Hannah Chelkowski on Moving Countries, Being a Woman in a Male-Dominated Industry and Community

hannah chelkowski inovia vc

Hannah! Tell us more about you…

I’m an Economics and Finance graduate that hails from the UK. I’m also an avid yogi (I’m hoping yoga studios open soon), keen runner, aspiring DJ (working on that, but I have some pretty solid Spotify mixes), outdoor adventure seeker and tech enthusiast. I’m currently living in Pacific Heights in San Francisco with my husband, Sam. We love exploring California! It’s a State that just keeps on giving.

You're a Brit living in SF... what motivated you to make the move across the pond?

I wish I had a Silicon Valley-grade exciting story to tell about whisking across the pond to start a company and living in a hacker house with many eager entrepreneurs. In actual fact, my story is a little more wholesome! I moved to the US for love. At the time, my boyfriend (now husband) worked for one of the major tech companies in London. We had to move to the US as part of his job, and as a result, I found myself in California. No job, no work visa and no community! Starting life again in San Francisco has been incredible but has also come with a few challenges. One thing that stood out to me about San Francisco is the people — it’s a melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds, but with one similarity. Everyone here is on their own mission. Getting a taste of startup culture and the local tech ecosystem inspired my ambition to have a VC career.

As a woman in VC... what have been your biggest challenges?

I think there’s a missing piece here — a British woman in VC. Brit’s are typically self-deprecating at the best of times!

On a more serious note, I guess my view on this is two-fold. First, I see being a woman in VC today as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to find and invest in female founders and positively move the stats. The second piece is more serious but personal. One of the biggest challenges for me has been my psyche. Being a woman in a typically male-dominated industry has (for no specific reason) meant that I’ve set a higher bar for myself. There were times where I’d find myself second-guessing comments or questions I wanted to ask — for no reason. Overcoming this was one of the biggest challenges but also opportunities for personal growth and development. I’m also incredibly lucky to work with an awesome diverse team - 55% of our team are female or LGBTQ. At Inovia, we’re very committed to diversity in the workplace and actively encourage our founders to track and improve workplace diversity at the board level.

How do you think we change the reality of womxn only receiving ~3% of all VC funding?

I think it’s already changing. With the likes of incredible female founders taking companies public this year, such as Whitney Herd from Bumble, we’re only going to see more inspired females looking to start companies. The most significant way we can change the reality of women receiving funding is by opening doors to allow founders to compete fairly. I’m so excited that I invested in two incredible founders last year — they are fabulous, and bonus, they happen to be female!

If you could have one positive social impact on the world... what would it be?

I’m fascinated by technological disruption and how startups across all sectors positively impact peoples’ lives. I love waking up every day knowing that I can invest in companies that have the potential to equip people with tools for sustainable growth, whether that’s access to education, vertical business solutions to improve operations and efficiency or technology that empowers freelancers and creatives. If I can invest in the right companies that have the potential to create outsized impact and happiness for its users, I’ll be happy.

My personal network brings me so much joy and a feeling of belonging.

As you know... we're all about community. How has your community helped you navigate life either personally or professionally?

Feeling connected is incredibly important. Humans are social animals, and this past year has highlighted our need to feel that communal spirit. I continue to benefit in so many ways from my professional and personal community. I’m always learning from my professional friends and peers and pushing myself to find new ways of thinking. My personal network brings me so much joy and a feeling of belonging. It’s a virtuous cycle of giving and receiving, and I’m always looking for ways to give back.

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