Last year in March, Ellen Pao’s high-profile gender discrimination trial against her former employer – Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers – started a wide conversation in the venture capital industry about diversity in investment firms. It is an accepted and obvious fact that, at present, tech entrepreneurship and venture capital is a male-dominated space in the US, in Europe and globally.
Yet, an increasing number of very talented and capable women are coming into the tech and investment industry. In this article, dedicated to the International Women’s Day, we want to put a spotlight on European female VCs and celebrate their success.
So who are the female technology VCs in Europe? Find a list below, in no particular order.
Although the main list focuses mostly on female investor at ‘partner’ level, it is not definitive or exhaustive and, in fact, if you think there are more amazing European female VCs we haven’t mentioned, please do let us know in the comments.
Sonali is general partner at Accel and co-leads the firm’s London office. She joined the VC industry in 2000, first joining Atlas Venture as a partner and in 2008 she moved to Accel in London. Prior to that, she was an investment banker with Goldman Sachs in New York.
Sonali invests in consumer, software and financial services businesses and she has led Accel’s investments in Avito, Lyst, Spotify, Wallapop, KupiVIP, Calastone, Wonga and SilverRail. Sonali, with her impressive portfolio and recent $2.7 billion exit of Avito, is one of the main figures in the European VC industry and undoubtedly the biggest inspiration to all existing and aspiring female VCs.
Laurel is a general partner at 83North (formerly Greylock IL), which she joined in 2008. Laurel came to the venture industry from GE Capital in 2000, by joining Jerusalem Venture Partners as general partner to lead the firm’s European investments out of London.
Laurel continues to be based in London and her investment focus includes internet, mobile software and FinTech businesses. Laurel has led investments in many iconic European technology companies, including high profile billion-dollar exits as Just Eat, Qliktech and Hybris.
Laurel’s current portfolio of investments is equally impressive and includes BlueVine, Ebury, iZettle, Mirakl, Notonthehighstreet, Wandera, Wonga and Workable. She is also an angel investor in companies such as Fizzback (acquired by Nice Systems), Wix (publicly listed on the Nasdaq), FreeAgent and Secret Escapes. Laurel is one of the most accomplished European venture investor.
Reshma is CEO, partner and co-founder at Seedcamp. Reshma started her venture career at 3i after spending time at Vodafone, where she worked in the marketing and strategy department for several years.
Reshma is one of the true disruptors of European early stage investing, having started the first large-scale accelerator program in Europe with Seedcamp in 2007. Since then, Seedcamp has grown into Europe’s leading pre-seed, seed and growth stage acceleration program.
Since its inception, Seedcamp has helped 10,000 startups, involved 5,000 mentors, invested in more than 200 companies, exited 12 of them and is now helping to scale about 140 companies. More than 80% of Seedcamp’s companies have managed to raise further financing, with total follow-on funding north of $350 million. Seedcamp also launched a $30m venture fund in 2014 and aims to support 100 startups in the next three years. Seedcamp has proved itself as an invaluable first step for many first time founders, including the likes of Grabcad and TransferWise.
Reshma is full of energy, ideas and desire to help European founders succeed globally and we certainly will see much more coming out of Seedcamp in the future.
(Full disclosure: Seedcamp partner Carlos Eduardo Espinal is an angel investor in Tech.eu)
Marie is one of the major VC investors in France and is currently in the process of launching her own early stage VC fund, which should be announced soon. Until the summer of 2014, Marie was a partner at Paris-based Elaia Partners. She came to the VC industry from investment bank JP Morgan, having first joined CPR Private Equity in 2000. In 2005 she joined Elaia Partners and subsequently became a partner in 2008.
While at Elaia Partners, Marie managed some successful investments over the years, such as Criteo, Teads and Scoop.it. Marie has been a valuable board member of Criteo and helped it become one of the major European tech success out of Paris. Criteo went public on the Nasdaq in October 2013 and its current market cap sits at $2.4 billion. Marie has also co-founded France Digitale, an association of startups and VCs lobbying for pro-startup legislation in France and beyond.
