My name is Chenelle Ansah and I am one of a few Black women at Partner level in Venture Capital in the UK. I am on a personal mission to change this, there should be more of us! I am the firstborn to a working-class Ghanaian family. Statistics say that I should not be where I am today, but defying the odds is important.
I recently met an old friend who asked, “what made you make the choices you’ve made in life and attain your achievements?”. My response was ‘there has always been a niggling voice inside of me that said you can be better and so I did. I’ve listened to that voice my whole life and it’s led me to achieve great things.
When I was young I was very much a creative and used to teach dance and studied textiles and fashion. The agreement between me and my parents was that I could study fashion as long as I kept up my A-level grades in Business, Economics and IT and I didn’t. I did terribly in my exams and failed because I spent most of my time dreaming about becoming a fashion designer. I then dropped fashion and ended up focusing on Business Management in College and then Business Management and Accounting at Brunel University on an excellence scholarship. Despite my creative youth and dreams of becoming a fashion designer, I was very interested in business and entrepreneurship and more importantly ‘making money’. During my degree at university, I took a gap year and landed a job at Society General’s Investment Bank and graduated two years later and ended up in a similar role. I didn’t last very long as an Investment Banker as I didn’t enjoy it and switched to being a Management Consultant selling Tech and delivering digital transformation programmes. I chose this career because I enjoy problem solving, and working in teams?
This was an amazing role for a young 20-something-year-old me, as I worked all over the world. I soon opened my own consultancy, Nell Consulting, specialising in building digital banks that were Venture Capital backed. Whilst I enjoyed the work that I was doing, it became apparent that I was often the only Black woman in the room and for me, this had to change. I then joined Cornerstone Partners, the UK’s first Black owned investment firm investing in early-stage tech companies owned by Black and Diverse teams. My role as a Partner and the Head of Cornerstone Partners was the start of my adventure into the world of Venture Capital, but more importantly it opened my eyes to the disparity and inequity in the industry.
The industry of Venture Capital has been considered to be somewhat elite and inaccessible. The jobs are not advertised, and we were not taught about this industry in school. In 2020 a report produced by Extend Ventures published that only 0.24% of venture capital funding went to black-owned start-ups and of this, 0.02% went to black women. This needs to change and the only way that this will change is if there are more Black women writing cheques.
If I could speak to my younger self I would say – don’t be afraid to take up space and shine. Do not minimise yourself to make others feel confident. Shine, because it’s your God-given right to do so!
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