For Women's History Month, we wanted to highlight a few women in our community; Maria Bergsten is a partner in the investment firm VEQ, which invested in GLOBHE in 2021. VEQ invests in early-stage companies with innovative, digital, and scalable businesses, where technology is at the core of the product or how the company sells and delivers the product.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up where you are today?
I’m a Partner at early-stage investment company VEQ, based in Stockholm, and I spend my days looking for diverse teams and ideas with a positive impact to invest in. I’m a curious person who loves to meet new people and learn new things, so I think I have the best job in the world. When I’m not at work, I spend most of my time cooking - or looking for new and interesting restaurants to try out.
How I ended up where I am today is actually a very good question… I had no idea what I wanted to do when I studied, but I knew that I wanted to work with inspiring and good people, which has guided me throughout my career. I accidentally ended up in the venture capital industry, and I have loved every minute since! It’s great to work closely with amazing entrepreneurs.
Only 1% of the venture capital in Sweden goes to women-founded businesses - while the billions roll to men. Why does it still look like that today?
I wish I knew the answer to this question and had an easy way to change the statistics right away…But I think that one of the reasons is that, historically, most of the investors have been men, and we’re more likely to invest in people similar to ourselves. This is improving, and we’re seeing more female investors now - but we still have a long way to go here.
How do you think investment behavior differs between men and women?
I don’t think it differs that much actually. If I think about my own network, I definitely know both men and women that are risk-takers and I know both men and women that are more risk avert. It seems to me that personality is more important than gender.
According to a Handelshögskolan research study from 2020, men and women get very different types of questions in pitch meetings. That one subconsciously "urges men to win - women not to lose." Why do you think culture still exists?
Maybe this has to do with the phenomenon that women still are a minority in the venture capital sphere, and that’s why they get treated differently than the “norm”. No matter why this happens, it’s very unfair and I hope that all investors try to evaluate themselves and how they act during pitches.
How do you work strategically to break this pattern?
It’s in our core investment strategy to invest in diverse teams since we believe that teams with different perspectives outperform homogenous teams. We proactively look for diversity in founding teams already at the sourcing stage and it’s an important factor to evaluate in our due diligence process as well.
Last but not least, what is the most fun part of your job?
That I get to meet so many inspiring founders and learn from each and everyone one of them!