Women in VC Part III: Q&A with Itxaso del Palacio, partner at Notion vc

Women in finance

Tuesday 13 October was Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Lovelace, the daughter of poet Lord Byron and his wife Lady Byron, is recognised as one of the pioneers of computer programming through her long working relationship and friendship with Charles Babbage, 'the father of computers'. In honour of women's achievements in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), PEWire is publishing a mini-series of three Q&A interviews with women working in venture capital.

Third up is Itxaso del Palacio, Partner at London-based Notion vc, which invests in enterprise technology and B2B SaaS companies at Series A stage across Europe.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and the journey that has brought you to where you are today?

Since I was a child, I always had a strong interest in everything around science. This interest was probably nurtured by my dad who is also an engineer. I have always been fascinated by his ability to design and build stuff at home. 

During my professional career, I have done a bit of everything: I worked at DaimlerChrysler as an engineer, I tried to build my own startup called Founders Fit, I have taught technology Entrepreneurship at Imperial College and UCL, and I am now a partner at Notion. My job as a venture capitalist requires me to understand technology, to have a good financial acumen and to read and engage with people (psychology). My engineering background as well as my diverse professional experience have all contributed to developing these skills that are needed to invest in the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.

How does Ada Lovelace inspire you? Which other women have inspired you throughout your career or inspire you today?

Ada Lovelace is a good example of a smart and determined woman who decided to follow her passion for technology and ended up making a great contribution to math and science. As the first computer programmer, Ada contributed to the early development of the computer languages that are today the basis of all the applications we use on a day-to-day basis. 

Over the years, there have been many women who have successfully built their careers in science and technology. I am proud to say that specifically within the venture capital space, there are some women who have led some of the most successful tech investments in Europe. For the upcoming generation of investors, Reshma Sohoni (Seedcamp; investor in Transferwise, UiPad), Beatriz Gonzalez (Seaya Ventures; investor in Cabify, Glovo, Spotahome) and Sonali de Ricker (Accel; investor in Spotify, Monzo, Hopin) are good examples of successful female investors. 

What barriers do women in STEM face in your industry?

Overall I feel very optimistic about the opportunities for women to succeed within venture capital. As investors, we evaluate many businesses on a day-to-day basis. The most enriching discussions around an opportunity are led by diverse teams who evaluate businesses from different points of view. Most venture firms in Europe are already bringing female talent to their teams and the number of female investors in senior roles is also increasing. As there are not many VC firms and the rotation of people within the firms is limited, the increase of women in senior roles is still limited, but it is happening and there is incredibly good female talent coming from the junior roles, so I am confident that we will get to parity in a couple of years. 

What advice do you have for other women working in STEM - especially entrepreneurs/founders and investors?

I would advise women to aim to work with the best people in their field of interest so they can learn from them and grow faster. Getting mentors is very important but sometimes it is not an easy task as we all are very busy people. So if you want to learn from the leading minds in a certain industry, you might consider working for them. Seek out organisations that publicly embrace diversity as they might be the ones who might be first movers to opening more doors.