With so much innovation budding in the Netherlands, only a portion of its talented entrepreneurs are getting the funding they need to take their ideas to the next level.
Of course, the VC world is still dominated by men. According to our research, only 6% of partners at Dutch VC firms are women.
At #FundRight, we believe that the underrepresentation of women in venture capital is a factor that leads to low investment in female-led startups. Having more female VCs would bring fresh perspectives to the industry and help identify overlooked potential.
However, the lack of female representation within these roles can often make them seem less accessible and thereby discourage women from applying. As Jacqueline van den Ende, Partner at VC firm Peak Capital pointed out, in the everyday language we use there’s a tendency to subconsciously classify certain roles, like pilots, doctors, and VCs as men.
But having more female role models in these positions can help to change this perception.
We spoke with Van den Ende to get a better picture of what it’s like to be a female VC in the Netherlands and her tips for aspiring VCs.
A female startup founder turned Venture Capitalist
Van den Ende’s experience is extremely unique, having been both the founder of several startups and a VC in firms focused on private equity and early-stage startup funding.
She started her first nonprofit as a student aimed at helping small businesses grow and later went on to build and scale several companies in the Philippines. Just over a year ago, she returned to the Netherlands to become a partner at Peak Capital, an entrepreneurial VC that includes OneFit, Catawiki, and Floryn amongst its portfolio of startups.
How to know if becoming a VC is the right job for you
With the unique experience of having been both an entrepreneur and an investor, she shared that the VC world may sound exciting and even glamorous, but it’s not for everyone. According to van den Ende, the VC life is for you if these three things excite you:
- Learning about different types of industries and businesses
The interesting thing about being a VC is that you get to work with a lot of different startups. Within your firm’s portfolio, you may have a wide range of businesses from FinTechs to HealthTechs. This means you have to become a jack of all trades, constantly building your knowledge of different industries.
While the variety can keep you on your toes, it also means that you’ll have a more hands-off approach. “Even when you invest, being a member of the board means you’re an advisor but, ultimately, you won’t be the final decision-maker,” van den Ende explained.
If the idea of helping others build and scale their vision energizes you, becoming a VC could be the right career move.
- Discovering the next big thing
Most VCs love the kick of discovering untapped potential. Rather than jumping on the bandwagon, the thrill really lies in seeing what no one else does and taking a chance on a new business model or disruptive technology before it explodes.
According to van den Ende, a successful investor should always be thinking:
- Where is the world heading?
- What are the key trends?
- Where is technology heading?
- What makes a winner in this kind of business?
The best VCs are therefore those who can spot long-term potential early on.
- Thinking strategically, rather than operationally
As a startup founder, you need to have a hand on all parts of the business, from introducing effective HR policies to supply-chain management.
As a VC, rather than digging down to the nitty-gritty details, you’ll be looking at the big picture. If you hate dealing with day to day operational hassle but love learning about new ways to scale, this may be for you.
Three tips for becoming a successful VC
Does this sound like an exciting career move for you? If you’re thinking about a career as a VC, Van den Ende shared her three key tips for success… and they may surprise you.
- Make a personal connection
In the past, “a lot of VC firms have traditionally taken an ivory tower approach, with startups looking up to them to ask for investment,” van den Ende said. Instead, she believes it's much more effective to break down these barriers and have real conversations. Especially with early-stage startups that have little historical data to show, talking about metrics can only go so far. Along with the numbers, you also really need to believe in the investor, the team, and their vision. This goes hand in hand with the next tip.
- Ask the right questions
As an investor, a fundamental skill is being able to understand businesses. You need to consider: Why is a business successful? How does an entrepreneur work? How does the business model work? What are the key drivers for success? What are the dynamics in this industry?
“It’s really important to be real and make that personal connection, but also fearless in asking questions,” van den Ende said.
- Personal experience can take you a long way
Van den Ende’s experience as an entrepreneur was invaluable when entering the VC world. “Knowing what it’s like to make the right and wrong hires, cold-call customers, and hustle to get your product out there really helps.”
So if you’re a former female founder with a number of companies already under your belt and looking for the next challenge, becoming a VC may be an interesting way to both apply the knowledge you’ve accumulated and pave the way for other talented entrepreneurs.
Greater diversity will bring greater strength and innovation to the Dutch startup ecosystem, but we need your help to make this a reality.
If you’re a Dutch VC firm that’s committed to building a more equal and inclusive future, join the #FundRight movement today.