05 Dec Getting Over Rejection – Interview with Eileen Tanghal
Listen To The Episode Here
Eileen Tanghal is the Vice President of New Business Exploration and New Business Ventures at ARM, a UK-listed chip designer. Eileen shares tips on overcoming imposter syndrome, why there’s a lack of women in venture capital, and she even dives into China’s startup culture. Eileen believes good entrepreneurs have resilience, but they also know when it’s time to move on after receiving enough rejections from investors.
Getting Over Rejection – Interview with Eileen Tanghal
Hi. Welcome to The Successful Pitch podcast. Today’s guest is Eileen Tanghal. Eileen has an amazing background. She was named in the Global Corporate Venturing Power List of 2014. She was one of the general managers of Applied Ventures and has her career soar. She’s had over nineteen years of experience working with early stage technology companies across the globe.
She led several tech investments and collaborative partnerships with companies before joining Applied Ventures, she was an investment director in the London office of a venture firm Kennet Partners. Before that, she was an investment associate at Amadeus Capital. She has been in-charged of a $200 million portfolio with over 40 companies. Now, she is the VP of new business expiration at ARM, which is a semiconductor IP design firm in the Valley. Eileen, welcome to the show.
Thanks so much.
I’m so impressed when someone’s been doing something globally, like you are, with your MBA from London Business School and your BS in Electronic Engineering and a Computer Science degree from MIT. You are one of the few women who have that kind of technical background and are in the venture capital world. What do you think that is all about, that that there’s so few women doing what you’re doing?
I’ve had this question a number of times. The first thing that people really talk about is the pipeline problem within STEM and that there are just so few women studying electrical engineering, computer science. I’m here to dispel that. I went to an MIT reunion of electronics and computer science majors in San Francisco just a couple of months ago. The chair of the department told me for the first time, out of the sophomores declaring their major, half of them are women. That’s of course up from the ten percent. I struggle to see the pipeline issue that many are talking about.
What I think is more of the issue is, there’s not enough advocacy of women getting into that venture capital field. My own experience was that the head of the firm that I first worked for, the co-founder, woman named Anne Glover. She made it her goal and mission to find young women who she could mentor and build up. She herself is the first BVCA female chairman. Standing for British Venture Capital Association. There’s not enough advocacy.
How do you that? You probably need to start programs, Kauffman Fellows is one of them, where you encourage women to look at venture capital, to understand what it’s about, to see that really this isn’t an old boys club that people from certain schools that have certain degrees and certain connections can only get into. It is open for everyone. Again, unless I had had that mentor, someone really pushing me up, I wouldn’t have known to have gone into this field or how to be successful in it.
I’ve also heard the, I won’t name who but let’s just say, very famous venture capitalist told me the reason why it’s hard for women to be venture capitalists is because they don’t have the connections into the startup column guys. Of course, the reality is that the majority of startups are going to be these male engineers coming from certain schools. That is true, that’s unfortunately, I think, still true because of maybe the risk appetite. What he told me is that women, they don’t know how to therefor relate to that or have those guys talk to them and be comfortable talking to them.
I think that’s hogwash honestly. Last time I checked, they have no problem talking to a women and telling that woman what they’re doing. I think that if you have that mentality, that’s going to stop. This person is a very, very senior person in the industry who said that to me. You need to dispel those, whether they’re conscious or unconscious biases, and then you need advocacy to try to bring women up and show them that this is possible. I can tell you, there is a dearth of female VCs. It’s very, very hard to find any … I think it starts with you got to have advocates, you have to have training, you have to show them, bring them in as analysts and associates and then show them they can be successful.
I think that’s great, especially since you had a mentor that allowed you to get into this world, I’m guessing that you’re a mentor yourself. Is that true?
