Summary List Placement
Despite making improvements in the past few years, Europe is still struggling when it comes to gender diversity in venture capital.
According to figures by industry group Diversity VC, women remain underrepresented on venture capital investment teams. Just 18% of investment professionals are women. Women also make up a tiny fraction of senior positions in VC.
A 2019 report from venture capital firm Atomico found, too, that it’s the female investors who are on average more interested in boosting diversity in tech overall. Some 63% of women VCs said they had increased their focus on attending events with stronger participation from diverse founders, compared to just 36% of their male peers.
To mark IWD 2021, Insider broke down a non-comprehensive list of 24 influential and interesting women venture capitalists on the continent, featuring the likes of Passion Capital’s Eileen Burbidge, JamJar’s Kirsty MacDonald, and Ada Ventures Founder Check Warner.
Check out the list below:
Firm: Founder and partner at Ada Ventures. Also cofounder of industry group Diversity VC.
Portfolio includes: Bubble, RGrid, Papier, Trouva
“I was always fascinated by technology and start-ups and wanted to become an entrepreneur. When I discovered venture capital via Twitter I couldn’t believe that such a fascinating job existed, but was disappointed to find out that it didn’t seem to be for people like me who didn’t come from investment banking or consulting.
“Despite not having the ‘right’ career background, I was extremely privileged in other ways and was fortunate to meet my now-partner, Matt, early in my career and get the opportunity to join Downing Ventures which is where I fell in love with early-stage investing.”
Dr Fiona Pathiraja
Firm: Founder and partner at Crista Galli Ventures
Portfolio includes: Subtle Medical, Skin Analytics, and Keleya.
“Prior to VC, I was a physician in the NHS. My time in the NHS made me realize that real innovation and change in healthcare often originates outside the system. Wanting to be part of this change, I stepped outside medicine and into VC.
“I’m pleased that the conversation regarding diversity in venture is happening – but there is still a long way to go. Investors should start to address diversity by first looking at their own teams, their own portfolios and their own unconscious biases.”
Firm: Dawn Capital
Portfolio includes: BRYTER, Dataiku, Soldo, and Granulate
“Last year we raised our fourth $400m flagship fund, so a goal for 2021 is to partner with more exceptional founders who are reshaping the future of enterprise. We have invested in three phenomenal companies so far: Access Fintech, Harbr and Granulate. I’m looking forward to welcoming more founders to our Dawn family.
“On a more personal note, after more than a decade of living in London, I finally decided to properly put down some roots and buy my first home. As someone who used to paint, I am having a lot of fun with how creative I can get with every little thing.
“I am currently in the process of renovating my kitchen and so I mostly look forward to hosting and entertaining my friends, family and colleagues as soon as I am allowed. I’ve definitely missed this over the last year, and I have new cooking skills to show off!”
Sonali De Rycker
Firm: Partner at Accel
Portfolio includes: Spotify, Hopin, and Monzo
“Growing up in India, in a ‘working-middle-class family’, and always knowing I had no choice but to pave my own way, I started thinking about my future at the ripe old age of 10. The only career options presented to me in India at the time were either to be an accountant or a doctor — neither of which was instinctively appealing.
“Exposure to the business my father was involved in then was an early source of inspiration. He was the CEO of a company that sold barrels, drums, and industrial packaging that needed to innovate to survive. While the products he produced didn’t particularly interest me, the entrepreneurial aspects and the intricacies around pricing, competition and management certainly did.
“It was clear that I had to find a way to leave India on my own in order to pursue an alternative path so I did; I ended up sending applications for scholarships to every college I could possibly find and ultimately struck gold when Bryn Mawr College decided to give me a full scholarship.”
Firm: Managing partner at Reckitt Benckiser’s ventures arm, RB Ventures
Portfolio includes: Wealth Wizards, Oxwash
“Back in 2015, I felt like I was pretty much the only woman involved in the venture negotiations. However, just today I was part of a pitch with our partners at Founders Factory where every person on the call was a woman.
“I feel like the pendulum is starting to swing in the other direction, and I hope in the next five years, gender won’t even be a topic needed to be discussed.”
Bao-Y Van Cong
Firm: Investment director at Target Global
Portfolio includes: Auto1, Bird, Zego, Reef, and WeFox
“I think there is a barrier that stops many women thinking about venture capital in the first place. Even at the application stage I see significantly fewer women. I hope that with seeing more female venture capitalists, it will change the notion of what a classic VC looks like and inspire many more women to apply in the first place.”
