This week we talk to a woman who is a startup builder turned investor, and an Oxford, Harvard and McKinsey alumna.
Andrea Zitna is Principal healthtech investor at Speedinvest and former Chief Revenue Officer at femtech brand Elvie.
Speedinvest is a European early-stage investor with more than €600 million (£508 million) assets under management and 40 investors based in London, Berlin, Munich, Paris and Vienna.
How and where did you start your career in tech?
My education and career have always been closely linked to STEM. I studied Physics at university, and then worked as a consultant for large corporations that were being disrupted or otherwise transformed by technology, before joining a data analytics & insights company. But joining Elvie as employee number four in 2015 is when I would “officially” start the clock on my career in tech. I spent nearly seven years as Chief Revenue Officer at Elvie, helping to build it from a pre-revenue startup to the femtech pioneer it is today.
I have recently switched to focus on investing in early-stage startups, and now lead digital health investments at Speedinvest – a pan-European VC firm.
Are there any women in tech that have particularly inspired you?
I continue to be inspired by STEM trailblazers such as Rosalind Franklin, Lise Meitner, Katherine Johnson, Grace Hopper to name a few. I also like to remember the many women who have played critical roles in advancing science and technology but received no credit and whose stories will never be told.
We live in a world where girls as young as six believe that ‘brilliance’ does not apply to them. To change this narrative, we must continue to highlight the successes of female STEM pioneers. I still get fired up when looking at the women pushing the boundaries of science and tech today – from Dr. Jennifer Doudna (CRISPR gene editing) to Dr. Fei Fei Li (human-centered AI) to Reshma Saujan (Girls Who Code) to many of the brilliant founders and tech leaders I have the privilege to meet as a VC or admire from a distance.
What’s the most pressing issue for women in tech today?
It all starts with education. As the recent headlines made by Katharine Birbalsigh and STEM participation statistics illustrate, a lot of work still needs to be done to change outdated and inaccurate attitudes and ultimately improve the talent pipeline in tech.
In the VC and startup ecosystem, women have a lot of catching up to do. The percentage of capital going to female-only founded teams has been stuck at 2-3% for over a decade. The historical lack of diversity amongst VCs certainly doesn’t help due to inherent biases and closed networks that it tends to propagate.
What challenges do you face in your role at Speedinvest?
For me, the biggest challenge right now is successfully navigating the switch from building to investing. This means swapping an environment with near immediate feedback loops to one where that feedback can take years, or even decades. You have to completely adapt how you think and manage risk – VC is a game of outliers. You go from saying yes, let’s do this, to saying no 99% of the time. That’s just a few of the adjustments!
What advice would you give to women looking to get into tech?
I believe in portfolio careers – a series of interconnected adventures. Technology now permeates most aspects of our lives and therefore a “career in tech” can mean anything from working in financial services to life sciences to fashion. The often existential and chaotic nature of early-stage startups may not be for everyone but if you are even a little bit curious, give it a go!
Check out the previous tech-themed interview with Aida Lutaj, Co-Founder and CEO at Legitify, here.