London/Dublin/San Francisco's Frontline Ventures has announced the appointment of its newest partner, Zoë Chambers, where she’s already been hard at work since earlier this month focusing on European deeptech investments and a solid plan to back more female founders.
Prior to joining Frontline, Zoë served as an early-stage investor and principal at crosstown firm Octopus Ventures where she lead their deeptech investment team. During her 4.5 year tenure with the Octopoda, she made approximately 14 investments with a leaning towards climate-focused startups (OLIO, Unmade) and, naturally, promising deeptech companies (Audiotelligence, Altitude Angel, SLAMcore). Of these choices, 50% of her investments were in female-led businesses and she remains committed to over-indexing on founders who have been traditionally overlooked.
At times, a deeptech pitch can sound like something from a science fiction novel, but lest we forget that over a decade ago, a certain European inventor proposed the idea that electricity could be transmitted over long distances via strategically positioned towers. Tesla was, of course, laughed at, and the idea all but scrapped, but that mobile telecommunications device in your pocket right now? You can thank Nikola for this deeptech notion.
Perhaps with this in mind, Zoë is bullish on the future of deeptech, citing the €10 billion (or so, but what’s a few hundred million between friends?) that’s been flowing into the European deeptech sector over the past year. And if she has anything to say about it, which she does, she wants to keep these taps open.
“The only real blockers to this continued momentum are really around (1) public funding, I hear all the time in the UK, in particular, how difficult and time-consuming getting a grant is); and (2) university spinouts - equity grabbing by institutions and convoluted IP licencing negotiations have led to more and more academics either being put off from starting a business or attempting to cut out the university altogether.”
With many deeptech entrepreneurs entering the field from an academic or research background, Zoë sees the only way to get more female involvement is through shining a light on existing role models including Darktrace CEO Poppy Gustafsson, Lifebit founder and CEO Dr. Maria Chatzou Dunford, and Salience Labs co-founder and CEO Vaysh Kewada, and of course, “Funding them!”
“They say your reputation precedes you and that was certainly the case with Zoë. Not only did we hear great things about her from multiple parties before meeting, we also had founders and colleagues who didn't know we were speaking with Zoë talk about how amazing she was unprompted,” commented Frontline Ventures partner Will Prendergast. “The respect she gained from those two groups confirmed to us that Zoë was a magnet for great founders and a fantastic colleague for the rest of the team.”