Ingrid Teigland Akay Managing Partner, Hadean Ventures

Please describe your current role.

I am founder and managing partner of Hadean Ventures, a Oslo and Stockholm-based life science VC fund manager.

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

A career in private equity enables me to combine my passion for the healthcare industry with cutting edge analytics while working with brilliant people.

I gained my first experience in PE doing my 2nd year MBA project with the Warburg Pincus healthcare team in London. After graduating from the MBA, I joined a global life science VC fund in London called Inventages.

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

My motivation for starting a new PE firm was purely opportunity driven. To me, it was clear that certain regions of Europe harboured untapped potential for healthcare VC. This was based on decades of high spending on basic research, and burgeoning start-up scenes. And yet there were almost no specialized VC funds around – creating an investment opportunity unparalleled anywhere in the world. This was an opportunity set that really inspired me to take the plunge. I was able to both recruit some of the smartest people I know to join me in this mission while enlisting the support of blue chip investors.

What were the key challenges in starting a new firm?

Being an entrepreneur is all-consuming. Before you start, I think it is difficult to realize how all-consuming it is. I have always had very high capacity for work – as a student I juggled medical studies, studies in world history and competitive horse riding in parallel – relatively effortlessly. Now there is a shortage of hours in the day. Nevertheless – seeing it all come together is definitely worth it. I am increasingly learning to prioritize hard and only put in the time where there is a clear path to results.

Another equally important factor is to surround yourself with the right people. Quality people for me are those who are intelligent, have integrity and possess the right attitude.  Obviously, no one is perfect, so the key is to leverage each person’s strengths. Good people are incredibly valuable, so I try to spot them whenever and wherever I can.

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?

Attitudes need to change to improve the gender gap. Attitudes take time to change, so I am not sure we will see a big improvement in near-term. At the same time, I am very hopeful that the gap will shrink in the mid-term.

What I do think we need, is for everyone to take responsibility and do what they can. For this to happen, I believe we need more transparency and we need to put people more on the spot to make everyone translate words into action.

To put myself on the spot – what I am doing to change this? In our firm we have a stated policy to proactively provide a gender balanced list of candidates for any position we are recruiting for. This takes effort, because female candidates are making themselves less visible, men are much better at stepping forward. Nevertheless, we have learned that you do find more superb female candidates than you would expect when you look for them.

Furthermore, we have created an internship program to recruit at least one female intern per year. This gives more females exposure to the investment profession, as well as it gives us a good list of female candidates for the future.

Another aspect is the absolutely horrid statistics in terms of females getting funded by venture capital. Again – we proactively search for female founders. The reason for this is that we realize that many females, compared to men, are far less likely to seek VC funding although they have a company that merits VC backing. We need to go out and look for them to be able to access these high potential investment cases.

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

One of the people that inspire me the most is my husband, Ali Akay. He is the founder of a hedge fund and I have learned a lot observing how he navigates this extremely competitive industry. The attributes I find most admirable about him are his razor sharp focus on the essentials and the uncompromising loyalty to truth. I frequently seek his advice, which I find very valuable. He is not always right, but the process of discussing an issue with him is priceless.