Marie has made a big impact on French tech ecosystem, yet we expect more to come with the anticipated launch of her new VC fund.
Eileen is a partner at Passion Capital, an early-stage tech venture capital firm based in London. Eileen started her career as a software engineer in Silicon Valley and worked in a number of leading tech companies, such as Apple, Yahoo and Sun Microsystems, until she decided to join Skype and moved to London in 2004.
In 2007 Eileen started to do angel investment and advise startups. In 2009, together with Stefan Glaenzer and Robert Dighero, she co-founded White Bear Yard, a coworking hub for tech startups and media companies out of London. Two years later, they started Passion Capital, one of the first entrepreneur-centric early stage venture firms in London.
At Passion, Eileen serves as board director for Duedil, Digital Shadows, Lulu, wireWAX, Mondo, Kovert Designs and other portfolio companies.
She has also become quite an influential figure with her recent appointments as one of nineteen members of the Prime Minister David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group and as a HM Treasury’s Special Envoy for FinTech, appointed by the Chancellor George Osborne. In addition, she is also Tech Ambassador for the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
Avid is a general partner at GV (formerly known as Google Ventures). Prior to GV, Avid co-founded Boticca, a global marketplace for independent brands of fashion accessories (acquired by Wolf & Badger in 2015).
Avid has been involved in the startup ecosystem as a developer, product manager, founder, investor, and advisor since 1998. Avid started investing at Accel Partners in London in 2006, where she focused on software and Internet investments. She also held product management roles at Tellme Networks, eBay, and Skype, and began programming in college.
While at eBay, Avid was granted a patent for her work on a suite of selling tools.
In addition to her role with GV, Avid is an advisor to Founders4Schools and the Breteau Foundation. She serves on the Harvard Business School European Advisory Board. She also leads Code.org and the Hour of Code in the UK.
Sitar is a managing partner at Connect Ventures, an early-stage tech VC firm in East London. Sitar has been a venture capitalist for eight years, focusing on early-stage investments in both consumer and B2B companies. Before joining Connect Ventures, she worked for Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures, where she led their Series A round in SoundCloud. Her current investments include Pact, Boiler Room, Snap.hr, Timecounts and Auxy.
Sitar is greatly appreciated by founders for her strong expertise in the Internet and mobile-based industries, her ability to define clear KPIs and her focus on product and design. Sitar is definitely one to watch on the European VC scene.
Tracy and Leila are co-founders and partners of a new seed-stage venture firm based in London. The firm is called Spring Partners and has Mark Evans of Balderton as a founder limited partner.
Tracy started her career in the European venture capital with MMC Ventures in London, which she left after 3 years to found and build her first startup, LLUSTRE, and quickly became a thought leader in design and creative commerce. 10 weeks after the launch of the e-commerce and content platform, LLUSTRE was acquired by Fab.com and Tracy joined its executive leadership team. Since 2014, Tracy has been doing angel investments and advising startups, such as Knyttan.
Leila started her career at Bain & Company in New York and left in 2007 to earn an MBA at Harvard Business School and then move to Silicon Valley, where she joined Plum District (a Kleiner Perkins and General Catalyst-backed daily deals company) as general manager.
After that she joined the founding team of GenapSys, a groundbreaking genomics startup based in Menlo Park, successfully raising $50 million in venture capital from top investors. Since 2011, Leila has also been an angel investor and has invested in numerous startups in the US and UK, including Matterport, Thread, Knyttan, Pamono, Lystable, Memrise, ASAP54, Enki, Say Media, Grovo, WorkLife, Bloom & Wild, Tech Will Save Us, ID.me, Virtusize and BloomThat,.
Tracy and Leila are currently building a seed investment firm to be the founder-friendly VC firm they wished it had invested in their startups.
Kerstin and Katja are co-founder/managing partner and partner at MOOR, respectively, an early-stage venture firm based in Stockholm, which is backed by Kai Hed, chairman and majority owner of gaming company Rovio.
