An Exclusive Interview with the Co-founder and COO of Base

Dive into Natalia Martinez-Kalinina’s entrepreneurial journey in community and innovation in Miami.

Nov 1, 2023 · 8 Minute Read

With plans to stay in Miami for just a year, Natalia has since spent 11 years here, leaving an indelible mark. During her time, she excelled at what she does best: building a strong community. Learn more about where she comes from and how she converted her passions into her dream job through the founding of Base.

Mana Tech has partnered with Base to nurture their exclusive events and support the growth and development of their community. At Mana Tech, we take great pride in the success story of our fellow entrepreneurs who are playing a pivotal role in shaping Miami into the next tech hub for entrepreneurs.

Q: Can you provide a brief overview of your background and how it led to your current role as Co-founder and COO at Base?

A: Academically speaking, I am an organizational psychologist, which means that I have always been deeply interested in the study of groups and group dynamics. It’s been a lens through which I’ve built both my personal and my professional lives. My career has always focused on groups of people and community building… Base is all about that, creating interesting group dynamics, matching people into fascinating groups… it ends up being an interesting kind of communal experience, and developing the technology and the algorithm that does that.
On a personal level, hosting is something I am really passionate about… I am a big believer in the power of small convenings. To me, it creates purposeful and deeper connections and surprising experiences that we don’t normally get at networking events or when we meet people randomly. So, Base is the convergence of my professional career and my professional lens with my deeply personal passions.

Q: What motivated you to become actively involved in the Miami Tech community, and what are some of the initiatives or projects you’ve been a part of?

A: When I first moved to Miami, I got extremely involved (in the community). I started several organizations, joined boards; I started to enter my foray into the tech community. The beginning of how dense my first year was set the stage for living here for over a decade. In a way, it has been deeply entrenched in the community because I started off on that foot. The tech world and the entrepreneurial world were not something that I was actively seeking out or coming from. It was in 2012 when I moved here, and Miami was going through that moment of starting to build an ecosystem. It felt like this really wonderful moment where I had no idea what was going on, but neither did other people. So, we could learn together. Nobody knew what impact investing was or how to scale companies, but we could all be in this space of learning from each other, of learning together, and it wasn’t something shameful.

Q: Could you share any specific experiences of challenges you’ve encountered as a woman in the tech community, and how you’ve navigated them?

A: I’m very fortunate in my career, and currently in the present day as well, to have been surrounded by and had visibility into really incredible female mentors,colleagues, and friends, which has had a significant personal impact on how I have learned. A lot of how I’ve assessed my failures and big mistakes, the women in my life have really helped me improve and held a lot of space for me to figure out how I wanted to show up. The community around women in technology and entrepreneurship, not only in Miami, has been an incredible asset to me.
In terms of challenges, the funding environment is definitely something noticeable. I’ve seen many female founders who have built incredible companies with traction, revenue, data and solid metrics, and still struggle to raise a round of funding. The funding that goes to women, to minority women, is still dismal, especially from venture capital. I have seen half-baked ideas from men being funded, but ideas that are robust and actually have metrics, revenue, and data, and are led by women, struggle to get it. There are still some asymmetries and biases today in Miami and elsewhere.

Q: Have you noticed any unique opportunities or perspectives that being a woman in the tech industry has afforded you?

A: Each of us, as individuals, is a cocktail of perspectives. For me, part of that perspective is being a woman, but part of that perspective is also being an immigrant, a third culture kid, and a physiologist. My perspective comes more from being a woman or from being some of these other identities. I don’t think women, as I have observed them, have a different leadership style in some contexts. I do think we show up with a different set of questions and a different set of skills, not in a better way, just different… I’m personally really excited to have two male co-founders. Ultimately, we’re stronger as a unit; not because we have different genders, but because we have three different perspectives at the table.

Q: As someone deeply involved in community building, what are some of the key factors to consider when developing and building a community?

A: Community building is vital, but very easy to do just for the sake of doing it- you tend to lose steam quickly. Whenever you gather people, whether it’s for a dinner series or a larger organization, the purpose has to be very clear. We tend to think that it will come along the way, but to me that comes first. The second factor is to be able to address gaps in community building or create gaps around something where others agree there is a need, and that this need would be served in that way. Often, we try to create a “community” in which the stakeholders haven’t been bought into that need. Thirdly, culture. Establishing the ground rules and guard rails of a particular community is also something that we come to too late. I often joke about it, saying that it’s how we want our kids to behave, but adults don’t often do it. Showing up to places of differences of opinion with curiosity instead of judgment or being willing to help before you receive is crucial. There are things that are common sense principles as values, but we don’t always build our communities starting with that assumption. You have to be very purposeful about what values you try to build a community with.

Q: How do you see the Miami Tech ecosystem evolving in the next few years, and what opportunities do you foresee for startups and entrepreneurs?

A: The tactical system of the Miami tech ecosystem has evolved so much over the 10 years I’ve been here. I am excited to see what the next chapter holds… I have been critical of Miami, but also very bullish… What I would love to see is deepening around certain verticals. We are at a moment in time where we don’t have to do everything all at once, and we can really start to build clusters of deep expertise and deep investment. Whether it’s climate and resilience, or health tech, medial devices, and bio research… Whatever the topics are, it’s to our benefit to really start to become experts on a national and global level around the verticals that most make sense in Miami. I also think we are over the hump of the hype of COVID and crypto, which became a very hyped moment in Miami. Now that those things are a little bit behind us, we have the chance to build with the benefit of having come through that. The folks who are here are people who want to be here and are here to stay. We’re attracting different types of talent and companies. Not just because of the global pandemic, but because people actually want to be in Miami and see a benefit to being in Miami. Overall, I am excited for the upleveling that is to come and the deepening of our focus in more areas.

Q: Can you talk about the partnership with Mana Tech? How do you see this partnership helping achieve your mission with Base?

A: We have been very fortunate to be able to host some Base dinners at Loft 10 with Mana Common. It has been one of the most amazing experiences for us. We host dozens of dinners every month, and we’re constantly trying to figure out what it is that leads to the environment and connection and delight for our members, which is what Base is all about. Doing the dinners here at Mana continues to allow us to test various concepts that we can’t easily do at other venues. It’s given us a set of data points that we want to incorporate into all our dinners and scale up, redesigning them accordingly. The benefit to us as a company is the experience that our members are having.

Learn more about Natalia’s endeavors at Base and become a part of Mana Tech‘s ever-growing community. We’re thrilled to engage with and showcase all the exceptional founders in our city!

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