From EE to VC: Eileen Tanghal’s Journey

Eileen Tanghal, cofounder of the enterprise capital agency Black Opal Ventures, didn’t got down to be a enterprise capitalist. {The electrical} engineer left her job at a semiconductor startup to pursue an MBA so she might higher perceive the enterprise aspect of expertise. Throughout a summer time break, she was chosen for an internship with a venture-capital firm that funded high-tech startups. Her engineering background bought her the place. Tanghal went on to work for a number of tech-focused VCs earlier than launching Black Opal in 2021.

“My cofounder, Tara Bishop, and I started as angel traders, investing our personal cash,” she says. “We invested primarily in early-stage startups, which means they had been nonetheless creating and validating their concept for a product and had raised little or no cash but.”

In 2022, Black Opal, primarily based in New York Metropolis, expanded to managing a fund that invests different individuals’s and establishments’ cash, primarily funding startups in well being care and life sciences.

Eileen Tanghal


Black Opal Ventures, New York Metropolis




MIT, London Enterprise Faculty

“We wish to enhance well being care accessibility and affordability,” Tanghal says. “To do that, we take a look at corporations working with rising applied sciences and in addition these making use of applied sciences which are nicely established in a single business however not but leveraged in well being care or life sciences.”

The IEEE member can be working to rent extra ladies and underrepresented minorities throughout the Black Opal portfolio, together with the advice of particular people for management positions throughout the corporations it funds. A various workforce, says Tanghal, produces probably the most inclusive and most worthwhile services.

From engineer to investor

Tanghal earned a bachelor’s diploma in electrical engineering and laptop science, with a minor in economics from MIT in 1997. The lessons she took on semiconductors led to her first job, at PDF Options, a startup semiconductor consultancy agency, in Santa Clara, Calif. She specialised in optimizing the method of constructing transistors and bettering manufacturing yields.

“My expertise at PDF included utilizing digital twins—that are digital representations of real-world merchandise and processes—to enhance growth, testing, and help of our merchandise,” she says. “I additionally did superior knowledge analytics to assist semiconductor producers enhance their fabrication yield.”

After PDF, she spent practically a yr as product supervisor at AllAdvantage, a short-lived Web promoting firm. Tanghal then determined to pursue an MBA from the London Enterprise Faculty.

“I knew I wanted to select up extra abilities with the intention to advance my profession in product administration,” she says. “It turned out I used to be one among a handful of scholars with a expertise background and startup expertise. Many classmates got here from investment-banking or consulting corporations.”

“There’s sturdy proof that female-managed U.S. funds outperform all-male managed funds. Rising the variety of feminine leaders isn’t simply the proper factor to do but in addition the good factor to do.”

A turning level got here when she utilized for a summer time internship with Amadeus Capital Companions, a London-based agency that invests in European high-tech corporations.

Considered one of Amadeus’s cofounders was Hermann Hauser. Earlier in his profession, he had cofounded Acorn Computer systems, which developed one of many first reduced-instruction-set private computer systems and had spun off the chip-design firm Arm. Throughout Tanghal’s interview, Hauser talked a few plastic semiconductor firm he had invested in. Drawing on her experiences at PDF, she requested him concerning the electron mobility in plastic versus silicon, which is a measure of semiconductor habits.

She later discovered her query made her stand out and bought her the internship, one among simply seven MBA college students out of round 100 to get a suggestion from Amadeus. After receiving her MBA in 2003, the corporate employed her as a junior member of its funding crew, and Hauser grew to become one among her mentors. She went on to work for different VCs, the place she invested in startups engaged on semiconductors, communications, imaging, and synthetic intelligence.

Most of the applied sciences Tanghal is at present investing in are ones she discovered about by her earlier job as managing director at In-Q-Tel, a not-for-profit enterprise capital agency in Menlo Park, Calif., that funds data expertise for U.S. and worldwide protection and intelligence businesses.

Tech information with business expertise

Profitable expertise investing requires information of a market’s wants in addition to the applied sciences which are or aren’t but being absolutely embraced, Tanghal says.

“Primarily based on my expertise of being a member of the board of administrators for 40 corporations, lots of as we speak’s expertise distributors wish to get into well being and life sciences, however few have the information of what these industries want,” she says. “And firms already in these fields typically don’t know what expertise is obtainable, or what’s already available on the market.”

For instance, as an investor, she seems to be at pharmaceutical corporations’ initiatives and the way they are often improved upon, equivalent to by drug discovery, the usage of new messenger RNA for vaccines, and different therapeutics.

A concentrate on range, fairness, and inclusion

Tanghal believes it’s the accountability of Black Opal and the businesses it really works with to assist enhance the variety of ladies and people from underrepresented teams in high-level funding positions.

“Lower than 6 % of VC corporations primarily based in the USA are led by ladies,” she notes. “There’s sturdy proof that female-managed U.S. funds outperform all-male managed funds. Rising the variety of feminine leaders isn’t simply the proper factor to do but in addition the good factor to do.”

By means of its Fellows Program, Black Opal hires MBA college students to work half time and teaches them about investing.

A lot of the recruiting for this system is completed by Tanghal and cofounder Tara Bishop. The corporate has six workers and an advisory board of seven.

“Within the 20 years I’ve been recruiting associates, this yr is the primary time that just about 70 % of the candidates had been ladies,” Tanghal says. She suspects that lots of the ladies candidates utilized as a result of “they noticed two ladies heading the agency.”

Another excuse for selling DEI, she says, is to make well being care extra equitable. “If ladies and minorities aren’t correctly represented on the board degree, the corporate’s merchandise could not deal with their well being points and different considerations.”

Recommendation for changing into an investor

Traditionally, high-tech venture-capital corporations tended to rent individuals who had an MBA. That’s now not the case, Tanghal says.

“These days you don’t need to have an MBA to develop into an investor,” she says, “as a result of now there’s extra alternatives to study investing. I want candidates who can dig deeper into the target-market sector and perceive the potential applied sciences being developed.”

One other method traders can enhance their understanding of a potential firm, she says, is to hunt out alternatives to “sit subsequent to the chief technical officer at a gathering and discuss to them about what they’re engaged on.” She additionally recommends doing on-line analysis and making the most of IEEE member sources and its networking occasions. For Tanghal, combining tech savvy with enterprise focus is the proper match.

“My ardour—and Black Opal’s focus—is to seek out or make new matches between applied sciences and health-care purposes, and to earn money for our traders whereas bettering well being take care of all.

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