Before co-founding MOOR in 2013, Kerstin worked for SEB. She started her career at Silicon Valley-based Echelon and in the early 2000’s, she co-founded global integrated communications agency Cognito. After that she spent eight years at Trema working on M&A transactions in the tech sector.
Before joining MOOR, Katja held a number of senior business development positions at Nokia and Ericsson. She also co-founded Pipebeach, a global mobile voice services business, which was acquired by HP.
Both Kerstin and Katja are passionate about new technologies and new ways to change the world for the better. At MOOR they invest in digital companies at the early-stage. MOOR’s current portfolio includes Kiosked, Volumental, acast, mitigram, Universal Avenue and Goo Technologies.
Claire is a partner at Paris-based early-stage venture capital firm Ventech. Claire is a pioneer of venture capital investments in France.
She started her career at Crédit Lyonnais in project financing activities in both France and the US. In 2000 she participated in the creation and development of the venture capital department of Crédit Lyonnais, which later became Crédit Agricole Private Equity. With Crédit Agricole Private Equity, Claire invested in companies such as Musiwave -which was one of the best French exits at the time with its sale to Openwave- and Meiosys, which was acquired by IBM. In 2005, Claire left the firm to co-found the “Infrastructures” fund for AXA Private Equity, handling infrastructure investments in the utilities sector. In 2008 she returned to the early-stage tech investing scene by joining Ventech as a partner.
Claire focuses on internet and mobile services and software. Her investments include the likes of Bonitasoft, Vestiaire Collective and Stickyads in France and Asgoodasnew in Germany. Claire is very appreciated by entrepreneurs for her strategic insights and dedication to help founders succeed.
Anne is chief executive and co-founder of Amadeus Capital Partners. Anne is a true pioneer of European venture capital and has been investing in European early-stage companies since 1989, when she joined Apax Partners. She came into the European early-stage investing scene from strategy consulting with Bain & Co in Boston. In 1993 she joined one of her portfolio companies, Virtuality Group, as COO, after it went public on the London Stock Exchange. In 1995 she returned to investing as a business angel before founding Amadeus in 1997.
With Amadeus, Anne has invested in companies like Optos and Tricorder. At the moment, Anne serves on the boards of Glysure and Nomad. She is a member of the UK Government’s Council for Science and Technology and the London Business School’s Private Equity Institute Advisory Board. Anne was Chairman of the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (EVCA) from 2014 to 2015, Chairman of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA) from 2004 to 2005, and a non-executive director of the UK Technology Strategy Board from 2005 to 2012.
Beatriz is the co-founder and managing partner of Seaya Ventures, a Spanish venture fund founded in Madrid in 2013. Beatriz started her career in the equity research department at Morgan Stanley in London and later at the Spanish internet consultancy company Qarana. She then moved into private equity by joining Darby Overseas Investments, a US-based private equity firm where she was part of the Latin America mid-market growth fund. After that, Beatriz joined Excel Partners, a Spanish mid market growth fund, and later founded Seaya.
Seaya Ventures invests in early-and-growth-stage Internet and technology-enabled companies in Spain and Mexico. Up to date, Seaya has done nine investments: Ticketea, Restaurantes.com, Plenummedia, Cabify, Comparaguru, Get Your Hero, Percentil, Miora and Pippa&Jean. Beatriz serves as board member in Cabify, Plenummedia, Percentil and Miora.
Inka is chairwoman and founder of Pivot5, a recently launched startup accelerator, seed investment and innovation strategy consultancy firm aimed at corporates looking to transform their business into the digital age. Inka is based in Helsinki.
Before co-founding Pivot5, Inka was chairwoman and founder of KoppiCatch, a seed investment firm and accelerator. At KoppiCatch, Inka invested in a number of companies, including Zokem (acquired by Arbitron), RapidBlueSolutions (acquired by ShopperTrak), HappyOrNot, Cabforce (acquired by CarTrawler), TabletKoulu, Klevu.com, Juhlapesu, SteamRepublic, DesignStory, Meetin.gs, Joberate, Varaa.com and IndoorAtlas, of which is is also a co-founder.
