The Lean In EU WBA (Women Business Angels) Pitching Battles are almost here, and we’re happy to announce that PICO Partners’ investment director Tal Tochner will be in Athens to take part as a judge. The big event takes taking place right here at Starttech Ventures’ HQ, on February 22, and the excitement is building for what is sure to be an intriguing day. Today, she’s sharing a few insights on startup investments.

A chat with PICO Partners’ Tal Tochner on startup investments

The world of early stage startup investments

Like Flavia Richardson of Funding London, another of our panel, Tal is another leading lady who shares in our enthusiasm. The “PICO” in PICO Partners stands for People, Ideas, Community and Opportunity. These are the values which drive their activities.

In essence, PICO are deeply involved in the world of early stage startup investments. As their motto states “We invest in entrepreneurs as agents of progress”. From their offices in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and New York, they believe in investing in exceptional entrepreneurs looking to build future-defining and highly scalable global companies.

Q1: Tal, you’re in Athens taking part as a judge investor at the Pitching Battles event of the Lean In EU WBAs project. What do you think of the initiative?

A1: I think it’s a wonderful and very important initiative! Women have become a growing force in business. Over the past few years, we have seen more and more female business leaders rise to the top.

However, in the investment and entrepreneurial community, there is still a very large gender gap. I strongly believe that initiatives such as this, that create vibrant communities of female leaders, will push for strong female leadership that will create big success stories. Both on the investment side and the entrepreneurial side. I feel very fortunate to take part in this initiative and look forward to meeting the wonderful community in Athens!

Q2: You’re currently working at PICO Partners. Tell us a bit about what you guys do. What startup investments interest the organization and your role in that picture?

A2: We work hands-on with our companies and mentor our founders in order to ensure their success and rapid growth. In addition to our venture fund, we have three co-working spaces in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem where portfolio companies, young entrepreneurs and social activists are invited to work.

In parallel to our venture and business activities, we established PICO Kids, a non-profit focusing on developing the next generation of leaders through STEM education. Our programs engage over 3,500 kids, between 7th-9th grades in over 40 schools. We run programs in robotics, 3D printing, coding, science encounters, hackatons and makeathons as well as special programs focused on girls in tech.

As PICO’s Investment Director, I lead our startup investments process and deal flow as well as work with our portfolio companies on their go-to-market strategy, messaging and business development. Due to my personal passion for education, I also spend a significant amount of my time on strategy and partnerships for PICO Kids.

Q3: How would you describe the startup scene as far as the female factor is concerned? Is enough being done to address the imbalance, for whatever the reasons behind it are?

A3: Diversity in tech is an issue I am very passionate about. It’s become an important issue often discussed in the tech scene and many investors, corporates and startups have already started addressing the issue and indeed the number of women in tech, female entrepreneurs, female-led startups and female investors has been going up. However, there is still much work to be done.

If we look at the statistics – in the US:

  • only 11% of the executive in Silicon Valley are women
  • 12% of the partners in US Venture Capital firms are female
  • about 13% of the angel investors are women

This translates into the fundraising number in the US:

  • female-led startups in the US receive only about 7% of all investor money.
  • if we look specifically at early-stage tech investments, only 13% of early-stage investments were invested in companies with women entrepreneurs.
  • the numbers go down as the fundraising stages progress.

The EU ecosystem is doing slightly better:

  • women make up between 15-16% of leadership positions – 5% higher than the states. In fact, a great number of EU multi-nationals have increased the proportion of women in leadership positions over the past few years
  • 30% of the tech employees are female. About 8-10% better than the states

These numbers are extremely devastating in the world of startup investments when we take into consideration that women-led technology companies are more capital efficient, achieve 35% higher ROI and when venture backed, bring in 12% higher revenue that male-led tech companies. In fact, studies show that women entrepreneurs bring in 20% more revenue with 50% less money invested. And companies that employ women in large numbers, outperform their competitors in every measure of profitability.

Therefore, I am personally involved in many initiatives that address women in tech and strongly believe that initiatives such as the Lean in EU WBAs Project are extremely important and can generate great success if bridging the gender gap.

Q4: What are your expectations about the Greek startup ecosystem? Have you ever funded any Greek startups, and what do you expect to see here?

A4: This will be my first visit to Athens. I am very excited to learn more about the Greek startup ecosystem and meet some incredible entrepreneurs. I expect to see passionate entrepreneurs that solve significant problems – oh, and good food!

Q5: Investors and Entrepreneurs alike always seem to be looking for the next big thing. What do you believe that might be?

A5: I love seeing companies that solve big problems, disrupt big markets and eventually influence the way we work and live. This is what great startup investments are all about. I believe we will see some great innovation in the financial industry – banks, mortgages, and insurance. Also, AI, blockchain construction-tech and my personal passion – ed-tech.


Graham Wood Graham Wood

The Starttech Ventures Storyteller. Studied Journalism with Business at the University of Central Lancashire. Has worked in various product marketing management positions for the likes of Nokia, Samsung and Vodafone, as well as in several journalism and media roles since 2000.