Catherine Robson is a wealth strategist with over 20 years’ experience in financial services. Having made a few investments of her own, Catherine participated in our VC Catalyst program in 2019 to continue to hone her skills and establish a clearer investment strategy moving forward.

‘I was just bumbling along learning by doing so there were a couple of real ‘a-ha’ moments about just genuinely understanding the stages of capital and then mapping that against what sorts of companies, development, and capital there is.’

A key component of the VC Catalyst program is all about helping you nail your investment thesis. This is a foundational document that guides every decision you make about your investment portfolio — what you invest in, for how long, and why. For Catherine, having the chance to get this down on paper and be clear about her intentions was an enormous benefit of the program.

“I think my investment thesis had been an internal dialogue, and being forced to actually think about it more deeply and then articulate it, and particularly having to articulate it in front of an audience, was really helpful. It’s a really supportive environment for people to challenge you on it to get you to really tease out the bits that either do or don’t make sense.”

Catherine’s investment portfolio is something she manages on the side, and so naturally her investing wasn’t getting her full attention. VC Catalyst gave Catherine the space to truly focus on her portfolio, time that is so important but isn’t always easy to find.

“Even just being immersed with a group of people who are all into early-stage investing was really beneficial to accelerate my own learning, but also to apply a level of focus that I hadn’t previously been able to. I feel much more confident to lean into it because I’ve gone through that crucible of really concentrating on it for a bit so that now, on the other side of that, I feel more confident.”

Another bonus of being so immersed with the VC Catalyst participants, Catherine says, was tapping into such a vast investor network and building connections that have only strengthened her decision-making and investment opportunities.

“The network of VC Catalyst has connected me with other investment groups and other people that I want to invest with, and I’m now in a position where I can write more cheques because I’ve got much better access to deal flows. It doesn’t mean I’ve deployed lots and lots of additional capital, but rather it has given me a much greater capacity to learn by doing and to learn from other investors.

Catherine is the chair of Scale Investors, the angel investing network which invests exclusively in gender diverse startups in order to create a world where access to opportunities are not limited by gender. She is passionate about supporting women in entrepreneurship not only through investment but also through high quality education. What are some of the assumptions about female founders that Catherine believes may be holding us back? 

“I think there’s a bit of a perception that female founders are all shopping apps. I think there’s also a bit of a perception of, ‘well, I don’t invest in female founders because I don’t do direct-to-consumer.’ I think there needs to be open-mindedness about, well, maybe I haven’t seen someone who’s a female founder and a nuclear physicist yet, but it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t consider investing in it.

Despite these misconceptions, Catherine says the growing interest in the female founder space is an exciting trend that she hopes continues to gain momentum. 

“The most encouraging trend is there’s just so much more interest. And interest coupled with genuine appetite to invest. So the fact that Melanie Perkins (CEO and co-founder of Canva) has transcended into the general public consciousness—you can’t be what you can’t see. The more that happens, I think the more women and girls will think that’s something that might be relevant for them. And then the more investors think, “Well, I’ll back a female founder, because I would love to have the returns that the early investors in Canva generated.

And when it comes to using your investing to affect change for women and girls, Catherine is all for it. She sees her investment strategy as her small way of helping shape the future as she would like it to be. 

“I think the best way to prove that it’s a good idea to invest in women and to provide women with capital to go and do amazing entrepreneurial things is to actually generate fantastic returns. So if you’re a good investor and you generate fabulous returns with a gender diverse portfolio, then you’re demonstrating why the model is something that other people should follow. And then you have the leverage effect of more people. So it’s not just about getting my dollars. I’m hoping that my dollars then catalyse other people to invest in the space that then creates the world I want to live in.