Andreea Danila is the founder and chief executive of Millennial Capital, a home-grown venture creation and management firm. The Romanian, 35, moved to Dubai in 2011 after starting her career in the UK. In Dubai she held senior roles at venture capital company Porton Group, local private equity group Al Masah Capital, and Ernst & Young before founding Millennial Capital in 2016. The firm focuses on partnering with international consumer brands looking to enter the GCC, such as Brazilian beauty giant O Boticario, the world’s largest cosmetic franchise. Ms Danila lives with her husband and 15-month-old daughter Amaiya in Business Bay.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
My mother worked for the education department and my father is an entrepreneur, so he has businesses in Romania across various sectors, mainly manufacturing. Coming from an emerging market, you definitely have an extra dose of entrepreneurial spirit. The desire and ambition to be successful I would say is the main driver that differentiates great executives or super professionals. I see money as the result or the outcome of professional expertise, education and upbringing, and I would also add emotional intelligence to the technical skills that are required to have a comprehensive view in terms of money management and wealth creation and preservation.
Looking today at me and my daughter and then looking at me and my mother, I would say definitely there is a generational gap, or a generational evolution. From the traditional family in Europe in a very Democratic society with public schooling, public healthcare and citizenship where you live, I would say definitely those factors are quite different from where I see myself and my daughter today. For the new generation, we have to look at financial sustainability and financial independence quite differently from our parents. I think understanding that the creation of financial sustainability is a process and you have to invest in yourself and your professional skills.
What was your first job?
I stared in venture capital in the UK. I was paid $2,000 (Dh7,346) a month. I would have amazing lunches at Subway and take the metro.
What brought you to Dubai?
Hearing at that time about Dubai, I’d see those nice documentaries on TV, mainly related to construction and real estate. 2010 was also the time when the financial crisis was quite recent. Especially in private equity, we definitely felt a significant impact. But from an investor mindset, you look at those situations as opportunities for development and growth.
I’m a risk taker. I had an interest in enhancing my international experience and after London I looked at Dubai as the city of the future, as a hub. I got a job opportunity in a similar private equity firm and I decided to expose myself to this region. I believe there will be significant growth. I’m so happy I did that, looking back at my decision almost 10 years ago. Now I see Dubai totally as my home and Dubai has given me so much back — the ability to create a business, to have a family, to enjoy the beautiful facilities and services that we have here. It has been a wonderful experience.
How difficult was it to lead your business after becoming a mother?
Recently I saw the first visibly pregnant CEO on the cover of a magazine [Audrey Gelman, chief executive of women-focused shared workspace The Wing on the cover of Inc. Magazine's October issue], and I said, wow, those times have come where females can actually go to work, be visibly pregnant and investors still endorse them for the individual and professional they are, as opposed to looking at them and putting them into silos: the pregnant woman, the mum.
Having my daughter after I established my firm was definitely challenging and required a lot of planning and dedication — especially because in entrepreneurship, venture management, consulting, the work-life balance is always skewed. Investing in yourself — getting yourself equipped with the right tools, the right MBA, the right education, the right experiences — in the early stage of your career allows you in your mid-30s or late 30s to capitalise on those early-on investments you made.
For females, it’s quite difficult because you have the age consideration. By mid-30s, early 40s, you have a biological clock ticking to have babies. [As a working mother] definitely your working hours per day increase. You probably go from 12 to 15 or 16 hours, because you spend 10 to 12 hours every day at your work and then you come home and you have to extend the shift. At the end of the day, that is unpaid work at home. I think females should have the right support so that we can be mothers, we can be CEOs and we can be entrepreneurs.
What do women need to succeed in their career?
It’s both mentorship and sponsorship. Sponsorship is that colleague or manager that says ‘I believe in her’ or that investor that says ‘she’s great and let’s give her the opportunity’. And then you have the mentor, the person who guides you, inspires you and gives you feedback. I definitely take a lot of mentorship from my husband — he is in a similar business, also an entrepreneur, and he has been a great support. Having that teamwork at home definitely helps.
What luxuries are important to you?
I would love to have more time to spend with my family, especially my daughter. Something I enjoy spending on is travelling.
What is your philosophy on spending and saving?
It would be quite challenging not to spend in a city as Dubai with beautiful offerings, an abundance of F & B, super services. It’s quite an expensive lifestyle. At the same time, I have looked at saving through enhancing my professional skills, working hard, getting that right job, and then investing that additional income I’m generating per year by taking calculated analysis and calculated risk with the help of financial advisers.
Do you use financial advisers often?
I get a lot of financial advice, mainly from advisers at banks and large institutions. Before having a family, I would probably look at a higher risk profile – less cash, more into real estate, more into venture capital, more into asset classes that will immediately accelerate, which worked very well for me. After having my daughter, I’m looking more into safe investments. For example, I’m evaluating an education plan for her that will allow me to put a monthly payment that would go under a fund that is managed by a financial institution and backed by an A credit rating. Everything is insured, so even when the market is going down, we would preserve the capital that is invested.
What is your most cherished purchase?
The investment in my own company. That really set me up for financial independence. I also did extremely well in real estate here in Dubai. I looked at real estate investment in 2012, 2013 and I was very conservative. I bought a property to live in and I looked at it long term, seven to 10 years. So even now with the correction in market prices, that asset is still performing well.
Do you have a retirement plan?
At the moment, I truly love my job. I feel retirement is a little bit far for me. I still plan very carefully for it. I hope I am able to be an entrepreneur for the next 15, 20 years and during those venture cycles — entry and exit — have the ability to take one to two years off and spend time with my family. We hope the UAE can be a home for us for retirement. We definitely see it as home now.