Inka started her career as an investment manager at Sonera Venturing and then moved on to a number of VP level positions at Nokia and Digia. Inka is also a board member of the StartupSauna foundation, Slush conference and the StartupLife student internship program in Helsinki.
Inka is passionate about building new businesses and we expect more to come from her in near future.
Alice is the co-founder and CEO of The Family, a new kind of accelerator that has been backed by Index Ventures and recently raised more than $6 million in venture capital.
Before co-founding The Family, she launched Le Camping in 2010, the first startup accelerator in France. During her time there, she worked with 36 startups and helped them raise 18 follow-on financing rounds.
With The Family, Alice and her team aim to align the interests of the main local actors by educating and mentoring startups, investors, corporate executives and officials. Alice is working very hard to foster changes in the French corporate culture, which traditionally promotes elitism over youth or diversity. According to her own words, she “loves impulsive people who design beautiful and emotional products because they couldn’t dream of doing anything else”.
Irena is a co-founder and partner at Highland Capital Europe, a VC firm formed in 2012 as a European spin-off of Highland Capital Partners.
Irena joined the venture capital industry in 2007 as a principal with Highland Capital Partners, where she helped the firm in its European expansion and was involved with the investments in Privalia, Spartoo.com and Wooga. Before that, she invested in early-stage technology startups in Boston while at Flybridge Capital Partners.
Irena is based in Geneva and focuses on investments in growth-stage internet and software businesses. She currently represents Highland Europe on the boards of eGym, Jampp and WeTransfer, and was also involved in the investments in adjust and Outfittery.
Ophelia has just become a general partner at LocalGlobe, a new early-stage London-based VC firm launched by Saul and Robert Klein. Before joining LocalGlobe, Ophelia was an associate at Index Ventures. Prior to that she worked in the securities division at Goldman Sachs’ office in London.
While at Index, Ophelia backed companies such as Credit Benchmark, OneFineStay, Blaze, Call9, Typeform and Marvel Prototyping. In her new position at LocalGlobe, we expect a lot of exciting investments to come from her and we will be watching her closely.
Ulla is managing partner of Danish early-stage venture fund SEED Capital, which she leads since 2003. Before joining the investment scene, Ulla was worked as a strategy consultant at McKinsey and then joined Nordisk Film as director of business development. At Nordisk Film, she was instrumental in the establishment of IO Interactive, a leading game development company in Denmark, which is responsible for the Hitman franchise. She subsequently founded HABURI.com, an online factory outlet.
Ulla’s investments include Asante Solutions, Mofibo, Amminex, Abeo, Expanite and she is also member of the board of the Danish Venture Capital Association.
Sophie is a partner at Iris Capital, a growth-stage tech VC firm based in Paris backed by Orange and Publicis Grouppe. Sophie is another veteran of the French VC industry, having joined Iris in 2002. Prior to joining Iris Capital, Sophie was a consultant for McKinsey & Company specialising in IT strategy. She started her career as a researcher in digital image processing within the research labs of the Universidad Politécnica in Madrid.
Sophie is currently focused on investments in the digital media industry. Sophie’s investments include Let It Wave (acquired by Zoran Cor), OpenTrust (acquired by Keynectis), Rue des Ecoles (acquired by Actissia/FranceLoisirs), N-Soft, Citilog, Bluestreak, YouScribe, AppGratis, InstantLuxe, Agorize and iAdvize.
Alice is the co-founder of Entrepreneur First, an early-stage accelerator fund based in London. While working at consulting firm McKinsey, Alice realised that there is so much technical and entrepreneurship potential in Europe and came up with the idea of Entrepreneur First.
