The interview below is part of an ongoing effort by McGuireWoods to profile women leaders in private equity (PE). To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a woman for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at [email protected].
Pooja Goel is a managing director at Virgo Investment Group. She is a seasoned healthcare executive with over two decades of experience in the healthcare services delivery sector. Goel was recently at Landmark Health, the nation’s largest house calls provider, as its general manager of new business. She also spent more than 10 years at DaVita leading many innovative projects and holding several key operational roles in kidney care, international health and population health.
Prior to joining DaVita, Goel held many operations roles at multiple academic medical centers and began her career at Kaiser Permanente. She received her bachelor’s in microbiology and molecular genetics from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an MHA from the Loma Linda University School of Public Health.
Q: What attracted you to PE?
Pooja Goel: The honest answer is PE found me. I had completed a lot of deals in my operations roles and was familiar with diligence and integration but never thought about becoming an investor myself. I was introduced to Virgo’s founder and chief investment officer, Jesse Watson, through a mutual connection and he insisted I would be great at it. I wasn’t convinced at first but having an operator mindset while evaluating deals has helped differentiate me to founders and management teams.
It also helps me further illustrate why Virgo is different. We believe the transaction is more than an exchange of capital. We really believe in being partners and creating value together.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue careers in PE?
PG: I have worked with a lot of great women executives in my career and believe wholeheartedly we have so much to offer in terms of diversity of thought and leadership. We know women are underrepresented in healthcare leadership positions already and this extends to PE and board members as well. Simply put, diversity is better for business. You won’t get great outcomes by having the same perspective replicated on your management team or board. You need more representation of different backgrounds to connect to portfolio companies and their teams.
I also think we can recruit women from nontraditional backgrounds like myself. We need to have different perspectives on a PE team to make good decisions. The way PE has hired traditionally needs to change.
Q: What advice would you provide to a woman-led company interested in securing PE?
PG: Go out and network, have as many conversations as possible and do not be afraid to be turned down. Looking for that perfect fit between investor and entrepreneur is a big part of our business. I am constantly sourcing and looking for that next investment, like most PE professionals. If you have a good idea, reach out. If it doesn’t resonate, ask why.
Q: Can you share a personal story that you feel exemplifies the value of women entrepreneurship?
PG: I was introduced to my operating partner, Ulya Khan, through a mutual opportunity. We connected on such a great level and kept in touch even though the reason we were brought together was no longer an option. We vowed we would find a way to partner.
Fast forward two years, and she now serves on two boards with me, has joined our team as an amazing operating partner and continues to advise and source on deals in the healthcare space. She has also brought me in to great organizations, such as WBL and Golden Seeds. I believe that women entrepreneurs can and should be supportive of one another.
Q: Why do you actively support providing capital to women entrepreneurs?
PG: It’s a goal of mine to do so. If I cannot locate enough female founders — this is something I am actively working on — then I want to make sure their board and team reflect women as strongly as men.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women entrepreneurs? What advice would you provide to overcome it?
PG: Confidence and conviction. You don’t need all the points on the scoreboard to prove your capabilities. Conviction in your ability to get it done is often more than enough.
To contact Pooja Goel, email [email protected].