Cilian Jansen Verplanke Partner, Karmijn Kapitaal

Please describe your current role

As co-founding partner of Karmijn Kapitaal in the Netherlands, which was incorporated in 2010, I share responsibility for running all aspects of this GP firm.  Karmijn invests only in Dutch SME companies which are led by gender diverse management teams.  My role involves all aspects of private equity: acquiring, investing, creating value and exiting the portfolio investments.  Within Karmijn I am also responsible for the investor relations of the two funds which we have raised and which currently are invested in over 15 companies. 

What attracted you to a career in private equity and how did you get started?

 I used to work in equity capital markets in ABN AMRO Rothschild in the ’90’s and was involved in the flotation of Alpinvest.   I got to know all about private equity and found it very interesting.  What really inspired me though was being in constant contact with entrepreneurs and helping them to grow and develop their business plans. So I started working for the PE arm of ABN AMRO in 1997 and (nearly) never left the business as I became so captivated by all the different aspects of PE. Each day is different!  

What were your motivations behind starting a new private equity firm? 

Starting Karmijn Kapitaal has enabled me to combine my wish of being an entrepreneur myself with investing in companies in our own distinct way which focuses on paying attention to the softer sides of PE and enforcing diversity as a business model. 

What were the key challenges in starting a new firm? 

We started in 2010 in the midst of the crisis and it wasn’t easy at that time to raise a fund.  We also had ‘an unproven’ investment strategy and were 3 female founding partners (novum) with no track record yet as a team, so it was quite a challenge to raise this first fund. We managed however after 2.5 years to successfully raise Fund I and the 2nd fund thereafter was raised in 10 months.

What advice would you give women interested in a career in private equity?

If you like to combine working with people and analysing companies and business models I would strongly recommend coming to work in this industry. If you enjoy interesting encounters with entrepreneurs and work with ‘never a dull moment’ the PE industry can be very rewarding.   As to the fact that there are not many (senior) women around yet: find the fund with a culture which suits you best and change the world from the inside!

What do you think it will take to improve the gender gap in private equity and do you think we will see significant change in the coming years?

 I am convinced that more female role models will help to inspire (young) women to enter the PE industry.  Our male colleagues should take the opportunity to bring female values and experiences into the equation by hiring more women and this will improve the quality of decision-making and team dynamics. 

Who has most inspired you in your career/who have been your mentors?

I have been mentored by male colleagues who have taught me the profession over the years. I am inspired by my two co-founders with whom I have a lot of fun, have mutual respect, and share the creativity, responsibility and stamina to make Karmijn the differentiator it currently is in our industry. 

Final comments:

Women are not ‘men in skirts’ and therefore have to stay themselves and bring in their own unique personalities.