Representation as an Investment Cornerstone

TC Høiseth spoke to Adrian Murdoch about why diversity and inclusion is important for founding teams. Visit Campden FB to read the full interview.

Rike Döpp Bergérus

VP, Global Head of Communications
July 8, 2024
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Adrian Murdoch: "How important is diversity to Antler in founding teams?"

TC Høiseth: "Diversity is a cornerstone of our investment strategy.  to Our goal is to make progress inevitable by empowering ambitious and resilient founders to tackle the world’s most meaningful challenges. We recognize that extraordinary founders come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, which forms the backbone of our investment approach. 

"This approach fosters strong, resilient teams that are better equipped to navigate the complexities of a diverse market. After all, our portfolio companies all have global ambitions, and the ability to identify and target a wide range of customer groups is essential for success. That’s why we actively influence our founders to consider diversity from the very beginning as they build their companies. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in promoting diversity and inclusion within our investments, and we believe it will continue to be a key factor in identifying future breakout successes, our goal is to uncover the best founders around the world and this means casting our net as wide as possible to find and support them reach their full potential. 

"The VC industry recognizes the need for greater representation but still struggles with a persistent lack of diversity in investment teams. This limits access to venture capital for diverse entrepreneurs and stifles innovative ideas. Antler boasts a team of 43 nationalities, 41% women, and diverse backgrounds. We continually seek innovative ways to enhance our talent density, ultimately better supporting our founders."

Adrian Murdoch: "What are the biggest challenges you see for diverse founders in today’s investment landscape?"

TC Høiseth: "Let’s talk specifically about women founders. A big challenge is underrepresentation. 

"Underrepresented founders also face challenges in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, where access to relevant networks and connections can be limited. This is something we’ve been actively addressing from the very beginning on our global platform. We’re involved with and collaborate with a variety of networks specifically focused on these issues. Additionally, unconscious biases and stereotypes can undeniably affect how investors perceive diverse founders. Finally, there is sectoral bias. In certain industries, like heavy industry, for example, woman founders are less common."

Adrian Murdoch: "How do you define diversity within your investment strategy?"

TC Høiseth: ​​"At Antler, sustainability is at the core of our approach, and we believe that DEI is crucial to fostering a strong workplace culture. Within our own operations, we reflect this view by ensuring DEI is not just a checkbox or a focus solely on metrics but a strategic advantage. By valuing and integrating diverse perspectives, companies can harness the full potential of their teams, leading to stronger brands, lower turnover, and enhanced financial outcomes and innovation. In fast-paced sectors like AI, eCommerce, gaming, and cybersecurity, diversity of thought is a competitive edge, helping to avoid product biases and better cater to a diverse customer base. A founder’s ability to build a quality team and create a positive workplace culture is essential for attracting top talent in the future. Embracing DEI in the early days of a company sets the foundation for long-term success. 

"We are acutely aware that climate change disproportionately affects women, making diverse representation in climate-related tech solutions essential. To integrate women into the climate fight, we must increase their presence in climate startups. Encouragingly, we have seen progress within the Antler portfolio, with twenty-eight percent of our climate-related tech companies having women founders. However, these founders require support and assistance to thrive.

"The way we operate inherently supports diversity because our process and our actor model itself are designed to be unbiased. We actively strive to ensure everyone has a fair shot within our model. The results speak for themselves: if you look back 10 years, there were 37 ecosystems that produced unicorn companies. Just a couple of years ago, that number had exploded to nearly 200. 

"We believe that success shouldn’t be limited to those with the privilege of being in Silicon Valley. Our approach allows companies to be built, grow, and scale from anywhere in the world. 

"Our investment documents do include an ESG policy guideline that startups need to sign. This outlines sustainability principles for our portfolio companies, including how they promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within their own organizations. 

"Building these elements into a company’s DNA from the very beginning is crucial for us. Ultimately, we view ESG and impact investing not as separate initiatives, but as a natural and integrated part of our everyday business.

Adrian Murdoch: "Are there certain sectors, that you think over the next 20 years will be coming up?"

TC Høiseth: "The buzzword on everyone’s lips is AI-enabled companies, and for good reason. AI is poised to revolutionize everything from how we feed ourselves and get around to how we manage our health. These new platform technologies will undoubtedly reshape our world. 

"In the Nordics, however, we’re placing a particular focus on companies that tackle challenges like the energy transition and leverage our region’s historic strength in areas such as electric vehicles. 

"A great example is one of our Nordic portfolio companies that repurposes electric vehicle batteries. Imagine being able to extend the life of your car battery by using it for commercial real estate energy storage after its capacity diminishes for long-distance travel. Another example is a company called Spoor, which uses AI to detect, classify, and trace the presence of birds around wind farms. This data helps predict potential risks to birds from wind farms before construction begins. We also have a company in Germany that uses satellite technology to measure methane and C02 emissions and pinpoint their exact source. 

"These are just a few examples of the many GreenTech companies we support across Europe. In Southeast Asia, we’ve seen success with consumer tech companies, while Brazil has a strong showing in FinTech.

"The reason I mention such a variety of industries is to highlight our industry-agnostic approach. We believe founders can build impactful companies in any sector. This is another advantage of our approach to investing. By the time companies raised seed funding, they may have pivoted and changed direction – sometimes even multiple times. This agility is crucial in the early stages.

"Ultimately, it all comes back to the people. We seek diverse founders with the specific skill sets and character traits we value."

Visit Campden FB to read the full interview.

Rike Döpp Bergérus

VP, Global Head of Communications

Rike founded and scaled a Communications agency, leading brand launches, public relations, and crisis management. She secured the so-called "New Nordic" designers as clients and organized over 60 shows annually in Paris, New York, and Berlin. Expanding the agency to five offices across Europe and the US, the company represented clients such as H&M, Zalando, Scotch & Soda, 24Sèvres, and Mercedes-Benz. Rike sold the agency in 2019.

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