Firm: Principal at Talis Capital
Portfolio includes: Ynsect, Medbelle, and Construyo
“I am really excited to see major innovation come to fruition in the wake of the pandemic. The 2008 crisis instigated the emergence of some of today’s tech giants, so this is a critical time to spot the big winners 10 years down the line. 2021 will also hopefully be a big year for sustainability and green technology.
“A few sociopolitical events have exacerbated the problem even more and we are noticing a huge number of startups emerging in the segment, some of which I’m sure will be tech giants in very little time.”
Firm: Sequoia’s first partner in Europe, previously Accel
Investments include:While at Accel, Lixandru led investments in companies including UiPath, Deliveroo, Hopin, Framer, Miro and Tessian. At Sequoia she led the firm’s recent investment in Xentral.
“We’ve definitely seen progress in the ecosystem, however diversity in VC is nowhere near where it needs to be. We all need to take action, otherwise we’ll never see the business benefit that we know exists when talent is diversified.
“[For 2021], I’m very excited to get back to meeting with founders face to face. We’ve all adapted and made the best of working in a remote world but as soon as it’s safe to do so, expect to see me and the Sequoia team frequently travelling across Europe to meet the brightest and best founders in person. We want to partner, as early as possible, with the next generation of category-leading companies that start in the region.”
Firm: Managing partner at New Wave
Portfolio includes: Payfit, Doctolib, and Shift Technology
“Improving the gender balance in European VC isn’t a 12-month question, it’s a 10-year question. But it keeps improving, which we can see by, for example, looking at the increasing number of women launching their own funds.
“My own goal for 2021 is to replace as many Zoom meetings as possible with in-person meetings!”
Firm: InHealth Ventures
Portfolio includes: Agamon, HeyDoc
“VC continues to be a male-dominated industry, and this is reflected in the fact that VCs continue to underinvest in female founders. However, there is a mindset shift where the industry is recognizing the need to be more inclusive, and organizations like Diversity VC and Future VC are creating clear paths for people with non-traditional backgrounds to enter the industry.
“But it is not enough to just hire more women — it is also important to support their growth and create mentors and sponsors for them once they are in the industry. Organizations like Women in VC create a space for women to connect with other women who have been on similar journeys.”
Itxaso del Palacio
Firm: Notion Capital
Portfolio includes: Forest Amin, Easol, and Rise
“Relative to men, women still remain a small percentage of the people who pitch to me and are raising money within the ecosystem, but I am very optimistic that change is happening.
“More and more fantastic female founders are on the ground pitching and successfully raising money which in turn is creating a network of great role models for other women building their own companies. Exacerbating this is that there are also more female partners in VC firms, which I believe helps to increase the number of female founders successfully receiving funding.
“There is definitely a snowball effect currently happening in the startup landscape.”
Firm: Passion Capital
Portfolio includes: Monzo, GoCardless, and Lulu
“[The UK is] really punching above our weight. I’m confident that we will be producing many more world-class fintech companies, uniting our country’s expertise in financial services and deep tech, along with world-leading digital tech companies across all categories.”
Kirsty MacDonald, JamJar
Portfolio includes: Babylon Health, Bulb, Deliveroo
“In 2021, I’m looking forward to my first pint at the pub…
“In all seriousness, I’ve been completely amazed by the entrepreneurial impact and resilience we witnessed in 2020. Whether it was pivoting your current business, starting a new one to address new consumer needs or supporting your employees in the face of grave uncertainty.
“As we enter into a new phase, I’m excited to see what such a driven, creative and inspiring group do; I have no doubt they will be a huge driving force of our recovery and I am completely in awe of that.”
Firm: BACKED VC
Portfolio includes: THIS, Invisible, and FabricNano
“I think the presence of ‘outsiders’ itself pushed the establishment of new processes that help with diversity — like changing hiring from referrals just inviting your friend or your friend’s friend to join, to the proper use of recruitment processes and publicly advertising roles, all of which has an impact.
“I also think the efforts of organizations like Diversity VC, who are really pushing the agenda to work with other communities, bring a new generation of investors into the industry, many of whom are women.”
Firm: Partner at Antler
Portfolio includes: Speiz, Plaace, Savvie and Glint Solar
“I firmly believe that diversity in funded companies starts with diversity in the investment teams. You have to build trust in order to get a VC to fund you, and unfortunately, humans are prone to trust those that are like themselves. Women are not exempt from this.
