This week’s interview is with a woman who has over nearly 15 years in the venture capital (VC) sector.
Nicole LeBlanc, Partner at 2150, has backed 200+ companies, with an expertise in urbantech. 2150 has offices in London, Berlin and Copenhagen. The firm focuses on the full stack of the urban environment where most of the world’s CO2 emissions and resource waste is arising and which will double in the next decades.
Prior to joining 2150, she led the corporate VC and partnerships strategy at Sidewalk Labs.
She has also worked as a director at BDC Capital, leading Canada’s largest seed fund across various sectors and geographies. She partnered with accelerators across Canada and helped launch the Women in Tech fund, promoting female founders and investment professionals.
How and where did you start your career in tech?
I had no ambitions for a career in tech or VC. My original career plan was to be a marine biologist, however I quickly changed my mind after spending time dissecting animals in a lab. I ended up in accounting and really enjoyed it, especially as my first role was with a chocolate and confectionery manufacturer with product samples available in the office. When my husband decided to continue his education, we moved and I ended up taking a role in VC.
Prior to this, I had no exposure to the sector. This first position I took in VC was with a seed fund and I really was inspired by the early stage founders I was working with – and I haven’t looked back since. The skills I acquired as an accountant were transferable, particularly around due diligence and supporting early stage companies with growth models. Many founders don’t have a financial background, and so I was able to offer a lot of insight.
I’ve continued to work in the industry in various roles; leading a large Canadian seed fund, working within a strategic VC across stages, and now in urban sustainability technology investing at 2150, with exposure to the European market.
Are there any women in tech that have particularly inspired you?
I’m inspired by the women I’ve worked with in my career. Some are mothers and have to juggle so many responsibilities, while others in the early stages of their career have joined the industry full of energy and ambition to drive change. I’ve worked with women who were actively struggling with professional issues where I could sometimes help, while in other instances I was happy to be a sounding board, over a cup of tea or a glass of wine. All of these interactions were genuine and real, helping me to learn and be inspired to reflect on how I can continually improve, and what role I can play to help all of us reach our goals.
What’s the most pressing issue for women in tech today?
A lack of confidence; particularly in a meeting setting. I think women often feel less comfortable speaking up and are more inclined to wait until they feel their arguments are fully formulated before sharing. Another hurdle facing women in tech is when it comes to conversations around remuneration. I think women are reluctant to ask for a raise, or stand up for what we really want when it comes to compensation or responsibilities.
What challenges do you face in your role at 2150?
One of the greatest challenges I face comes down to time management; there is so much momentum in the sustainability sector that you want to do everything, it’s tough to prioritise.
What advice would you give to women looking to get into tech?
Be honest and thoughtful about what you are seeking in a particular role. What are your strengths and where will they be best put to use? Tech is very broad, so find the lane that inspires you to get up every morning. The industry is so fast paced; you need to be learning continually, curious, and critical. Not everyone has to be a founder or an investor, there are lots of great roles for accountants, lawyers, marketers, and other skill sets that aren’t technical.