Ginette Oebel, ’13 (EXP-18)
Ginette Oebel, ‘13 (EXP-18)
Interviewed by Nora Peterson
Ginette Oebel, '13 (EXP-18), started her career at HSBC in banking and worked 10 years as a COO of a corporate finance boutique in Germany. In 2017 she co-founded Basinghall Partners, a London-based investment advisor for a venture capital fund that invests in digital enablers of traditional industries.
You co-founded Basinghall Partners with another Booth alum. Can you tell us about how and why you started the fund?
The initial Basinghall idea came up during a Chicago Booth gathering where we discussed how more and more alumni are taking an entrepreneurial path and that there was a need for a European-based VC fund. The idea stuck in our heads and we started to think about an investment strategy.
Leading up to this, I had already worked with my Basinghall Partners co-founder, Andrew Irvine ’08 (EXP-13) for almost 5 years. A particularly challenging project we had worked on had poor results, despite our hard work and good intentions. We were engaged to help a ‘traditional industry’ corporation to finance and structure their digitalization activities as a necessary push for their business model. The idea was spot-on, but we realized execution was impossible due to organizational culture and politics. A good initiative was literally killed by an inflexible corporate structure. We learned very quickly that innovative and disruptive ideas often fail because of corporate culture.
From this experience, the investment thesis for Basinghall tech fund was born. Our objective is to invest into early stage companies that offer digitalization solutions to traditional companies. Investment candidates are European, high tech with a proof of concept.
Why the name Basinghall Partners?
Basinghall Street is where the Chicago Booth London Campus is based. The name shows our deep connection and gratitude to our educational backbone.
In essence, without the Chicago Booth curriculum, Basinghall wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t even have the approach or similarly-minded partners to consider a project of this size and possible influence. The Booth experience gradually shifted my horizon and pushed me out of my comfort zone simply by being exposed to the network, the thinking and the drive. Professionally, it needed the network of people outside of my long-established relationships. For example, I had the pleasure to attend Ron Burt’s Strategic Leadership in Management Networks class, which shaped the path for me to become an entrepreneur, and Basinghall is the result of changing the network approach.
What's next in store for your fund?
The intention is to build off the research and initiation of the first fund vehicle. We’ve followed this with an affiliated entity, Basinghall Innovation Circle (BiC), allowing for value add discovery between corporate incumbents and early stage technology innovation. We see a significant demand for our approach combining a venture fund with an active industry club. We realized that smaller companies understand the pressure to innovate, but have challenges finding the right approach. Through curated events and introductions, BiC supports collaboration.
As a woman VC in Europe, what, if any, challenges have you faced?
Setting up a Venture Fund in Europe is very difficult. You face a lot of resistance regarding the asset class itself and being a first-time fund closes many doors. It took a lot of critical thinking and extra miles to come to the point where we are now.
I see an increasing amount of great initiatives to support female founders, but on the investing side there is still a lot of work to be done to level the playing field. It sometimes appears that women are accepted doing investor relations than being a General Partner responsible for investment decisions, in particular if the underlying investment is in tech and not, for example, fashion.
Any advice for women looking to enter the VC world?
I don’t think anyone should enter the VC world just because it is currently the flavor of the month. We need to build on our experience to add value—it is about the personal product offering. In my case I could build on my structuring, deal making and industry experience. That, in combination with the other team members’ past career path, added to a consistent story.
Second, an entrepreneurial route is, most of the time, not as glamorous as it sounds. It took me longer to adjust than I expected, even with my background. It is constant push-and-pull to make things happen. There are many times where I have admired my friends for their stable career paths.
Third, a good team is key and can turn an even difficult business model into a success; a brilliant business idea will not survive with the wrong team. Starting a company is an intense experience and quickly shows your own—and other people’s—limitations. It is important to surround yourself with diverse people and thinking, and ones who share the same value set.
Finally, I am a big believer in mentoring models. I was fortunate that I had a few mentors in my life helping me on a higher level to keep track, expand my horizon and inspire me. Those people were all very experienced, driven by an extreme amount of positive energy and outside of my day-to-day business life. In moments of doubt and frustration, those exchanges made the all difference to me.
Do you have a personal motto you live by?
“Every moment matters.” When you start on an entrepreneurial journey, your mind is focused on one specific goal, e.g., raising money, launching a product, reaching a stable business model. It is easy to forget everything around you or get heavily frustrated when things take longer or turn out differently, which is what always happens. I found a great source of energy and inspiration from being grateful for each single experience, and still making time to be present with my family and friends.
Entrepreneurship is a journey; it took time to embrace and enjoy the process, but this patience has helped me become more confident, calmer and fulfilled.
How can Booth alumni learn more about you?
I would encourage everyone to reach out, via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or LinkedIn. I am naturally interested in any investment possibilities within our thesis, tech, industry knowledge or investors who want to be part of an interesting journey. I am happy to connect and discuss!