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Venture Fund Manager Has $100 Million for Startups Run by Women

Charles Daly

(Bloomberg) -- Ingrid Teigland Akay was once told she was “brave” to speak out at investor gatherings dominated by men.

Now, she wants her venture capital firm to target women who might not be as bold as their male peers when it comes to fighting for investor cash.

The managing partner of Hadean Ventures AS is looking for startups that develop treatments for unmet medical needs. Her firm has more than doubled in size since its first close in late 2017, and now has almost $100 million in capital. Its debut less then three years ago was the biggest of its kind in Europe.

Akay says Hadean is one of the few firms in her industry where women aren’t completely outnumbered.

“We do stand out, with a 50-50 ratio of men and women,” she said in a video interview from her office in Oslo. That’s “very unusual for a VC firm.”

Her goal is to prevent echo chambers in which people only hear their own views parroted back at them. For staff “who look the same and think the same,” Akay says “it’s harder to identify risks and opportunities.”

Gender equality statistics for the private equity industry show there’s been some improvement in recent years. But Akay points out that investment teams still only have somewhere between 5% and 15% women in senior roles, with roughly 25% to 30% of junior roles held by women.

The Pitch

A lot of the women Hadean ends up investing in didn’t aggressively pitch their ideas, Akay says.

“Men have a lower threshold to knock on doors” and ask for venture capital funding, she said. “Women are more reluctant.” That said, “we probably have more investment cases than we will have space for in our first fund,” she said. “It’s a good position.”

Hadean’s recent investments include a stake in biotech company Abliva AB, which it bought when “we saw the valuation gap got really obvious as markets collapsed.”

The firm expects to do two more Nordic investments going into the summer: one pharmaceutical company and one med-tech. It’s also set aside 5 million euros to help companies hit by Covid-19, after the fallout from the virus meant a lot of clinical projects that relied on hospitals were shelved to make room for treating the pandemic.

“All of our portfolio companies are reliant on hospitals, as they’re running clinical trials or pilot projects with the hospitals,” Akay said. It was “all shut down for a period in the spring,” but she says she’s surprised “how quickly public markets bounced back, and we’re seeing hospitals are opening for business again.”

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