I try to be. I think at Applied, before I came over to ARM, where I am now, I did recruit a woman into our India office. I did try to train her in the industry. That was my way of maybe giving back. Yes, I do a lot of informal mentoring but formal mentorship, I’m trying to get into. The one thing that’s interesting is that whenever you think of the word mentoring, sometimes you think it’s just about women coming up.
I’ll share an interesting fact with you. People who are just my peers and maybe even a couple years younger, for whatever reason they lack confidence sometimes so I do a lot of maybe talking to other women who are my peer level, trying to explain to them, “You were a lot more qualified than perhaps you’re making yourself out to be.” There’s a lot of studies on this, about when a job requisition is out, a female will not apply unless she meets 100% and a male will apply if he meets like half or less than half. There are studies.
There’s a lot of women thinking that they’re impostors, not really realizing how much they’ve accomplished. I’ll give you just an interesting case in point. I have a very close niche set of girl friends from MIT. These are very, very accomplished. They went to the hardest schools, some of them have PhDs. I don’t. There was this confidence test, how confident are you? Roughly eight or nine of us all took this. Seven of them are in the non-confident.
This is like, “You have a PhD from Cornell, a PhD from NYU. You are near the top of your field and you don’t …” Thanks to my parents and my mentors, I am more on the confident side. They make fun of me and the other one that happened to be on there. The rest of us are going, “I don’t understand how this can be your view of yourself.” Very interesting.
A lot mentoring, yes, you mentor the young women. I’m very proud I have a niece who is currently at the Stanford Coding Camp and she’s one of just a few women. She told me she wanted to be a lawyer or the president, which of course is very heartening to me. Of course I’m going, “You should be a venture capitalist.” I’m trying to explain to her what it is. Start early like that.
You got to start somewhere. Sure.
She has a lot of confidence and I think that’s from her parents. For the girl friends that don’t, you need to help them out and say, “You’re a lot more than what you think you are.” It is really amazing how often I have to do that, and a bit sad.
It’s a subject near and dear to my heart Eileen, because I work with clients all the time. I’m telling them the importance of being confident when you pitch to investors like you. If you got a founder that doesn’t have any confidence, pitching to an investor that doesn’t feel confident in who they are, it’s a lose-lose situation. Everyone has to feel confident in who they are and what they bring to the table.
That’s right because we can tell. If you don’t feel confident, you may actually have a wonderful product and a really well executed plan but we’re getting a vibe like you don’t know what you’re talking about so then you turn off unconsciously.
Let’s take a little deeper dive into that concept of feeling like an impostor. I think everyone has a sense of that, even with the most accomplishments, whether it’s a PhD from a top school or a successful exit from another company. What is it, something inside has to snap and turn the switch for you to finally feel like you’re enough and that it’s no longer an impostor? Do you have any insights on how you have done that?
Yes. I have had a lot of help in that. I have a really supportive family around me, especially my parents. They are complimenting me constantly. I think sometimes it actually does take someone outside to point out to you what you have done. It was nice to get some of these awards because of course you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t realize you noticed that I had done all that.”
One of these books, What Works for Women at Work. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that book, which I think every single women should read. It’s true for everyone. A lot of women unfortunately face this ‘prove it again bias’, meaning you’ve done it before but you didn’t do it here so do it again. One way to combat that is as soon as someone gives you a compliment or recognizes what you have done, you should ask them to write it down and email it to yourself. You should keep a little bit of a book like that.
I love that.
When I’m feeling a bit down, I look back at some of those. The other thing is, I’ve just been on this leadership class. There’s something called a ‘reflected best self exercise.’ You ask your peers, not just business peers but of course people outside, when have you seen me being my best? They answer and they’ll explain. I have fortunately received that from people I work with, from my friends. Again, anytime you’re feeling a bit down, you read the reflected best self, these things that people have recognized that you’ve accomplished.
