Sonali de Rycker, Partner, Accel

Please describe your current role

I am a General Partner at Accel – a 35 year old global venture capital fund. I am based in the London office where I have been for the last decade. My role is a primarily a deal doing role but also includes overall management of the London based operations alongside my other partners. 

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

I started my career in investment banking at Goldman Sachs in NYC and had the benefit of first working closely with both mature industrial companies and later with fast growth, technology and founder driven businesses (It was the year of the Netscape IPO and all things tech started to look appealing). The sharp contrast between the two at the time convinced me that I had to find a role that brought me closer to the entrepreneurial world. I hustled until I found a venture firm who had such a position. I have never looked back – investing early in new ideas and products – before there is a market and a category is enormously challenging. Even more exciting is the opportunity to work closely with founders and management teams – many of whom are doing this for the first time. Overall, it is one of those rare businesses where relationship and EQ skills can make a material impact on your ability to succeed – something I have always found gratifying and rewarding.  

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

Choose to work for/with a team of people who believe in you – as you really are. This is a very long term game with long term incentives. Which means it only really matters where you will be in 5-10 years. You can only succeed if you are allowed to be the most authentic version of yourself. Everything else won’t endure in my experience.  

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?

As the impact of technology has completely mainstream, I believe the composition of founder and management teams is following. This will undoubtedly be the platform and pipeline from which an entire generation of investors will emerge as they will have first-hand experience of what it takes to create durable and valuable businesses. 

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you address it?

I am, like most type A’s like to control my own destiny. There is not that much in this business that is under your control – winning is often about serendipity and time. Its been a struggle to learn to be patient.

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

My mentors have been my male colleagues who taught me judgment, patience and kindness. I have been incredibly fortunate to have always worked with many successful investors who were also great human beings.