Reshma Sohoni MBA’03J, co-founder and managing partner of Seedcamp, invests in founders who are using technology to solve global problems.
Q. What prompted you to pursue a degree at INSEAD?
I completed an undergraduate programme in both engineering and business at University of Pennsylvania/The Wharton School, so I was dead set against a two-year MBA programme. But I always considered an MBA to be a key step in my career. I was born in Asia and grew up in the United States, so I felt drawn to INSEAD as a way to expand my base further with European experience.
Q. How has being part of the INSEAD alumni network benefitted you?
INSEAD gave me instant credibility in a European ecosystem. I can’t imagine any other way I would have been able to be part of a network of European leaders that quickly. Some of my closest friends are INSEADers. I refer to it as a tribe—it is extremely strong and close. At Vodafone, we frequently recruited from INSEAD, and I would meet alumni across all corners of the company. Over my 10 years at Seedcamp, we have been one of the biggest backers of INSEAD entrepreneurs. I am extremely proud of our school and the role I get to play in our network.
Q. Has your career or life evolved as you expected?
I feel extremely lucky that they have. A few years ago, a close friend and a cousin told me that, when we were teenagers, I told them what kind of a life I would have. They were both so impressed that I did exactly what I said I’d do. I was shocked, because I’d completely forgotten those conversations. I suppose subconsciously I was working to a path I had envisioned for myself. My life and career are very joined up; both involve exploration, travel, curiosity, having a noticeable impact on the world, building relationships with people of different cultures and having quite a lot of fun. Like everyone, I can absolutely envision a “better tweak” of life and career, but there’s a forever tension between “better” and “happy” that is the result of how reality compares with expectations. I certainly feel I am doing what I was meant to do in both aspects, which makes me happy. And happy is far better than better.
Q. How have you made an impact in the world?
It has been an incredible honour to build Seedcamp from scratch with so many amazing mentors, partners and teammates. As an organisation that has invested in 300 companies, we have impacted the lives of millions of people—not just founders and their thousands of employees, but also their loved ones and customers. I know I am not directly saving lives, but it’s one of the next best things. We have backed people who might not have been able to build their businesses without our support and have gone on to help save and better the lives of millions.
Q. How do you use business as a force for good in your work?
One aspect that goes hand-in-hand with technology investing is that you are generally backing companies that will democratise access to certain products, services or benefits to large masses of people, rather than just the few in power. We also actively reach out to people who aren’t exposed to technology to get them working and benefitting from start-up jobs and products.
Q. What advice would you have for women at INSEAD who want to reach your level of success?
I often joke that, because I was immersed in a world of 99 percent men throughout my education and career, I forgot I was a woman. I was more self-conscious about being an Asian immigrant. Don’t focus too much on being a woman, but leverage all the opportunities you get for being a woman or a minority, because you are the best at what you do—better than anyone else. Opportunities come for all kinds of reasons, and being a woman or minority is no worse or better than being a man or being in an inner circle. Be confident and be open with everyone you meet. The more you share what you want out of life or a career, the more people will help you reach your goals.