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Included VC 2021 Reflection: Kadi-Ingrid Lilles

Kadi-Ingrid Lilles joined Silicon Allee in August 2021 as their Berlin Founders Fund Manager to support early stage founders.

For Kadi, Included VC was the step to take her career to the next level and learnt so much from the experience at Included VC that she has taken into the new role. Kadi reflects on this wonderful journey full of knowledge bombs and the connections for life she has made with the Fellows.

Highlights include:

  • 💬 The quote that was said in multiple Included VC sessions which rings in Kadi’s ears
  • 🌎 How the strong connections between Kadi and the other Fellows made the experience even more worthwhile
  • 🌟 Kadi’s hopes for the future of VC and how she would like to contribute to diversifying the venture ecosystem

INVC: What were you doing when you were in the process of applying to Included VC?

KL: I was looking for new, exciting challenges to take on, and I had a pretty open mind as to what it could entail. But, after reflecting on my experiences, at that point I had been two and a half years working as an operator at an early stage B2B SaaS startup, I felt that although it was a great learning experience, I would still love to take my next career step in a role that would enable me to work with and support several startups at once. I decided to start steering my career back towards the VC space and it was just luck and great timing that I saw the opportunity with Included VC!

INVC: What are three things (mic drop/ knowledge bomb moments) that Included VC has taught you that you will remember forever?

KL: One of the topics was certainly that money for VC funds needs to come from somewhere as well. I think hearing about the experiences from different partners about how their journeys were to fundraising; from their very first funds to the fifth or sixth has been very, very insightful. They’ve come from rather humble beginnings and have had to prove themselves with their very first fund, and it can be a struggle, even with the second third.

The second thing that resonated the most was a quote that also was said in several different sessions: ‘capital is a commodity and there is an abundance of it’. Startups have a wide variety of options to choose from, so venture capital firms need to meaningfully differentiate in order to be competitive. That was the intro to the topic of platforms and value add in VC funds. As a person who is, I would say, equally drawn to the platform side as well as the investment side of things, I certainly found that as a very resonating thought that you really need to provide the startups in your portfolio with some really meaningful additional value.

There were some great speakers in our sessions that spoke about platform and value add, such as Keji Mustapha, Head of Network, Brand & Culture Ops at Connect Ventures, and Stephen Millard, Operating Partner & Chief Platform Officer at Notion Capital. Hearing from Stephen about the unique and innovative structure that Notion has for its platform side of things opened my mind to the possibilities of what a VC fund can look like and what value adds both for the startups but also for the VC firm there can be through platform activities.

The third knowledge bomb was hearing from the female VCs and female angel investors, and their journeys into VC and how nonlinear these have been. For example, hearing from Sophia Bendz and Deepali Nangia of how they transitioned into the VC space and became advocates for diversity, female founders and FemTech- they’re such amazing role models and their stories really resonated with me.

INVC: How did Included VC/ Nikita help in the process of finding and securing your job?

KL: Nikita really encouraged me to embrace the side of me that was approaching this job search as looking for a hot deal (in terms of investment). My co-fellow Matt really warmed my heart with his feedback that my “job sourcing has been top of the line”. I’ve been very passionate about not only finding a great challenge for myself in the VC space, but also not leaving any of my co-fellows behind. We have enjoyed digging up the most hidden or the most exclusive of job opportunities out there and sharing with each other.

As it so typically happened, once I had a job offer on the table another came along! So I had a very much needed chat with Nikita and Chris Tottman who really helped me figure out the best decision for me and be at peace with it.

INVC: What two ways have the Fellows contributed to your development, learning, current role or life in general?

KL: The friendship and professional connections I now have for life. I love how many of the fellows have been so enthusiastic from their ends as well in order to keep in contact, give feedback on applications or CVs check ins. We have all really grown as individuals; growing professionally and learning, having these accountability partners and support systems as well as your professional and personal relationships for life hopefully!

The impact of being exposed to the Fellows insights of different industries has also been very life changing. Especially reading the deep dives that they have put together, or the insights that they’re bringing to investment committee meetings. It’s amazing to be part of this cohort surrounded by curious and intelligent people.

INVC: What one piece of advice would you give yourself before you started Included VC journey?

KL: FOMO has been real throughout this Fellowship, and I actually have been lucky enough to fully focus on the programme almost for the whole duration of it. Some Fellows have expressed that Included VC has been more useful than their MBA programme. I think I somewhat took this programme as my own little MBA and really tried to focus on it as much as possible and only did some smaller projects on the side to try and max out on this experience.

I would reaffirm myself back then and tell myself to go even harder on it because there’s still plenty of things that I didn’t manage to fully participate in. But, I think that the decision to make Included VC my main focus for the duration of the fellowship was a good decision that worked for me well.

INVC: Are there any standout moments from the Partners that have really resonated with you?

KL: I certainly keep on coming back to the platform sessions because this is something that is now resonating with me in my day to day work managing a micro fund where I am leading a team being responsible for both the investment side but also the value add part of it; how are we going to support the startups that are in our portfolio, even before we invest into them as well as post investment? What is the biggest value that we can create for our startups, given the stage and industry that we’re investing into? I would say that I still go back to the master class pages to further digest all of the extra recommended reading!

INVC: How would you like to see VC transform over the next five to 10 years?

KL: I would love to see the VC industry more developed in the next years, especially in the countries that perhaps currently do not yet have that well developed VC ecosystems. Diversity in the venture capital firms, I believe, will bring more diversity into the startups that are getting funded. More and more firms are doing blind hiring processes, and are trying to prioritise hiring from diverse communities, diverse backgrounds. But there’s still a long way to go.

I’d like to see VCs democratising the access to venture capital, knowledge and investment opportunities in general. The VC space also has a lot to benefit from more people being involved in angel investments at earlier stages, with their personal networks and experiences.

INVC: Is there anything you’re doing/plan to do in the future to contribute to diversifying VC?

KL: From my end, I’m certainly emphasising funding diverse founders- this is something that I’m paying attention to. Also, reaching out to diverse VCs already in my network or growing my network with diverse VCs, and then listening and learning from their experiences. Furthermore, finding out what they see as potentially impactful things to contribute with in order to make VC a more diverse place.

I’m also following the European Women in VC, who are currently campaigning for equal access to capital for female-led VC funds, and especially for the emerging fund managers. All of these initiatives certainly are worth the support, so I’m keeping my eyes certainly a lot more open than they were perhaps before Included VC, and trying to do my best in order to be an advocate for diverse individuals in VC.

INVC: Three words to describe Included VC

KL: Genuine, insightful, community.

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