // Getty Images

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