Europe, Interviews

Marie Weijler – High-tech and Hardware Investor at Cottonwood Technology Fund

If you’re eager to learn and willing to go the extra mile, there are always opportunities for you.

Marie Weijler (1991) is the first woman on the investment team of Cottonwood Technology Fund, a Dutch-American venture capital firm specialized in high-tech and hardware. Furthermore, she is the Chief Legal Officer of LipoCoat, winner of the European Biotech Startup of 2019 Award. Marie is a honoree on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list 2019 in the Finance category. She is the first Dutch citizen who made it to the list in this category. She holds a LL.M degree in Corporate Law from Leiden University and a M.A. degree in European Studies (Social & Economic Policy) from KU Leuven.

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

I am the first woman on the investment team of Cottonwood Technology Fund, a Dutch-American venture capital fund. We invest in high-tech and hardware startups, e.g. robotics, photonics, medical technology and advanced materials. Our aim is to make innovative and sustainable technology available to the general public, while generating excellent financial returns.      

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

While in grad school, I worked full-time at a private investors network in Belgium to pay for my studies. I helped wealthy families with finding investment projects. In total, I sourced more than 100 investment projects in high-tech industries, and discovered my passion for investing in high-tech startups and helping them grow. When I moved back to the Netherlands for personal reasons, I sent an open application to Cottonwood Technology Fund because it’s one of the few investment firms in the country specialized in early stage high-tech and hardware, and the General Partner is one of the kindest and smartest people in venture capital I know. In the end, a position was created for me and now I’m the only Dutch woman who works as a hardware investor!

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

In the past five years, I have come across several technological innovations that blew my mind. For example, our portfolio company SoundEnergy converts heat into cooling without the use of harmful refrigerants or chemicals, thus saving electricity, emissions, and money. The heat conversion is done with their own thermoacoustic technology. Last year, Forbes published an article about SoundEnergy. It said: ‘This Dutch Startup Converts Heat Into Cold Via A Stirling Engine, And Could Just Save The Planet.’ 

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

When I think of women and technology, I feel proud of women’s contribution to technological innovation and grateful for being part of the women in tech community.  

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that, which steps should be done to achieve gender equality in tech?

I discovered that there are all kinds of jobs at tech companies, including jobs that don’t require a STEM degree.

First of all, school girls should receive more information about career opportunities in tech. In high school I got the impression that one must be a math genius in order to work in tech. I struggled with math, so I believed a career in tech was not an option for me. It was through my job in the investment industry that I discovered that there are all kinds of jobs at tech companies, including jobs that don’t require a STEM degree.

Secondly, I show young girls and women how much I love my work. When women see other women who are very happy with their job, doing well and enjoying career-building in tech, I think it encourages them to choose a similar career path. That’s why I like sharing my positive experiences and showing the amazing opportunities I have in tech and venture capital.

How different would our world be if more women worked in STEM?

Gender diversity results in a larger talent pool for what we want to achieve in STEM. Marie Curie developed the first mobile radiography units to provide X-ray services and Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer algorithm. Inventions by women and minorities have changed the world for the better.

Which was the best decision in your career?

If I had not sent an open application, I would have probably missed out on my dream job. 

The best decision in my career so far was to send an open application to Cottonwood Technology Fund. There was no vacancy, but I tried it anyway. I knew the General Partner from industry events and I wanted to work for him, because I knew I could learn so much from him and that he would help me grow as a professional. In the end, a position was created for me. The moral of this story is to always take initiative. If I had not sent an open application, I would have probably missed out on my dream job.    

What advice would you give to women who want a tech career?

A STEM degree is helpful when you want to work in tech, but it’s not always required. Many employers offer training on the job. You could take (online) classes to acquire skills necessary for a promotion. If you’re eager to learn and willing to go the extra mile, there are always opportunities for you. And once you work in tech, ask your boss what the specific requirements are for employee promotion so you can work towards fulfilling these criteria.     

Marie Weijler (1991) is the first woman on the investment team of Cottonwood Technology Fund, a Dutch-American venture capital firm specialized in high-tech and hardware. Furthermore, she is the Chief Legal Officer of LipoCoat, winner of the European Biotech Startup of 2019 Award. Marie is a honoree on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list 2019 in the Finance category. She is the first Dutch citizen who made it to the list in this category. She holds a LL.M degree in Corporate Law from Leiden University and a M.A. degree in European Studies (Social & Economic Policy) from KU Leuven.

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