That little voice of, “You don’t know what you’re doing,” will eventually get drowned out because you’re going, “Self, look at what other people are saying.” A lot of it should be aid self-confidence buildup. That is good too. I think, what is my advice for, “Look, Eileen. I don’t want to ask 100 people to talk about how great they think I am. I want to find it in myself.” I think a lot of self-reflection, meditation, writing down what you’ve done, that will help. Again, definitely, when other people are commenting, it’s nice. It drowns out any doubt.
I love that analogy of drowning it out. To me, it’s that great story of if you pour enough clean water into a bowl of dirty water, it will eventually get clean. That same concept with enough positive reinforcement internally and externally will drown out that negative self-talk.
For me, I always want to be liked for sure. A friend of mine, very wise friend was saying, “Look, not everyone’s going to like you. You are going to encounter situations where it isn’t going to go your way.” A lot of it too is just to say, “Look, it happened. Accept it. Move on.” That moving on part, not dwelling in the past or living for the future but living in the moment is also extremely important I think, not to keep you down if you face some setback or crisis or confidence issue.
That’s what it takes to be an entrepreneur and a founder, doesn’t it? Especially when you’re pitching and getting a lot of no’s from potential investors, you have to let it go. You can’t drag in that negative no or feedback from a previous investor to your next pitch.
Absolutely right. I think one thing that entrepreneurs should see is, you know what the Midas list is, the list of people who have done the best investments. I think there used to be something called the anti-Midas list, which was venture capitalists were listing the top ten or fifteen deals that they turned down, which of course ended up becoming wonderful companies. As an entrepreneur, you just got to keep that in mind. We’re human too, we make mistakes. We wake up, we get out of bed every day and have a certain mood when we get to see you.
It’s just like the movie studio business. There’s certain executives that turn down hit movies.
That’s right. You just got turned down by somebody, you go look and say, “Person missed this deal and that deal and maybe they’ve just missed mine. Move on.” It’s usually never personal. It is never personal I think. Unless you’re some fraudulent … That’s different. It’s normally, there’s no X factor or there’s no, “I’ve seen that a million times or I lost money in that already before and I don’t want to take the chance,” whatever it is. Keep going. Resilience is extremely important. Definitely, entrepreneurs need to have a high reserve of resilience.
I like that. A high reserve of resilience. We’ll tweet that out. Eileen, you heard so many pitches in your career. What makes a good pitch to you?
Remember, I was a venture capitalist in both Europe and here in the US.
Tell us about the differences.
Of course, the European style is much more understated. If you go there and you’re expecting the typical, The Garage Guys and Art Of The Start and sort of, “We’re going to be the Uber of dry cleaning or whatever,” that’s very American. Extremely American I’d say. I don’t want to say, “Yes, you should use a one liner to describe what your business model is and comparing it to a successful business and therefor you will get everybody’s attention.” Yes, there’s place for that.
That’s really nice because it shows enthusiasm and you’ve got it down succinctly, you understand your high value problem, you’re explaining why you have a unique solution and then the correct team that you’ve hired. If you hit all those elements, that’s really nice. I love it when I see that. “We are blah, blah, blah. We have the five world experts. We are 10X about our competition. The TAM is a couple billion dollars and growing 50%. We’re going to take that. Just in case you didn’t realize, people in our industry who’ve already exited 10X.” There’s that. That is very American style pitch.
What I really like about some of the other pitches, some of the really good entrepreneurs, they tease you a little bit. They go, “We think this is …” Then some of the venture capitalist just start talking and they just let them talk and they go, “Yeah, actually we’ve seen that.” Then they’d come out with another piece of information that directly addressed whatever the thing was the venture capitalist had an issue with. I love when that happens to me actually because I’m like, “Oh God, that person really just put me in place.” Because it’s like, wow.
