The aim of the Morning Talks series of interviews is to present the impact of partnerships on the EU innovation and investment ecosystem.


For this interview, we met with Maria Ana Mesquita, Investment Associate and Platform Manager at Bynd VC. Maria Ana participated as a jury member during the’s E-Pitching event was dedicated to ♀ Female-led Innovations, co-organized with th European Commission. 

Tell us more about yourself and your work?

Absolutely. My academic journey began with a bachelor’s degree in economics at Nova SBE. To complement my knowledge, I took part in several clubs focused on investments and technology where I developed my passion for this segment. After the bachelors I worked at Microsoft in SalesOps and Partnerships, where I found a great culture and so many smart people that taught me a lot about business and the tech world. Afterwards, I pursued a master’s degree in finance at Nova SBE where I focused mainly in alternative investments, technology related courses and behavioral finance. Throughout my studies (bachelors and masters) I did many internships that helped me understand what I liked, what I was good at, but also where I was not a fit.

After my academic studies I joined Bynd VC as an Investment Analyst, a position that offered me the possibility to be in touch with my two passions, investment, and technology. I have enjoyed working here a lot and have recently been promoted to Investment Associate and Platform Manager. The culture is great, I am always learning, and I get to develop and add value through my own projects – like the community and platform initiative that is now part of my daily activities.

My current role is dual:

–        As an Investment Associate I am currently sourcing and screening deals that fit our investment thesis. This entails talking with people in the ecosystem and building strong relationships. Furthermore, I do the due diligence with the team, meaning all the processes necessary to provide us with the confidence needed to move forward with an investment. The cherry on top of the cake is the ability to be present in boards as an observer and learn about the ins and outs of the businesses that we have invested in, and help founders when necessary.

–        As a Platform Manager I am currently leading an initiative to bring more value to founders. The objective is to support our portfolio companies in a one-to-many approach. This entails creating high-value partnerships for our portfolio companies, finding relevant connections in the ecosystem, and researching valuable content for founders.


What key areas/markets are you currently looking into, and which funding stages do you aim for?

Bynd VC’s thesis focuses on generalist investment, in terms of sector, with a focus on early stage (pre-seed and seed) companies with a strong connection to Iberia. Since we are generalists, I typically look at many different sectors during the week.

My current personal preference, and also one of Bynd’s current focus, relates to sustainability, so I have been researching and looking deeper into Digital Health and Climate Tech, which are sectors that are growing a lot and have been producing some incredible startups.

Since I work in a generalist fund, this preference might change in the future as I have the privilege to be exposed to so much innovation.


As an investor, what is the most important factor you look for in companies when assessing a potential investment?

I believe that there is not only one factor to investigate. Each startup has its own particularities that can set them apart from the competition. With this being said, and taking into account that we invest in the early stages, typically the founding team is the most important factor that we look closely at, since they are the body and soul of the company.

Another important factor is the market – understanding its size, growth, trends and what makes it the breeding ground for the next unicorn. Furthermore, it is relevant to see the company’s specific characteristics and competitive advantages – why is their product better? What is the technological innovation behind it? It is also important to understand the traction of the company and its unit economics, which provide us with relevant insights on how the company might perform in the future.


 What are the main challenges you face when looking to invest in EU startups or scaleups? 

The European ecosystem is very diverse, and it faces different challenges within each European region. As investors in the Iberian region, we are better positioned to talk about this particular market.

I would say that the main challenge that I see is the still below EU-average number of second time founders. Second time founders typically have a different approach to their startups since they have already done it before and learnt from previous experiences. I believe this “challenge” is shifting as the ecosystem is maturing – I have seen more and more second time founders reaching the market with new projects. There is also a relevant stream of international ex-founders moving to the region and creating new projects here, due to the attractiveness of the ecosystem


In your experience, what are some of the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in accessing venture capital funding?  Are there any specific steps or initiatives that can help female entrepreneurs bridge this gap? 

In 2021, around 2% of VC capital went to Female-only founding teams in the USA, and 4% in Australia, according to Pitchbook. It is still a reality that women-led startups access less VC capital than their men counterparts.

One challenge that I have been hearing from female founders regards the access to the VC network. The VC world is a connections-driven one, and if you already know the players it is easier to reach out and have a first meeting. If you are out of the network, like some female founders are, it becomes a challenge to break through the network. There are some communities like Female Founders or Fermstreet, that are bringing female entrepreneurs together and providing them mentorship and access to connections to help close this gap.




How do you see the representation of women in leadership roles within venture capital firms evolving in the future? What steps can be taken to encourage more diversity and inclusion in these positions?

As reported by Sifted, in 2022, 1/3 of VCs in Europe did not have a female venture capitalist and only 15% of Funds had at least one Female VC Partner.

I believe the ecosystem is changing, I am seeing more women in entry to mid-level positions in European VC funds and I believe they will eventually become the Partners of tomorrow. It will take time and a focus on retention from the VC funds, but I trust it will pay off.

I believe that to accelerate this process, mentorship from other women VCs will be very relevant to the new women in the industry, as it is an industry with very specific characteristics, and guidance can take us a long way. is all about supporting innovation and providing a unique matchmaking platform. Can you tell us how you have leveraged from it and its high-potential portfolio to increase visibility and scaling-up opportunities?

Sure! has been a great platform to create new connections, meet incredible founders and learn about their startups.

I have personally been a jury in startup competitions organized by where I met other very interesting fellow VCs and disruptive startups led by passionate founders. I recommend events to founders out there 🙂


What do you see as the main advantages of companies that have been funded by the EU?

I believe the funding provided by the EU to startups has been a major advantage for the region. Especially for highly capital-intensive startups.

Some startups are adding much value to the community, by creating employment and making revolutionary technological discoveries, but they are in sectors or creating products that are very risky and require large sums of capital, making them less attractive to VC. In this stage, EU funding has been crucial to enable the R&D of such companies and help them develop their product. Once the product reaches a certain stage, and the risk is mitigated, VCs are more interested in investing.


About Innovator Spotlight Stories

The aim of innovator stories is to highlight and share with investors and relevant stakeholders in the industry, insights, and unique stories from some of the most innovative EU-funded project that is proud to support.

If you are an investor who wants to connect with OPT/NET, please feel free to reach out at [email protected]

More about 

Supported by the European Commission, discovers and supports the most promising EU-funded innovators and connects them with relevant investors and corporates. The initiative was launched to help groundbreaking innovations secure the funding needed for their future commercialisation by offering them tailored support and matchmaking services. 

To learn more about, visit 


Disclaimer: Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.