Lydia Hylton on why she joined Bain Capital Crypto despite ‘that tweet’

Last month, on International Women’s Day, Bain Capital Crypto announced a $560 million crypto-native fund with an all-male partnership behind it.

While all-male teams are an unfortunate commonality in venture and crypto, the irony of the homogenous announcement on a day dedicated to representation was swiftly met with backlash on Twitter. It was enough to prompt Bain Capital executive Stefan Cohen to apologize and affirm the outfit’s commitment to “hiring women, investing in women-led projects, and being a driving force in the industry for sponsoring the creativity and genius of women, non-binary people, and people of color.”

A little over a week later, Bain Capital announced that they hired Redpoint Ventures investor Lydia Hylton, who’d previously worked for Bain as a consultant before breaking into tech as a data scientist at Facebook. In early 2021, after getting her MBA at Stanford, she joined Redpoint to help it spin up its crypto practice.

She spoke to TechCrunch last week, setting the record straight on the “difficult” optics of her job transition — and teasing out what she plans to accomplish and who she plans to hire at her new gig.

Hylton, who is four weeks on the job, admits that there was “definitely a misjudgment” by the Bain Capital Crypto team for launching on International Women’s Day given the makeup of the team. But she says she isn’t a diversity hire: “I met the team in January and I actually signed my offer before all of the International Women’s day stuff happened.” The reason she wasn’t included in that fund announcement is that she hadn’t yet shared her plans with Redpoint, she says.

As Hylton was watching the backlash on Twitter, she described her “natural fear” that folks would think she was hired in reaction to the mistake. “I’m the elephant in the room,” she added.

Despite that week one was a “tough” one for the investor, she says she’s ready to dive in.

Crypto started as an intellectual curiosity for Hylton, who first began learning about the space as decentralized finance — not NFTs and DAOs — were taking off as a concept. The interest turned into an investment career when she realized that crypto and decentralization can “mobilize communities” in ways that traditional business could not.

As for crypto skeptics, people who don’t believe that decentralization or building on the blockchain is important, she thinks that most pushback comes from a place of privilege. The war in Ukraine, Hylton notes, highlights how important it is to have decentralized sources of power during times of strife and misinformation.

Hylton’s focus eventually made her want to join a firm that was more technically focused on crypto, since web3 founders require quite different types of support when it comes to building. She also wanted to join a platform that could help founders both before and after they launch a token, another nuance of web3 cap tables. Hylton declined to provide specific details on what her role as “partner” entails, such as if she has a stake in the fund or check writing capabilities, but she did say that “all partners have the same responsibilities of sourcing, leading and supporting investments.”

At Bain, where Hylton will be focused on early-stage DeFi, consumer and DAO-focused applications and protocols, she hints that she won’t be the only female partner on the team for long.

“All I can say is I was 100% confident that I would not remain the only woman on the team for long, and that’s certainly going to manifest shortly as well,” she said. “This perception of bro culture in crypto [versus] my experience with this team could not be further from that,” she adds.

If Bain is moving more aggressively to diversify its ranks, it would put Bain in the company of a growing number of crypto outfits that are working to address the lack of diversity in the industry.

Former Andreessen Horowitz partner Katie Haun recently announced a $1.5 billion debut fund to back crypto startups. Women partners such as Reach Capital’s Jomayra Herrera and Lightspeed’s Mercedes Bent are bringing a crypto lens to their established firms — and this public spreadsheet shows just a fraction of how many women in color are building in the spotlighted sector. There are even a number of DAOs dedicated to inclusion, with Komorebi Collective focused on backing exclusively female and nonbinary crypto founders.

Join the tens of thousands of people who subscribe to my newsletter Startups Weekly. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.