Meet PowerPlant’s “Hard to Read” Associate, Kelly Byrne, Who Uses Self-Awareness to be a Better Investor

Kelly Byrne — February 8, 2022


I am often told by those who know me well that I am “hard to read” when they first meet me. After reflect­ing on why that might be the case, I’ve come to real­ize it is prob­a­bly because I am always “read­ing” those around me. What often gets con­strued as shy­ness or quiet­ness is often just obser­vance and curios­i­ty. In fact, the first com­pli­ment I received from Mark Ram­pol­la after join­ing Pow­er­Plant was that I was a good lis­ten­er.

Under­stand­ing peo­ple, their behav­ior, and their choic­es has been an uncon­scious obses­sion of mine for as long as I can remem­ber. I even want­ed to be a pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor grow­ing up. Not only has it allowed me to cul­ti­vate deep and impact­ful con­nec­tions with oth­ers, but it has also helped me nav­i­gate through impor­tant chap­ters of my life. Nonethe­less, it was not until I made the tran­si­tion into ven­ture cap­i­tal that I felt empow­ered to chan­nel this pre­vi­ous­ly uniden­ti­fied strength into some­thing mean­ing­ful.

At the core of con­sumer invest­ing is a deep empa­thy for and under­stand­ing of oth­ers. What moti­vates this founder at the core? What prob­lem are they solv­ing? Does the brand spark the emo­tion­al dri­vers of con­sumers who want to be seen or spo­ken to in ways not pre­vi­ous­ly done before?  Find­ing answers to these key ques­tions, among oth­ers, is a big part of our dili­gence process at Pow­er­Plant. Anoth­er equal­ly impor­tant step in the process, a step I’m active­ly try­ing to devel­op and strength­en, is to iden­ti­fy and have con­vic­tion in founders with unique insights and dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed per­spec­tives, even if they are out of con­sen­sus. It is easy to fol­low the crowd. But just like my vol­ley­ball coach­es used to say, we must get com­fort­able with being uncom­fort­able to tru­ly encour­age next-lev­el think­ing.

I pinch myself every day know­ing that I have the priv­i­lege of meet­ing such inno­v­a­tive thinkers and can sup­port them in build­ing trans­for­ma­tive busi­ness­es. Hav­ing even a minor role in shap­ing the lives of con­sumers by back­ing brands that cre­ate a pos­i­tive impact on the world is an incred­i­ble oppor­tu­ni­ty.

Now that I’ve revealed what makes me tick, I’ll briefly dis­cuss an area around con­sumer behav­ior I’ve been think­ing about recent­ly: mind­sets. Dur­ing a recent week­end beach walk, I lis­tened to a pod­cast that fea­tured Dr. Alia Crum, an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­o­gy at Stan­ford and Direc­tor of the Mind & Body Lab. Her work focus­es on mind­sets and beliefs and how they shape our respons­es to stress, exer­cise, and the foods we eat.

Through an exper­i­ment with milk­shakes, Dr. Crum proved that our belief about the nutri­tion­al con­tent of the food we eat changes whether it is sat­is­fy­ing to us at a phys­i­o­log­i­cal (hor­mon­al and meta­bol­ic) lev­el. The way a prod­uct is labeled – “indul­gent, and rich” vs. “healthy, fat-free, – not only influ­ences our desire to eat it but also primes our bod­ies to metab­o­lize those foods dif­fer­ent­ly. Essen­tial­ly, both what you eat, and what you think about what you eat, mat­ter.

We all know that there is a con­sen­sus in our coun­try that healthy foods are depriv­ing and unde­sir­able, a view heav­i­ly influ­enced by cul­tur­al and soci­etal forces. Work from the Mind & Body Lab makes it clear that there is a lot of work to be done to help shape a more pos­i­tive, indul­gent mind­set around healthy, nutri­tious foods.

With this knowl­edge, com­pa­nies who want to pos­i­tive­ly impact human health and encour­age healthy mind­sets around food should take a page from the mar­ket­ing play­book of the junk food indus­try. Although some bet­ter-for-you brands already do so, the jury is out on whether the pos­i­tive soci­etal effects of pro­mot­ing healthy indul­gence out­weigh the lost sales from extreme­ly loy­al dieters and “low-calo­rie” seek­ers that pour mon­ey into brands that speak to them.  Per­son­al­ly, I’d choose “slow-roast­ed, caramelized, crispy brus­sels sprouts” over sim­ply “brus­sels sprouts” any day.

If you also have an inter­est in con­sumer behav­ior, or sim­ply want to con­nect, I’d love to hear from you on my new Insta­gram or at



You May Also Be Interested In