I'm a VC who stopped hiding my disability at 31. It's made me a more insightful and resilient investor.
- Bérénice Magistretti is an investor, writer, and disabilities advocate based in London.
- She decided to become a
VCand spent over a year and a half searching for the perfect role.
How do you envision a life when you're losing your sight? It's not easy, believe me.
When I was 18, I got diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa — a form of retinal degeneration that causes the photo receptors in the eyes to gradually degenerate, leading to blind spots in the vision and partial night blindness. The diagnosis was brutal as there wasn't a treatment back then, nor is there one now.
But rather than spend my time sulking, I pushed myself (sometimes a bit too hard) to prove that I wouldn't be limited by my
I love my job, but getting here wasn't easy. For the longest time, I tried to hide my disability from others, which wasn't hard as I have what's known as an "invisible" disability — when there's nothing external, like a wheelchair or a cane, that signals a disability.
But it took a lot of energy to hide it and because no one knew, my tripping and bumping into things made it look as though I was drunk or clumsy. Then one day it hit me: Why not openly share my struggle and journey with others?
I officially 'came out' about having a disability at 31, and the response was overwhelmingly heartwarming
Many people reached out to thank me for sharing and in return shared their own struggles, including an angel investor who's partially deaf and a young VC who's also visually impaired. But while opening up about it helped me on an emotional level, it's still tricky for me to (literally) navigate everyday life.
A few months ago, I met with a prominent angel investor at a Soho House here in London. The place was incredibly dark and I literally couldn't see where I was going, so I had to call him and ask him to come and help me.
It was both embarrassing and destabilizing to have to rely on a complete stranger for help going up the stairs and around the corners. I arrived at the table flushed and sweating, trying to regroup my thoughts. Thankfully, the investor was an incredibly cool guy who was extremely gracious about the whole thing.
While these moments are disheartening, they also help me build up an incredible amount of resilience
Experiences like these have taught me to define the limits of my abilities, adapt to changing environments, and learn to thrive on the outcome. In some ways, it's similar to what many founders go through with the highs and lows of building a company: adapt, pivot when needed, and keep moving forward.
On a lighter note, the unpredictability of certain places and situations can also lead to some amusing encounters.
Just before the pandemic, I was invited to an Index Ventures event in London. The venue was very dark so I couldn't see well. At one point, I approached two men who were casually chatting and joined in on the conversation without seeing who they were (I couldn't read the name tags, either). Turns out it was Neil Rimer, a founding partner of Index Ventures, and Nikolay Storonsky, the cofounder and CEO of Revolut. I chuckled to myself upon realizing this and bonded with Neil over growing up in Geneva, Switzerland.
Navigating by myself in general is tricky as being in constant alert mode to detect and avoid obstacles is exhausting (I rely heavily on Ubers). Being able to
Due to my patchy vision, my brain only receives partial information that it constantly has to interpret and process in order to make sense of things
In light of this, I've developed an anticipatory and strategic way of thinking that has helped me in my professional life, both as a journalist and investor. I literally see the world differently, which has helped me spot things others haven't — like Femtech in early 2017.
Still, many of the VC firms I chatted with over the past year and a half seemed fixated on the fact that I didn't have a background in banking or consulting.
They offered to bring me onto the platform side of the firm instead. But I knew that I wanted to invest and have a say in where funds are going in order to back more diverse founders, so I stayed the course, maintaining the vision of where I wanted to go.
A few months ago, after countless conversations, interviews, and case studies, I was introduced to a Berlin-based fund called Visionaries Club, which offered me a position as a VC in residence. The fact that they're called "Visionaries" is no coincidence and the universe's cheeky way of telling me that my patience, passion, and perseverance paid off. So to anyone who's struggling: Keep going.
Bérénice Magistretti is an investor, writer, and disabilities advocate based in London. She's on Peanut StartHer's inaugural investment committee, where she helps fund underrepresented founders, and recently joined Visionaries Club as a VC-in-residence, where she focuses on early-stage investing in the B2B space.
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