Janneke Niessen

Janneke Niessen


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Harper’s Bazaar Woman of the Year, VC @CapitalT, Columnist

Expanding to new territories – Janneke Niessen

” When you are an entrepreneur I think its super important to have a network of other entrepreneurs because they all know what you are going through and you are the best ones to help each other when things are difficult.”


Janneke is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, board member and mentor for startups and co-founder of CapitalT, a VC fund that invests in technology companies using proprietary technology to evaluate entrepreneurial teams. In the past she has started and exited 2 international tech companies. She is co-initiator of InspiringFifty, an initiative that aims to increase diversity in tech by making female role models more visible. As part of the InspiringFifty initiative, Janneke has published The New Girl Code and Project Prep, a novel for young girls. The goal of the project is to encourage young girls, inspiring them to pursue a career in technology and invest in an educational foundation focusing on math and computer science. Janneke is member of supervisory board of UNICEF, boardmember of Codam, advisory board member of FutureNL, member of the investment committee of Innovation Quarter and the supervisory board of NPEX. Janneke was named 2014 EY Entrepreneur of the Year and Most Innovative Leader in 2016, and one the 10 most prominent angel investors in 2018 and Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Yearin 2019, a few of many in a long list of honours for Janneke.

Janneke did research with Eva de Mol on the investments in female entrepreneurs in the Netherlands. This has led to a lot of media, discussion and questions in parliament. Legislation is prepared now to take action and change the situation. The industry itself has agreed to a quota for their own teams and the teams they invest in.

Fun fact: Janneke had her picture taken by Annie Leibovitz and has been appearing in a campaign for UBS that was shown in e.g. WSJ Magazine, The Economist, Wallpaper but also on billboards at London City Airport, NY JFK and the airport of Frankfurt.



Janneke Niessen

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to the supporters fund ask an investor, I’m your host Jeffery Potvin and let’s please welcome Janneke Niessen from capitalT is our investment today welcome Janneke it’s a real pleasure to have you joining us today.

Niessen: Well thanks a lot for having me, I’m looking forward.

Jeffery: Oh me too, I’m so excited there’s so much amazing things that you’ve accomplished and all these great things so many videos about yourself from books and this great career in entrepreneurship it’s absolutely phenomenal and, I’m so excited to be able to chat with you today so the way we like to kind of kick things off is that we want to dive into a bit of your background so maybe you can start off by sharing a little bit back from your marketing days through all the entrepreneur endeavors that you’ve kind of taken on and maybe share one thing about you that nobody would know and, I guess also for the audience maybe share where you’re working out of today because, I think that’s also pretty exciting.

