Women in Tech & Diversity – Empowering Innovators with Janneke Niessen


– Welcome to Empowering Innovators, the series where we talk about
innovation, the startup way. Today I have with me Janneke Niessen, entrepreneur, author, and
also Ambassador at UNICEF. Welcome, Janneke. – Hi, thank you for having me. (upbeat techno music) – Let’s go to Female Founders. You’re a female founder
yourself, together with Joelle. Entrepreneurship for females
is becoming more popular I think than it was when you
started your first company and also when I started my first company. How do you see that evolving? – I think um, it’s still slow. My my new business
partner is a woman as well and somebody asked me is that intentional? But I just look at who’s a nice person. We recently Eva de Mol and
I recently did research on investment in Female Founders. And we found that in the
Netherlands only 1.6% of VC money goes to Female Founders, then a few percent to mixed diversities. – And everything else to white men. So people of color have even
more difficulties raising money and I think that’s a big problem. Because VCs have a huge impact on what the future looks like. Six out of the 10 most
valuable companies of today started by VC money. So our future is really
driven by the decisions that VCs make, and I
think to make sure that the future is inclusive, we
need to make sure we invest in diverse entrepreneurs. And today, we miss out I
think, on a lot of talent. One of the big reasons
is the lack of diversity on the VC side and um, so there’s change necessary there. – Is there change already happening? Because especially on
the VC side, it’s 99% men, I mean.
– 87% of the funds in the Netherlands don’t
have any female partners. So the change is slow, but more
and more awareness is there, and it starts with that. So that’s a good thing and bias
and network play a big role. And bias is a human thing, men and women both have it. But it’s important to be aware of it. So men and women are judged differently. So a young woman is inexperienced, a young man has potential. A woman with a really nice car, what is she going to do with her money? A man with a nice car, well done. So also the type of questions
they get a really different, there’s a very interesting
TED Talk about this. But women get questions
about today and the past, men about the future. So if you don’t turn these questions round but answer them as a woman, you’d come across very
careful and cautious, and as a man, you get the opportunity to talk about your potential. So these things are just
important to be aware of, and change will be there, but it’s slow, and I think we can accelerate. – I see that you’re very
passionate about this domain. Will your next adventure
be in this domain? – It will be, in VC, but not specifically Female Founders. – But you will make sure that
there are female founders on your team next to yourself,
which you already explained but probably also– – We will be investing in the best teams. – Let’s move to angel investing
because even in your days at the company, you were
already looking at startups and scale ups. – [Janneke] Yeah. – Why did you decide to give back not only from a financial perspective, but also from everything
that you’ve learned? – Well, I think it’s
really important to do that when you’re successful. When you’re successful,
that’s because all the things you do yourself, but also
because of the ecosystem that other people created before you, and I think you’re obliged to
give back to that ecosystem and make it better where you can. So that’s why I try to mentor startups and invest in them, because I do know from my own experience, how important it is in that
early stage to get help and to have people believe in you. – And if you talk about
mentoring, what does that mean? Do you have a conversation? The startups they ask
you specific questions, or do you actually give
them specific advice on how you would deal with
a certain situation or? – Yeah, it depends, I get a
million requests for coffee on LinkedIn, but I always, there’s a few that I, that stand out.
– Why? – A request stands out for me when they clearly looked
at what I’ve done, and come up with a specific
question related to that. So if they – well, some don’t even manage to spell my name correctly, or have such a random question that I don’t think that I’m the best– – That’s too easy, right then, yeah. – But some people really
ask the right questions, or they approached me at an event and then well, you’ll
have a certain connection, and you start talking to them, and
sometimes on a regular basis, sometimes a phone call every now and then, it really, it really differs. Also when the entrepreneur needs because I think especially
as an angel investor, your role is to be there, but to be there when the
entrepreneur needs you, and not to be too much involved. – And how does the entrepreneur knows that you can actually add value, because that’s at least my perspective that I see with many of the startups that we’re also involved in, I sometimes have the tendency to say, hey, at least ask us the question, and don’t only bring us the good news, you know, we’ve seen all the problems, you cannot surprise us
with any of the problems. So the sooner you ask the
questions, and reach out, the better we can help. And my experience is that it’s, that many entrepreneurs maybe
like ourselves when we started are very stubborn and say, I
have to find it out myself. And then when things go really wrong, and maybe I’ll call Janneke,
but that’s a bit late. – Yeah, but I think
there’re certain things you do need to find out yourself. I think entrepreneurs in general think, oh, my situation is different, and you can tell them everything, but they won’t accept it
until they’ve experienced it. And um, mistakes can be really expensive, and I think if only one
mistake is not made, you already save them a ton of money. So, yeah, I think that’s
just the way it goes. And I think if they listen too much early, how, how independent are they? I think, I think it’s a good thing. – Yeah, I think you know,
getting different perspectives. – Yeah.