Entrepreneur First is quite different from other VC funds and accelerators, as it invests in founders not necessarily in a company or idea. Entrepreneur First is on the look out for the most capable technical talent in Europe. The firm has been active for more that four years and it’s helped to create about 50 startups, which have then raised more than $60 million in follow-on funding from other VC firms, including Balderton, Index Ventures and Octopus Investment.
Samantha is a partner at Elaia Partners, a venture firm based in Paris. Samantha joined Elaia Partners in 2008 and became a partner in 2014.
She began her career as a consultant at Eurogroup, a consulting firm specialised in organisation and strategy. She then joined Clipperton Finance, a corporate finance firm dedicated to high-tech growth companies, before moving to Elaia Partners.
Samantha focuses on investments in fields such as SaaS, e-commerce, marketplaces, digital media and mobile. Her portfolio includes Mirakl, Seven Academy, Zenchef, Vodkaster, Agnitio, Cook Angels, Ykone, Selectionnist and Carnet de Mode.
Stephanie is the founder of OneRagtime, a next generation venture capital fund, crowd equity platform and startup studio. Stephanie is based in Paris.
Before founding OneRagtime, Stephanie held several top management positions at Orange for more than ten years with her most recent role being as a manager of Orange Digital Business Unit, the digital services arm of Orange. She also led Orange’s digital acquisitions and partnerships, such as the acquisition of Dailymotion or major partnerships with Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.
OneRagtime invests at the early-stage in Europe and Israel with the ambition to back visionary entrepreneurs striving to shape the future through technology and innovation. Stephanie favours consumer internet models, mobile-first, and companies leveraging the power of community and data.
Last but not least
The women we covered in this article are not in any case the only female early-stage venture capital investors in Europe. There are many more young talented women at principal, VP or associate positions in a number of European VC firms, such as:
- Marta Sjögren (Northzone)
- Sofia Hmich (formerly Index Ventures, now angel investing)
- Aurore Belfrage (EQT Ventures)
- Marie-Hortense Varin (Partech Ventures)
- Pia d’Iribarne and Luciana Lixandru (Accel Partners)
- Ekaterina Gianelli and Junting Zhao (Inventure)
- Naz Ozertugrul (Atomico)
- Audrey Soussan (Ventech)
- Videesha Kunkulagunta (Redstone Digital)
- Charity Miller (henQ)
- Sabina Wizandern (Creandum)
- Mercè Tell (Avet Ventures)
- Gina Domanig (Emerald Technology Ventures)
- Karen McCormick (Beringea)
- Natalie Tydeman (GMT Communications)
- Lucile Cornet (Eight Roads Ventures)
- Marie-Helene Ametsreiter (Speedinvest)
- (let us know in the comment section who else should be on this list)
There’s also an increasing number of female business angels and more and more successful female startup entrepreneurs, some of whom will eventually turn into VC investors.
Now, if you are an aspiring female VC, where should you head to?
To answer this, we took a look at the VC firms in UK, France, Benelux, the Nordics and Germany. Here are some interesting facts:
- Out of 42 London-based VC firms we looked at, half of them had women in their investment teams. Women founded 4 out of those 21 firms and 5 more firms had women at the partner level.
- Out of 16 Paris-based VC firms, 9 of them had women in their investment teams. Moreover, women co-founded 3 out of those 8 firms and 5 more had women at the partner level.
- Out of 15 Nordic-based VC firms, 11 of them had women in their investment teams and 4 out of those had women at the partner level.
- Out of 23 German VC firms, only 7 of them had women in their investment teams (none at the partner level).
- Out of 7 Benelux VC firms, 2 had women in their investment teams but not at the partner level.
In essence, London, Paris and the Nordics are the places where there are opportunities for female VCs to join as junior members of investment teams, reach partner level and thus become iconic European tech success stories and perhaps found their own VC firm.
We also know that a few VC firms in these markets are actively looking to hire female VC investors. With women controlling about 70% of the global consumer spending, perhaps VC firms in Germany and Benelux will soon realise that they are missing significant opportunities and need to catch up with competing firms in other European markets.
Featured image credit: Hanasch / Shutterstock