Kate Kourlis headshot If, indeed, life is about the journey and not the destination, Kate Kourlis (MBA 2019) could have this thing nailed.

The exuberant Colorado native won’t admit to that, of course, but Kourlis’ journey has taken her from studying philosophy, to working her family’s sheep farm, out to Wall Street and back to Denver—twice—to her current role disrupting the retained search industry at GoBuyside.

Her path was nonlinear, but every step to and through the Daniels College of Business cultivated an informed interest, one step leading thoughtfully to the next.

Farm to (Wall Street) table

Kourlis grew up near Craig, Colorado, where she would learn the ranching business top-to-bottom. But it was her inquisitive, deep-thinking nature that took her first to Stanford University for an undergraduate degree in philosophy.

“I’ve always been a deep existential thinker, so philosophy came naturally to me,” Kourlis said. “I was interested in finance, but Stanford doesn’t offer an undergraduate business program. Philosophy helped me learn how to think, make an argument, write papers and defend a case.”

After Stanford, Kourlis explored a career in sports, briefly interning with the Denver Broncos, getting her feet wet in the organization’s legal, finance, player operations, marketing and ticket sales. She then returned to the family farm to help her father and acquaint herself with toil and grit. Lambing season, when she worked grueling 14-hour days in the freezing cold, would be her toughest test.

Kourlis grasped the nuances of sheep ranching, but she was enticed by the financial aspects of running a small business. Her father nourished that interest by training her on how the ranch operated financially. Kourlis has deep affection for her father and his mentorship, but a desire for something deeper crept in.

“I really wanted to cut my teeth with some substantial mentors in a more formal financial landscape,” Kourlis said. “I had the mom-and-pop perspective, appreciating hard work and how nothing comes easily. That launched my interest in private equity and investment banking.”

Kourlis parlayed her non-traditional experience into an analyst role at Morgan Stanley in New York. In the summer of 2009, 150 analysts joined the company; Kourlis was the only one who hadn’t had an internship.

It’s about people

“I joined the financial sponsors group and loved it,” Kourlis reminisced. “I loved the people and the types of deals we worked, which was mostly advising and capital raising for portfolio companies of large private equity firms like Bain, KKR and Warburg.”

Still, her passion for small business brought Kourlis back to Denver, where she worked with a middle market private equity fund, KRG Capital.

“My private equity experience taught me that the most valuable asset in any company or success story is the people,” Kourlis said. “I’m super social, outgoing and curious about folks from all walks of life and literally could talk to a wall.”

When a former mentor asked her to join a newly created private equity recruiting firm, her personality made the position too tempting to pass up. So Kourlis went back to New York to leverage her firsthand experience helping private equity firms attract top-tier talent.

That 10-year stint fed Kourlis’ passion for people, but once again the magnetic force of the Rocky Mountains proved too great. She moved back to Denver and enrolled at the Daniels College of Business to pursue an MBA in real estate, yet another area of interest.

“Real estate investing was a side passion that I pursued with my parents,” Kourlis said. “I was exposed to it through the ranch, which is fundamentally real estate. I thought then about pivoting fully into the real estate world.”

While at Daniels, though, Kourlis kept a finger on the pulse of the investment industry by helping to establish the Pioneer Venture Group, DU’s first venture capital fund run and managed by students. She served as managing partner while at Daniels and continues to work on the group’s advisory board.


Back in the people business, Kourlis now serves as executive director of business development at GoBuyside, a tech-forward platform that sources and screens candidates for private equity firms, hedge funds and Fortune 500 companies globally.

“Unlike conventional recruiting firms, GoBuyside is a two-sided talent marketplace,” Kourlis said. “We’ve built a tech-enabled platform that provides autonomy and transparency to our clients and candidates. For clients, our goal is to deliver the right candidates faster. And for candidates, we work hard to get rid of all the noise and put the right jobs in front of them.

“Our idea is to disrupt the industry status quo and think about creative ways to solve problems,” Kourlis added. “We’re passionate about helping good people find good roles and making it easier on both parties by using technology to make it more effective and efficient.”

Is this the end of Kourlis’ journey? With her blend of personality and experience, it’s hard to rule out another step down her winding career path.

Discover More About our MBAs

The Daniels College of Business offers four MBA programs designed for the individual needs and experiences of business professionals.
Learn more >