Meet The Connect Team: Cait Kelly

Aug 18, 2022

Get To Know Connect’s VP of Partnerships

Right now, children in rural areas are cultivating entrepreneurial skills like self-direction and scrappiness by building forts in the oak trees and racing nearly totaled cars in homemade dirt tracks behind trailers in pine cleared lots. At least, I hope. This feral childhood I experienced propagates a passion for nature and an appreciation for simplicity that is sometimes underrated.

Unfortunately, environments with immense exploratory freedoms go hand in hand with a lack of access to resources that often lead to (un)intended consequences. Kids get bored, then they find things to do, so I started planning to leave.

Cait Kelly Connect 4

“Driving a 5-speed at 10 yrs old”

College and team sports were never optional. My mom is a retired educator who expected good grades and chauffeured me between soccer games and swim meets. Despite disinterest in athletics, she understood the value of being part of a team to keep me engaged in the community. My dad, a retired horse breaker and traveling salesman, has never met a stranger and will give the contents of his pocket to whomever might need it despite never having had a formal savings account. Both maintain separate lives with bonus families – which wasn’t the norm at the time. These contradictions and experiences inspired the essays that landed the scholarships that fully funded my time at the University of Georgia.

Cait Kelly Connect 3

“Costa Rica International Academy; Brasilito, Guanacaste”

After graduation I was unsure what to do next, so I waitressed for $2.15 an hour at 3 restaurants with my newly framed B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders. In 6 months, I saved enough money to quit and find a more fulfilling job further south.

Coaching swimming in northwestern Costa Rica was my first career and first adult experience contributing to something bigger than myself. These 2 years were emotionally rewarding because I learned that people mostly want to help when they know what’s needed but understanding what’s needed in communities is challenging.

The realizations led me to study sustainable development in Argentina, before moving back to Atlanta to be close to friends and family. Here I was reintroduced to my now life partner. In 2016 it was easy to decide that we wanted to build our future elsewhere, together. We loaded only what fit in two SUVs, left our jobs and caravanned to San Diego with Kona, the pup.

Upon arrival, I started picking up jobs. While babysitting to make extra cash, I met a local investor who mentored me and showed me what the San Diego innovation community had to offer. With a stroke of luck, she introduced me to SDVG and they both hired me roughly 5.5 years ago.

Alongside incredible teammates, I have built and operated programs helping founders raise over $700M in institutional capital. I’ve implemented strategies to support merging two companies with totally different cultures. I’ve acquired a ton of implicit and tacit knowledge about running, merging, and investing in startups. But most importantly, I’ve learned for better or worse that I don’t know as much as I thought because anything is possible, when the right people meet.

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“Somewhere near June Lake”

Currently, I work with Connect stakeholders and find new supporters to share knowledge and contribute financially to the mission. Liaising with investors, executives, and industry advisors to support the development of San Diego has led to resource sharing, and innovation combining in unpredictable, life changing ways. Many of which help us all live a little better, a little easier.

My fondest experiences would never have happened if two things had not occurred. First, I had to get out there, and talk to a lot of strangers. Second, strangers had to meet me, share opportunities or knowledge, then give me the chance to help.

Cait Kelly Connect 1

With so many unknowns, the only real known is that the future will be wild. I’d like to make a positive impact and you probably do too. If you have knowledge to share, capital to invest/donate or if you just want to shoot the shit about your next adventure, please reach out. I’m always happy to chat.

Lastly, I would like to leave a note for those who are unsure where they are heading or feel that things might be hopeless. My first real career started because of someone I met hitchhiking in Central America and my second was because of a mentor I met babysitting. Not everyone’s career comes from a high-end internship and that is okay. We never know what lies around the corner if we open up and just decide to talk.

Cait Kelly

Cait Kelly

VP of Partnerships

Cait works with Connect stakeholders and finds new supporters to share knowledge and contribute financially to elevate the economic development of San Diego.