People of Landscape - Dama Sathianathan

Dama is Partner at Bethnal Green Ventures, Europe's leading early-stage tech for good VC, and co-hosts the LDN Tech for Good, WorkerTech, and ICT4D London meetups. Just a couple of weeks ago she was also recognised by UK Business Angels Association as the Investment in Diversity Champion 2022!

How long have you been an investor for?

Five years as an early-stage investor, several years as Director of a CIC, lifetime as a worker in the non-profit sector.

What's your backstory on how you came to be an investor?

I probably had a bit of an unconventional journey in becoming an investor and hope we’ll see many more examples of unconventional VCs emerge. For the last decade I’ve worked in the social impact space, and only moved to the for-profit and private sector in 2017. I stumbled into VC and my role at BGV by going to the London Tech for Good meetup (which I now run – so I’ve come full circle). I was feeling quite jaded with the use of technology in the non-profit world and found lots of inspiration from founders and investors speaking at the meetups. Luckily when I started looking for a new role, a job opened at BGV that I heard about at one of the meetups. Because BGV used a blind recruitment process, I felt reassured that any applicant would be chosen by merit, regardless of their background. So I applied and luckily got the job. Since then, my experience in tech for good across the returns spectrum has really come in handy to support founders from all walks of life who want to build an impactful and profitable business at scale.

What has been your highlight as an investor?

A constant highlight is when founders find time spent with BGV valuable.

How did you come across Landscape?

I met Joe virtually when he first started reaching out to VCs to get on Landscape and was immediately convinced of the value it brings to founders.

What's the biggest mistake you’ve made so far and what did you learn from it?

My biggest regret was not thinking about the consequences of saying no to first time founders. This industry dictates that you might say no to founders more often than yes, but I had to really come to grips with how devastating a no can be for underrepresented founders who are not familiar with this industry. Since then, we’ve changed the way we communicate to founders and try to signpost to other sources of funding when it’s not possible for BGV to invest in them. We’ve created an impact investor database with more than 170+ investors to help more founders access value-aligned capital, because ultimately, we want to see more founders thrive.

Piece of advice you would give to founders?

Please research the investment approach and ticket size of investors, especially when you’re reaching out to them cold. It shows you understand the investor you’re reaching out to, and it’s not a mass email exercise for you. If you don’t know what their investment approach or ticket size is, ask them over email, research it using Crunchbase, Dealroom or other data providers or reach out to founders who they previously invested in. Try figuring out the fund mechanics if you can (here’s a primer on the topic from Jyri Engeström), it will save you a lot of time and help you engage with the right investors for your round.

Most frustrating thing you find about the startup fundraising ecosystem?

Warm intros

What you would like to see change in the startup fundraising ecosystem within the next 5 years?

I’d love to see more representation at partner level in VC, more first-time founders access capital without needing warm intros. And hopefully more exited founders doing angel and LP investments into tech for good businesses.

Dama is a Partner at Bethnal Green Ventures. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here and follow her on Twitter here. She's happy to be contacted via both social media sites or on email at dama@bethnalgreenventures.com. Just drop her a message 💬.












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