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Wed 11 Mar 2020 03:02 PM

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Empowering women pays off, says founder of Dubai-based Millennial Capital

Millennial Capital is a venture capital firm proud to be different, offering its clients an innovative co-investment model. even better, founder Andreea Danila is committed to seeing more women in senior roles in venture capital in the region

Empowering women pays off, says founder of Dubai-based Millennial Capital

Andreea Danila, founder of Millennial Capital

With a philosophy that is rewriting the rulebook on traditional approaches to venture capital, Millennial Capital is a company proud of its points of difference in the traditionally conservative world of venture capital (VC).

The company is the region’s first consumer-focused venture capital firm that also offers a management model; sustainable investment and growth are key in its mandate to establish and grow consumer brands in the GCC.

Millennial Capital was founded by Andreea Danila in 2016, following more than a decade of experience in venture capital, advising on acquisitions, structuring, divestments and market entry strategies for some of the largest consumer product companies.

Drawing on her experience in investing in regional markets, she created Millennial Capital with the intention of offering a more sustainable approach to investment, one that delivers an added layer of management and support in tandem with offering an investment strategy.

The company is proud to be a pioneer in actively supporting women into the traditionally male-dominated world of venture capital. No other VC firm in the region has such a high proportion of women in management and senior roles, an active and committed policy that, says Danila, enhances not only workplace culture, but a company’s bottom line.

With the region’s highest proportion of female staff in senior roles, plus its longer-term, ‘hand-in-hand’ approach, Millennial Capital is making big waves in sectors including beauty, accessories, retail and technology.

Empowering women pays off

“There is a clear gap in terms of female professionals in investment in the region; it is only around 7 percent – it is so small it is embarrassing,” says Danila. “At Millennial Capital, we seek to have a one-for-one policy and we have a preferential approach in that if we have, for example, a manager or director or CFO role and two equally qualified candidates, we would look to prioritise the female.”

Creating opportunities for women to develop their capability and expertise lies at the heart of the company’s philosophy, not least because it ultimately benefits investors and the business itself.

“Of course, it can be a challenge to hire women in terms of things like maternity leave, but you ultimately benefit from employee strengths such as multitasking and emotional intelligence and we have assessed repeatedly that having a balanced team – of men and women – can yield up to 20 percent higher results than having a ‘boys club’. Balance is key and we need to give women more opportunities to lead transactions and to play key roles.”

Training and development in a performance-led culture underpins this approach, and it’s also been complemented by Millennial Capital’s first major investment project, which has seen O Boticario, a major beauty group, brought to the region.

A fresh approach

“We provide a full range of services, which is a differentiator we are really proud of,” says Danila. “We seek to expose ourselves to high-growth opportunities and to deploy capital, but we also add value by providing a 360-degree set of consulting services. We work side by side with the management teams of the companies we invest with, not just to capitalise, but also to develop long-term growth strategies. By providing this unique range of services, it enhances the return. It is different to other VC firms that provide capital and just wait. We invest our resources alongside them and are a much closer part of their journey.”

“Our venture creation and management firm targets partnerships with some of the world’s most loved consumer discretionary brands. Due to our development model, the ventures we establish and manage tend to achieve significant scale and establish local market leadership positions in the categories we target both online and offline,” adds Georges Chakar, Executive Board Member Millennial Capital.

“In Silicon Valley you might have a meeting over coffee, in jeans, put up a business plan and it could get capital. Here, we needed to differentiate,” explains Danila.

“We were the first to introduce a venture creation and management strategy in the region. What this entails is that the company provides not just capital, but tangible operational support to its new ventures, drawing on a team of highly experienced talent who understand the market and its unique challenges.”

In traditional VC firms, there is often a focus only on very big deals, but microfinancing should not be overlooked, says Danila. 

“People in the region like to talk about big deals and valuations, but we feel that microfinancing can also be a very rewarding asset class, amd we are happy to  include microfinancing alongside our second investment vehicle that will focus on beauty and technology.”

A transparent reporting model

One of the challenges of venture capital in the region has historically been transparency, and this was a key point that Danila and her team wanted to address head-on.

“Investor transparency in the region is still a big issue – investors are concerned about things that have happened to them, so we designed a very transparent reporting model,” she explains. Millennial Capital employs a team of auditors, consultants and independent valuators, which, she adds, increases operations costs but ultimately it allows the company to sustain a professional structure.

“The venture capital industry is maturing. When I came to the region ten years ago, you would meet with investors and the risk appetite would be very limited. They would like to invest in education, healthcare, profitable assets that were based only in the GCC. Now, after ten years, it reached a peak in valuations, materialised through the exit of Careem.

That was the first cycle and now we have more professional capital allocators participating in the local VC landscape. The increased activity is great and having more professional participants in the market and ecosystem is very healthy.” 

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