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There has been a push for gender equality in the workplace, across many industries at large. However, the reality remains that founding, growing and exiting a business is exponentially more difficult for women than it is for men.
If you don’t believe it, look at the data. According to the British Business Bank, for every £1 of VC investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1p.
We’ve funded over 200 female-founded businesses, but 200 isn’t enough. So, we want to take the opportunity to shine a light on the many women – whether they’ve raised with us or not – who have successfully built companies, raised investment and shattered the glass ceiling to bring innovations to market.
Meet Gabriela Herculano, founder of Clima Investments, the impact investment platform. Not only is it one of the few fintech platforms founded by a female entrepreneur, it’s on a mission to empower people to put their money toward a better future.
What is Clima’s vision?
We want to redefine climate change investments. We think that the right climate change investment product can make a meaningful contribution towards channeling much needed capital into relevant solutions. But for that to happen, we need to frame the problem in a different way.
The current popular investment products, in particular ETFs, focus a lot on the companies doing “less harm” (reducing their emissions) and on the companies with high ESG scores (built with no consensus). At Clima, we frame the problem in a different way. We ask “what are the companies with products and services that can enable CO2 avoidance?” We focus directly on the suppliers of the solutions.
What inspired you to build the business?
A huge desire to make an impact, coupled with a belief that capital markets can and should be a force for good. We need to do better. We believe that the best way to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere is by not emitting CO2 in the first place. We think it is time for us to focus on CO2 avoidance. Moreover, it is time that we start to quantify impact. At Clima, we focus on quantifying CO2 avoidance, a tangible figure.
Did you experience any challenges or barriers in building the business as a female founder?
I have not, and I suspect I am one of the lucky few. I am lucky to live in London and to benefit from decades of work from women that were trailblazers and that raised their voices. I used to work in investment banking, an industry dominated by men. I went to business school 20 years ago, when women represented way less than half of a class. I worked in energy, where male engineers usually hold the top positions. But I have always been heard and respected. I am not saying that it is easier for women. It is harder, but we came a long way and women now are not as discounted as entrepreneurs.
Did you experience any challenges in raising investment as a female founder?
Raising funds is hard, no doubt, for men or women. I do think that men have it easier. I took time off when I had my three kids, and I now would have an even bigger rolodex had I not taken that time to have a family. I feel fortunate that my ideas have been heard and at no point – so far – I have felt like I would have gotten a better response from a potential investor if I were a man. I think this is indicative of a shift in the market toward supporting gender equality and I’m looking forward to seeing more women bringing their innovations forward.
Do you believe that the venture capital ecosystem is as open to female founders as it should be?
I think it depends on the industry. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. It is a 24/7 job. You are constantly thinking about what needs to be done, pitching, hiring, doing product development. I think women are questioned more on their commitment to making a startup become a huge success, because it takes commitment to start a new venture. There is no work/life balance.
What does the gender gap look like in your industry, and has this had an impact on your ability to start and scale the business?
In the finance space I think the larger players have done a lot in terms or retaining and promoting female talent. I saw that as a young analyst at Lehman Brothers. I benefited from it at GE Capital. That mentality permeates across the Private Equity and venture capital spaces, and while there’s much work to be done still, it’s getting better with every passing year.
What advice would you give to aspiring female founders?
Roll up your sleeves and be aggressive. Put your ideas out there, and do not take no for an answer. Perseverance is a crucial ingredient. Passion is contagious. I do think that women that start a business do it in huge part because of a fervent belief in what they are doing. Start a business for the right reasons, and leverage heart and mind. It won’t be easy – it never is – but it will be worth it!
What change would you like to see in your industry, and also the venture capital space, in the future?
I do think it is important to have more capital flow to support more women-led ventures, such as grants and funds. It is important because by promoting women, and minorities in general, we will achieve greater balance and broader representation in the venture capital space. That means better opportunities for all. Leveling the playing field is important. I would like to see more of that! Also I would like to see more women at the Board Level!
Clima Investments will be raising on Seedrs soon.