PEWIN member Ingrid Teigland Akay is Founder & Managing Partner of Hadean Ventures, a life sciences VC firm focused on the Nordic region with offices in Oslo and Stockholm.
Starting the firm.
My first experience in PE was during my second year MBA project with the Warburg Pincus healthcare team in London. After my MBA, I spent four years at a global life science VC fund in London called Inventages.
Starting a PE firm was purely opportunity driven. It was clear that certain regions of Europe harbored untapped potential for healthcare VC. This was based on decades of high spending on basic research, and burgeoning start-up scenes. And yet there were almost no specialized VC funds around – creating an investment opportunity unparalleled anywhere in the world. This was an opportunity set that really inspired me to take the plunge. I was able to both recruit some of the smartest people I know to join me in this mission while enlisting the support of blue chip investors.
Key challenges starting the firm.
Entrepreneurship is all-consuming. It’s difficult to realize how all-consuming it is. I have always had high capacity for work – as a student I juggled medical studies, studies in world history and competitive horse riding in parallel – relatively effortlessly. Now there is a shortage of hours in the day. Nevertheless – seeing it all come together is definitely worth it. I am increasingly learning to prioritize hard and only put in the time where there is a clear path to results.
Another equally important factor is to surround yourself with the right people. Quality people for me are those who are intelligent, have integrity and possess the right attitude. Obviously, no one is perfect, so the key is to leverage each person’s strengths. Good people are incredibly valuable, so I try to spot them whenever and wherever I can.
Fixing the gender gap in private equity.
Attitudes need to improve and attitudes take time to change, so I am not sure we will see a big improvement in the near-term. I am very hopeful, though, that the gap will shrink in the mid-term.
What I do think we need is for everyone to take responsibility and do what they can. We need transparency and we need to put people on the spot to make people translate words into action.
To put myself on the spot – what I am doing to change this? In our firm we have a stated policy to proactively provide a gender balanced list of candidates for any position we are recruiting for. This takes effort, because female candidates are making themselves less visible, men are much better at stepping forward. Nevertheless, we have learned that you do find more superb female candidates than you would expect when you look for them.
Furthermore, we have created an internship program to recruit at least one female intern per year. This gives more females exposure to the investment profession, as well as it gives us a good list of female candidates for the future.
Another aspect is the absolutely horrid statistics in terms of females getting funded by venture capital. Again – we proactively search for female founders. The reason for this is that we realize that many females, compared to men, are far less likely to seek VC funding although they have a company that merits VC backing. We need to go out and look for them to be able to access these high potential investment cases.
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