After you feel like you’ve looked at 20 pitches of the same thing, you go, “I know where this is going.” They say something and then they wait and then you start chiming in like, “Well, blah, blah, blah. Last time I looked at that pitch, that didn’t work. I invested in this company and they never got the X or Y, Z to work.” They just let you talk. In that stop they go, “It turns out, we’ve done ABC to address those problems and we’ve hit it.” I love that. I really, really love that. That’s my favorite because it’s like, he or she totally anticipated what I was going to ask him or her and nailed it. A lot of that is because the entrepreneur did research about me knowing what boards I sat on, knowing what companies I looked at, knowing what I’ve invested in or looked at and what my issues are.
When they come, this is not, “Who are you, Eileen? Explain yourself to me.” It’s like, “She sat on the board of Plastic Logic. She has probably severe biases against doing anything plastic semiconductors. Let me find out a little more about what went wrong there and then explain why I have a breakthrough in plastic semiconductors that is going to blow her mind.”
Like I said, that’s my favorite.
It’s basically anticipating the questions the investor will you and having really great answers to it. You’re doing your due diligence on the investor like an investor does due diligence on you.
That is the best. It’s not for flattery. I don’t really like that. Some entrepreneurs will do that. “Oh, I saw that da, da, da, da, da.” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s nice. Tell me why I’m going to like your thing better than what I’ve invested in before.”
I see you also have done some work with China at ARM. Can you tell us what’s going on with China?
China represents obviously a huge opportunity, not just for ARM, but for everyone. The pace at which innovation acceleration is happening is I believe faster than the Valley. There are some articles that are saying the typical cycle here might be five to seven years for startup, from start to transformation or exit, meaning IPO exit. I think there, it might be four, three or four years.
One is, we use a term called China speed. It’s probably used by a lot of people. What’s been fascinating is indeed the speed at which things are getting done, things are being innovated, ideas are coming in. I’m very proud that ARM has basically started an accelerator last year to help accelerate IOT startups in China. It was announced in China but not necessarily worldwide yet.
We are working on a fund there to invest in next generation technologies that are home grown. Not made in the US and transferred over, which is the second point, which is this mentality of we do everything here in the US or in the west and then we localize it for China. That’s not going to work. You need to, made in China for China.
It’s a cultural thing, isn’t it?
I think there’s lots of talents there to do it. It’s much faster.
When you say China speed, faster than even Silicon Valley. Is it twice as fast? Five times as fast?
It’s about, I think, 50% faster is my view. There is a sales guy here that has explained it like building a boat. Some cultures or one nation, when they’re trying to build a boat, they would put some architecture plans together, the materials, and they put it together and then they sail it. Others might look at several architectural plans, several types, try different experiments and then sail it. When they’re saying about China is they throw the wood and assemble the boat.
Got it. As it’s floating out the sea.
It’s go first then think later. You could say that seems irresponsible but actually I might argue that that’s the, talk about, lean model or fail fast. That’s definitely that model like, “Oh, guess I’m not floating. These pieces of wood are not coming together.”
I love that.
There’s a lot of them.
What you just gave us Eileen, is a great example of storytelling. Painting that picture of the difference between China speed versus Silicon Valley speed with the boat analogy. The more people put analogies and stories into their pitches, the more memorable it is and the more compelling it is. Thank you for that wonderful example.
What is the type of company you like to invest in? Now, as a venture capitalist, I’m guessing you need to see certain amounts of revenue. It’s not seed funding where you’re pre revenue, correct?
I’ll talk in an ARM context. We at ARM are stage agnostic. Above and beyond, it should be strategic to us. Publicly, you’ll see that ARM of course is the architecture for most of the mobile devices out there. We are moving into IOT or actually already in IOT, so many of IOT type devices are ARM powered. We are incubating some businesses within ARM that are more on the software side of IOT. If you have a business that is related to connecting people, devices.
What we like to say is that we want to provide technology invisibly, and that’s why a lot of people don’t know who ARM is because we try to be behind the scenes. Provide technology invisibly to enable a global connected population. If you have a piece of technology, whether it’d be software or semiconductor IP, we’re interested. Like I said, we’re stage agnostic. That is what ARM’s trying to do.
