In an industry that has seen too few women launch their own firms, Kerstin Dittmar last week shared insights into her decision to start San Francisco-based private investment firm L2 Point.
Dittmar (pictured) said that during the first 12 years of her career she “took the less risky approach” of working for other firms. She spent nearly nine of those at TPG Sixth Street Partners, where she and her team worked on special situations and structured finance deals across a range of industries. She left in late 2018.
“At that point I’d gotten really passionate about a specific strategy that I wanted to go after,” said Dittmar, speaking on a panel last Friday at the Women in Alternative Investments Virtual Career Forum, produced by the Women’s Association of Venture & Equity (WAVE). “I knew that there was an opportunity there.”
That opportunity, according to her Linkedin profile, is to develop, for cash-hungry growth companies, a financing alternative to “highly dilutive equity” on the one hand and “operationally restrictive debt” on the other. L2 Point also wants to address what it see as the “lag in bank debt underwriting frameworks adapting to innovative business models.”
Said Dittmar during the panel: “Do I take the safe route and try to find a place where I can execute on this strategy, even though it doesn’t seem like there’s a great fit out there? Or do I take the risk of trying to build it myself? For me it came down to being at a stage in my career where I had conviction around the strategy…and also in myself and my capabilities.”
Dittmar said that she questions the decision to start her own firm “all the time”; she pointed to the “huge opportunity cost.” But, she said, “Am I enjoying every day more so than I did [during] the first 12 years of my career? Absolutely.”
The third edition Guide to PE/VC Firms Founded by Women/Minorities, published by PrivateEquityCareer.com, lists some 94 private equity and venture capital firms with at least one woman founder. Only about a third of those pursue more late-stage strategies such as buyouts, growth equity or private debt.
I was unable to reach Dittmar to ask additional questions about fundraising or hiring plans.