“Having more women, and diversity in all aspects in investment teams will lead to making more bets on diverse teams, with business models serving a wider range of the population.”
Firm: EQT Ventures
Portfolio includes: Curbe, Kive, and Sana Labs
“There’s still only a fraction of capital going to female founders and mixed teams; when you factor ethnicity into that, the figures become even bleaker.
“Diverse teams perform better, so there’s an opportunity for investors here to expand their horizons and create successful investments whilst doing so.
“With more women in VC holding the power to choose which deals to bring forward, there will be more investments made into diverse teams; studies have shown that female VCs are more likely to invest in female founding teams, for example.
“VC, after all, is a mix of data and gut feel, where the latter is formed by experiences — so we need diversity of thought in VC to identify overlooked problems and truly understand their potential.”
Portfolio includes: Twaice, Celus, and Fernride
“In 2021, I’m really looking forward to the continued rise of climate tech, especially in the context of industrial tech. I’m particularly excited about innovations around recycling and creating a circular economy, which is an area Europe is far ahead in.”
Portfolio includes: IQM, Bitrise, and Sunlight.io
“The world of VC is definitely more accessible now than 15 years ago when I entered the industry. The gap that we need to bridge in the technology and VC industry is still quite large, especially at the decision-making levels.
“At OpenOcean we are very aware of the existing challenge and we are making an extra effort to support top female tech founders.”
Firm: IQ Capital
Portfolio includes: FNA, CyberSmart, and Neurovalens
“Having worked in one of the early pioneering internet trading floors in the 90s, I understood the potential of what could be possible. I was immediately drawn to venture capital and deep-tech investments, joining the UK’s leading VC in 1998.
“As one of only a handful of women in venture, I had to create my own style — connecting with founders and listening to what was not being said. I’ve become an expert in mar-tech stacks, competitive intelligence tracking and go-to-market, and always ensure I am invaluable to early stage teams across these areas.”
Firm: Astanor Ventures
Portfolio includes: Cervest, Notpla, and Infarm
“Diversity is a broader concept, beyond aesthetic differences like gender and color.
“These absolutely matter, but it’s also about creating a culture that accepts, includes and encourages views, backgrounds and perspective that are not homogenous or born of the same life experience or trajectory. People from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, regions of the world, educational backgrounds, etc. It’s these less visible differences that are harder to absorb into some industries.
“They are part of the gender and race conversation, but are harder to illuminate and be mindful of in recruiting and network building. It starts from reframing what skills and values are most germane to the functions of venture capital, and then reshaping the recruitment and networking process that ladders up.”
Firm: White Star Capital
Portfolio includes: TIMEDI, Mindsay, and Himedi
“Having worked as an M&A advisor at Goldman Sachs, I moved to the investment world to feel the thrill of the long-term perspective; it’s exciting to be able to help a company grow over 5 to 10 years.
“Besides this, I deeply enjoyed working on tech transactions, had experience working in an e-commerce start-up, and wished to stay close to the world of innovation. I love constantly meeting with founders on the lookout for the next disruption. Pursuing a career in VC was thus a natural route for me.”
Portfolio firms: Watchfinder, Monica Vinader, Fnatic, Blis, Edited, Luxury Promise
“The gender balance in European venture capital is consistently improving, but mainly in more junior roles. There are quite a few UK VCs that are approaching gender parity at the junior ranks, but we now need to ensure this younger cohort stays, develops and moves into partnership positions.
“We are targeting our biggest year of investment in our history — dealflow is fantastic, we are experiencing a firehose of great companies and entrepreneurs, and acting quickly to capitalize on the market is paramount.
We’re also experiencing unprecedented pro-active interest in our existing portfolio, so we’ll need to make judgement calls about where we might be happy to sell certain investments, and where we need to dig in for a larger future return.”
Portfolio includes: Booksy, DocPlanner, and Rohlik
“What we really need to see is more paths to partner and principal roles being open for women – and for analyst and associate roles held by females to lead to partner positions, which isn’t currently happening enough. We also need to directly address the issue of subconscious bias in VC – given how male dominated the sector is, there needs to be internal actors who help drive change as well.
Firm: Balderton Capital
Portfolio includes: Flywire, Kensho
“On the investing side, things are slowly improving. There are more senior women who grew up in their respective roles. For those who did, there exists a particular responsibility to provide the opportunities and mentorship that allows others to do as well.”