Niessen: Yes so, I’m currently in barcelona so how’s barcelona um, I’m speaking at the eu startup summit tomorrow morning so, I decided to well not have any stress and arrive today and work from here and the the view is absolutely stunning so, I hope, I can enjoy a bit of barcelona later today and yeah the beginning of my career and during my study, I was approached to start working at an online advertising firm and that was now sound very old but that was back when the internet was like really new and everything just started out um so curious as, I am, I said yes and, I joined and finished my studies um more in the evenings on the side and mainly focused on that that was super exciting but um after two years me and another colleague decided to start our own company um and that was for me fairly easy step um because, I was super naive, I had no clue about all the things that could go wrong which, I think is a good one but also since, I was really young, I always, I told people that one day, I would want to be an entrepreneur and so when the opportunity was there it was easy to jump and, I could borrow some money from my parents and, I know that that’s a privilege that not everybody has but um that got me um started and then um, I had the first company first dot com bubble we even then had clients that um verbally agreed to an agreement and then the next day he said yeah we’re not going to do this because our board doesn’t believe in the internet it were those days that there were still people that did not believe in the internet um but well the bubble bursted and, I think every company so far i’ve started in a downturn and, I think those are the best moments because the only way is up you don’t need to scale down so there’s a lot of advantages there and after a few years we started growing internationally, I had offices in south africa brazil europe lots of fun and then at a certain point, I sold my shares in the company then, I did nothing for a few months as in, I was thinking what, I would want to do next and then, I met my co-founder that, I started my second company with we started out as a consultancy firm but then decided that that was not scalable enough and so we started building tech grew that internationally different offices across europe, I had a lot of fun building an amazing team, I’m still proud of when, I think about that team and obviously also many setbacks and that was also the time when, I started to get more active on getting more diversity in tech because well obviously we noticed ourselves the lack of diversity and then, I met with the neely cruz she’s a well back then an eu commissioner famous in the netherlands for female empowerment as well and she was like yeah there’s certain things, I can do in my position but what is it that you can do and, I think that was a very good call because at the end of the day everybody can do something and that’s when, I decided to actually start doing things so then i set up with my then co-founder joelle inspiring 50 a non-profit to make female role models more visible and because in the media there were always the same u.s role models while there’s also many great ones in europe and, I think the closer a role model is to you in terms maybe of age and gender but also location it feels more relatable and more like that’s something you can achieve so we wanted to make them more visible and as part of that, I also published a book for young girls to try to get them excited about technology and because often they say oh tech is boring and difficult um and no, I’m not good at it and then you ask them do you want to work at snap or instagram and they say yes so the view they have of what tech is is often often wrong so publish the book about a young girl that learns to code builds build an app and then starts her own company and she goes through all the ups and downs of having your own company so it’s basically based on my own life but then wrapped into a much nicer story that appeals to 10 to 14 year old girls and published in a few countries and one of the trips, I did with unicef to south africa inspired me to give the book away for free because, I met many girls there from townships that due to the programs they did around stem really so much more opportunities in their future than the the the life they had today they thought they could never be more than just a girl from a township and the stem programs really gave them new perspectives and, I also really think that we need entrepreneurs from different backgrounds also to tackle all the issues there are in the world so entrepreneurs start a company because they um because they want to solve a problem that they face themselves so very black and white if you’re a rich white man from silicon valley and you think your taxi is late you invent uber if you grow up without clean drinking water you probably start a really different company and, I think we need both those companies and everything in between but it will lead to more diversity in the kind of problems that we are going to solve so that’s when, I decided to start giving the book away for free to underprivileged girls in different countries because not everybody can afford a book and so we did that and, I got so many emails from girls across the globe and that they were inspired by it that they were learning to code that they had id’s for a company and that really is encouraging and and yeah so so nice so um that’s that’s then um after, I saw that company, I stayed on for a few years as long as it was like fun and we could could continue to build then, I left and again decided to do nothing to think about what, I wanted to do next and, I think having this basically clean piece of paper and you can decide what your future will look like for the next 10 years from like from like zero is such a great opportunity because it is a little bit scary because, I often some not often, I sometimes wondered like hey what if the best is already in the past and how can, I do again something this great with such amazing people but that was only a small number of times most of the time i was like oh, I’m so excited, I can really decide on my future again for the third time and so, I did and then, I met eva and we decided to um start a fund together where for me a lot of the things, I care about come together, I like supporting entrepreneurs, I did angel investments and mentoring as well, I like the possibilities of technology i want to create a level playing field because, I think it doesn’t exist today so and, I really believe that fvcs are a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to increasing diversity so that’s how we got to capitalT and we wanted to do something um a different standard then there already was in the market so we focus on um four areas so precedences climate tag education future of work and web 3 and we use a model to evaluate teams more data driven and because interestingly in a in a in an industry that’s extremely data-driven when it comes to decisions around team it’s a gut feel that’s the main driver of those decisions and that includes bias stereotypes pattern matching so and we believe that when you look at things more data driven you at least level this out so we basically overlay our gut feel with some effects so that is very long intro but that’s a bit about my background.

Jeffery: I love it that’s a fantastic background and there’s so much to unpack and, I think where, I’m gonna start is when you first went into that creative side and started to le