Interview with Simone Brummelhuis – “Europe’s Female Angel Investor of the year 2021“

Im November wurde die Niederländerin Simone Brummelhuis im Rahmen des Deutschen Business Angels Tags 2021 in Köln zu “Europe’s Female Angel Investor of the year“ gekürt und mit der „Golden Aurora“ ausgezeichnet. Sie ist damit die fünfte Frau, die den seit 2017 jährlich von BAND und BAE vergebenen Preis erhalten hat. Im BAND Interview sprach die in Amsterdam lebende Investorin unter anderem über ihr Engagement im Hinblick auf „Women Investing“…
Dear Simone, first of all, on behalf of BAND and BAE, I would like to congratulate you on your title as “Europe’s Female Angel Investor of the year 2021”. Were you already aware of the award beforehand through BAE or BAND? And what does it mean to you?

Thank you. It was the first time I heard of the award. I just got to know that I was nominated a few weeks before the award. But I have been to some events of the EBAN. And years ago, I have co-written with a group of female investors a report on the female investors in Europe. It was one of the first reports we did to collect a bit more data on the female investing, and we presented it, I think we had an event or a workshop around it in Brussels. And it was all about education. At the time we had pitch competitions with our group where we combined young female entrepreneurs with investors and also got to companies to get them more investment ready. So that was very in the early stages of this whole ecosystem.

The award is a testament to the work I’ve done all the years, and that’s great because there was a lot of legwork involved. The title can rather be interpreted as an award for the work that I do around my investments, like the work in the Borski Fund or the Next Women Crowd Fund.

Do you see an opportunity to use the award to attract more women investors? If so, how? Do you have figures on the ratio of male to female angel investors in the Netherlands?

Yes, the investments but also the work around them are important to get more women involved. All this work is much more substantial, because there are not a lot of women who try to push that agenda. Well, there are some, but we really made a program and an angel fund around it and we try to be a springboard for a lot of women who have sold their businesses and then want to invest in the next generation.

The Next Women Crowd Fund was the idea behind this. We started it with four women, then in became 19 women and then we had 75 women – after three years – half of them had sold their business.

The percentage of female investors has probably always been below ten percent, but as we see more women selling their business (also because of the Next Women Crowd Fund) the number of female investors is increasing.

Can you tell us a little about your start-up investments? How many do you currently hold and do you have an investment focus or strategy or industry focus? What do you pay particular attention to in start-ups that you are getting to know? The team? The idea? The prospects of success or is everything inseparable anyway?  

At the moment I do not hold many, because I spend most of the work on the Borski Fund and only a small amount of time on my personal investments.

Most times I invest with a friend, only sometimes I invest alone. Our focus is fem tech, starting from, for example, biological tampons by the company Yoni. In a start-up a diverse team is definitely important to us, the products must be sustainable and for the female health. Another of our investments was Charlie Care which tries to make it easier for women to work when they have children.

The fintech and the pure tech companies, which offer a technical solution to an old problem, are very interesting for us as well. Fashion tech can also be a big space for us. Education tech and Work tech are indicated for the next generation.

Take us briefly into the Dutch start-up ecosystem. What are the special features, are there special Dutch trends or current trends in the Netherlands?

The Dutch Start-up system is growing, and the government is trying to put more attention to it. And there is for example an organization which is called Techleap, which has a focus on a lot of programs for start-ups and scale-ups and much more.

There is a movement in the national government to support the whole start-up and scale-up phase and there are also a lot of regional funds which have for example equity programs or readiness programs – and they have a lot of money. Some of them are related to universities which are doing a lot more in that ecosystem right now by putting data together. At universities there is also a greater focus on putting more entrepreneurial programs in.

Furthermore, there is an increasing number of organized and unorganized angel groups. So, I think we are really maturing as a start-up and scale-up ecosystem. Another point is that the quality of life is very good in the Netherlands and that is good to attract talents.

We mapped the whole femtech space, Germany for example doesn’t have a lot of femtech companies. But they have some big companies. The femtech, the health and the deep tech space is something that we are really good at in Europe.

In the Netherlands market placing is thriving, like for example the restaurant marketplace or the secondhand marketplace. Now there are more marketplaces in the B2B sphere and in sustainability.

Besides your angel activities, you are also active in many other areas. Can you tell us about the Borski Fund and the next women…and how you got so involved in them?

So, it is a process, we started with the “affordable” Next Women Crowd Fund in 2014, and it didn’t matter that many of the investors had sold their business, “affordable” was not so important to them, to them it was more important to understand the activity of investing. Many of these women were very successful entrepreneurs, who were just not that knowledgeable as investors, and they wanted to transition to become an investor. And that’s what we started in a trusted environment.

We also tried to get more people of the corporate world involved into investments. A lot of people from this world tend not to go very quickly into angel investment, even though they have the resources to do so.

You can say that there were four streams of women to come to the investment world: In the first group are the women who sold their business and transition to investors. The second consists of corporate women who are a bit more risk averse. The third category are women who have done a lot of charity. They have the knowledge to read business plans, that’s what they probably did all the time in a fund or a charity fund. They have always done grand giving and sometimes they want to transfer to risk investments. There is a fourth group: these were the women who were already investing at a large scale. They joined to give knowledge to the group.

For the Next Women Crowd Fund, we first asked us the questions: Are there enough female investors and enough technology companies with a diverse team? When we found that we succeeded we decided to make this fund much bigger. That’s when the Crowd Fund, which was an angel fund, became the Borski Fund, which is a 40 million fund.

With the Crowd Fund we are not in the investment period anymore. We did around 30 investments and now we are in the exit phase of these investments.

Thank you very much for your time, Simone