– Always helps. And then you have to make up your own mind how to deal with those perspectives, and what’s the best way forward for you. So I think that’s the power of mentoring, is not telling them what to do, but at least say, hey, my
perspective in that situation was this but maybe you
should also talk to Janneke or to Peter or to. – Know, and I do think that
really good entrepreneurs are open to these views, but
I also think at the same time, that they will always at a certain, at a certain point be very stubborn. – [Patrick] Yeah, which is good. – Yeah, I was exactly that. – Hey, if you look at angel investing, and maybe you start off
with mentoring them first and at a certain moment, you
see that there is a need maybe for them to raise capital. What’s the moment for you to say, hey, I would actually be
interested in helping you with, in the next round or being
a part of your company as an angel investor? Where does that click the
right or the wrong way? – Well, where the click definitely is not, is people sending me a
deck on their LinkedIn and saying, please let me know
how much you want to invest without me knowing them at all. That’s not how this works. But other than that,
it’s really different. Sometimes I mentor them
for a while and then think, hey, this is really cool,
this is a really good team, and I invest, but I’ve
also had entrepreneurs approaching me, and you immediately think, wow, there’s something here and you invest without
the whole mentoring. Not all entrepreneurs,
need you as a mentor. – Right, and when you feel
wow, there’s something here. Do you then look at the
potential business case or do you look more at the person that is sitting in front of you? – The team, it should be
an interesting business, it should have the potential to grow and there should be a tech
component in there, but um, good ideas are not very unique very often, but extremely good teams
that can execute are. So that’s for me the most important thing. – I mean, you also wrote a book, because I think you wanted to inspire not only the entrepreneurs and
female entrepreneurs of today but also the potential ones of tomorrow. – [Janneke] Yes. – Can you share shorty– – So I published it, and
I came up with the idea but somebody that’s
actually really good writer. She, she wrote it, Niki Smit. – Know, I think role models
are really important, and at an age where young girls make really important decisions with regards to their education, they think that technology
is boring and difficult and that they are not capable of it. And, but it’s because
they have the wrong idea about what technology is. So ask them do you wanna work in tech? Hmm. Do you wanna work at Instagram? Yes. It’s the same thing. So they need to see all the
things you can do in tech and that it is creative, and you have loads of opportunities. And I wanted to show
that through the book, The New Girl code. Project Prep, it’s
called in the Netherlands but internationally, The New Girl Code. And a young girl is learning
to code, building an app, she creates a company with her friends, and she goes through
everything you go through as an entrepreneur in tech, the good stuff and the bad stuff. – Yeah, well, that’s great,
I mean, my daughter read it, and she was very inspired by it, because there’s a topic
that’s dear to her heart and she has a family that
is very entrepreneurial, so she could bring things together. I think you did a great job there, together with the author
of bringing that message to the market. And it’s now also gonna be
published in English then and released in the US or is it already? – Yeah and for each country, and in South Africa it
was recently published. And in each country, we localize it, so we make sure that
the girls living there recognize themselves in
their main character. – That’s great. So Janneke we just talked about
role models and inspiration this is Bibian Mentel she
wrote a book, it’s called Live about dealing with challenges and also overcoming them in life and making an impact
on other people’s lives like you’re doing. I would just wanna give
you this as a appreciation of being here today and
I hope that you will take some inspiration from this as well. – Yes, thank you, very
impressive woman, so thank you. – Thank you. (upbeat techno music)

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