I think as most people perhaps know, when you got to corporate, it is very important that you have an executive sponsor for the investment. It’s not really about the stage, it’s about to what level are you, number one, related to ARM’s core strategy? Number two, to what extent does the executive sponsor believe he or she can influence you to be successful with ARM rather than without ARM?
How does a founder get an executive sponsor? Warm introductions?
I think the corporate development team or the incubation team or the new business venture team is like myself. We will facilitate those. We are acting like maybe the first filter. What I do is when I see something then definitely I will involve the next person and then that person will then bring it up to the exec. Because as you know, the execs within corporates are very, very busy doing their day jobs of selling. There are a couple of empowered groups and people who are able to look at a number of ideas, filter them down to a couple that they believe will make sense and then push those forward with the executive they work for or another executive. That’s how it works within ARM. I don’t want to generalize other companies.
We’ll just focus on ARM.
But in ARM’s case, that’s the way.
Can you give us a story or an example of some company that got an executive sponsor and is involved with connecting devices and people together that you heard that pitch and you went, “This is something that fits our strategy and we want to invest in it.” Now, they’re off and running and it’s already public that you funded them?
We have, in the connected device realm, we’ve actually made more acquisitions and investments. This connected device theme is pretty recent. That’s maybe the last two or three years. We acquired a company called Sensinode three years ago and we acquired a company called Sansa a year ago.
Tell us a little bit about what are those companies. What made it so compelling?
Sensinode is a connectivity platform for IOT devices. It’s to allow you to securely connect a device up to our platform. We have embed device services platform, which allows OEMs to securely create, deploy and provision IOT devices. Sensinode was really the connectivity layer, some security, some registry part. Sansa, which we bought last year, really allowed for the security. They had some novel IP for securing it, making sure the device was secured, as well as provisioning software to allow for the customer to provision, to say, “This device is a trusted entity in your network.”
If you want to think of it as we’re looking for technologies that can help each one of those verbs that I’ve just said, which is create, connect, secure, deploy, monitor, analyze IOT devices, that’s the spread of what we are looking at. I’m trying to think, the other companies that are related in which I believe it’s public is we are investors in a company called Trestonic. I’m trying to think of anything else as public. I don’t think there is except for Sansa, Sensinode and Trestonic.
The rest are in negotiations.
In the non IOT world and just looking at advanced semiconductors, we made an investment in a company called Pragmatic, which is about next generation plastic semiconductors. That’s an example of someone within the research group having an idea, reaching out to this company, bring it up through the CTOs organization and then the CTO ultimately sponsoring the investments and us having joint work with that company.
Apart from the connected device realm, which new business ventures, which I’m in, focuses on, there are other areas of interests within ARM. Specifically, even in the CTO and researches group around memory, next generation semis, people who are familiar with semiconductors and chips would probably … Next generation servers. That’s business as usual in terms of what ARM does. This connected is a newer, new business strategy that we’re focused on.
How wonderful for the early investors like Sansa for ARM to acquire them. That’s the ultimate successful exit, boy.
Eileen, I love what you’ve said about confidence, getting over the impostor syndrome, getting over rejection and having what you call a high reserve of resilience. Most importantly, really anticipating the questions that you’re going to get asked when you go in to pitch. That’s been really, really helpful. We’re going to post this book that you recommended, What Works for Women at Work as one of the books that people should check out. How can people follow you? What’s your Twitter and all that good stuff?
I’ve been a little bit remiss to tweeting. My Twitter is @ETanghalVC. That is where I tend to post things. I also am avid an Facebook poster but I’m limited who I add. I sometimes post on LinkedIn so if you want to connect with me on LinkedIn. My @ETanghalVC, my tendency is to post quite a lot of things regarding women and venture capital.
You want to know about that? Then definitely become one of my followers.
Great. Thanks so much, Eileen. It’s been a pleasure.
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