Start-up investor and early-stage advisor Deepali Nangia discusses her approach to investments and shares recruitment practices to increase female representation in the Venture Capital industry.
What was the inspiration behind setting up Cosmic & Co?
While I was still working in financial services in London, I often had female friends who approached me for help with their business plans. After I left the city, amongst other things, I ran an angel investor network through which I tried to get more female entrepreneurs in front of investors. The flow wasn't good and funding outcomes weren't that successful either. I realised that there was a need in the market to help women with advice and access to capital.
Now, I act as an advisor to women through their fundraises and also invest in female founders. This year, in addition to investing my personal funds, I will also be part of Atomico's 2020 Angel program - I will be investing the $100,000 they gave me this in female founders.
Apart from female leadership, are there certain criteria that you have for companies you choose to invest in?
My version of an MVP - mission, vision and passion. I am looking for large market opportunities and businesses that are solving a real problem. Management team experience and diversity is very important. I am also looking for founders who can collaborate, are open to feedback and bold enough to pivot without spending too much time or money, if needed.
How, in your opinion, would a better representation of women benefit the Venture Capital industry as a whole What are some of the steps that can be taken to increase it?
If there are more women decision-makers, hopefully, more women will get funded. However, cases of unconscious bias have even been reported even with senior women in VC (perhaps the training from senior male colleagues over the years or the need to be like male colleagues to ensure the survival of the fittest). I would think, however, that pitching to someone who can perhaps understand the idea you are pitching, the need in the market or where you come from will increase the chance of getting funded.
The venture capital industry needs to look at their recruitment and working practices and:
recruit from other than the standard top colleges to add more diversity to the population;
use blind CV's to ensure unconscious bias is minimised;
enable flexible working so that more women move up the funnel from junior to senior roles.
What advice would you give to young people looking to start their career in Venture Capital?
I am not in venture capital currently - rather angel investing, the precursor in many cases to VC. However, I was a young person in VC once upon a time. It is a very exciting industry to be in since everyone wants to talk to someone who has the capital. One can learn a lot while having immense exposure to new technologies and meet many different and inspiring entrepreneurs.
What in your opinion is a social intervention or innovation imperative right now?
The plastic problem - too much plastic in the bathroom and home. I have recently invested in Polipop: a flushable sanitary pad (still in product development) and am very excited about it.
How does being a Global Indian inform your personal and professional life?
Being Indian to me is being tolerant of all cultures and nationalities in the world. It is the ethos I grew up, with my father being an immigrant refugee into India from Pakistan. He had friends from all walks of life, rich and poor, Indian and others. Therefore, while I love meeting Indian entrepreneurs, I would like to see all entrepreneurs being successful and be able to help all of them equally. On the personal front, I am married to an Indian American and my children were born abroad; however, we celebrate Christmas as much as we celebrate Diwali. I would like my children to grow up to be global citizens, have friends from all walks of life and be open to everything life has in store for them. Having said that, I am extremely proud of my heritage and my friends will tell you that even after 28 years of living abroad, I still believe I am an intellectual elite from Calcutta. I would say - you might have taken me out of India but you can't take the Indian out of me.