How Hannah Gräfin von Waldersee Is Helping Software Companies Scale Up through Innovation

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series” is comprised of stories, Q&As and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.

This article is part of the Crunchbase Community Contributor Series. The author is an expert in their field and a Crunchbase user. We are honored to feature and promote their contribution on the Crunchbase blog.

Please note that the author is not employed by Crunchbase and the opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect official views or opinions of Crunchbase, Inc. 

Hannah Gräfin von Waldersee, vice president of strategy and innovation at Insight Partners, is dedicated to developing innovative programs that help leading portfolio companies scale rapidly. 

Gräfin von Waldersee kicked off her impressive career as a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Co., transitioned to leading operations for the Queen and Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, and successfully ran a professional development startup that was acquired in late 2020. Within each chapter of her professional journey, Gräfin von Waldersee’s love for strategy and dedication to innovation rose to the surface. She now works with world-class operators offering support and guidance to accelerate software companies on the scaleup journey.

We asked Gräfin von Waldersee about her career journey—including when she decided to work in the investment ecosystem and how her past experiences contribute to her current role. Below is the advice she has for others interested in diving into innovation and investment.

Hannah Gräfin von Waldersee, Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Insight Partners headshot
Hannah Gräfin von Waldersee, Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Insight Partners

Q: Tell us a bit about Insight Partners. What is the company’s core thesis? What types of companies do you invest in, and at what stage?

Insight Partners was founded in 1995 on the belief that software was going to change the world. This has proven to be true, and we see ever-increasing potential for software to continue shaping the world we live in and unleashing ever more human potential. We invest at every stage, from Series A through to pre-IPO, and love to partner with companies at all stages to provide the guidance, leadership acceleration and operational capability to accelerate on the scaleup journey to superstardom.


Q: In what ways does Insight Partners do things differently than other private equity firms? 

Throughout its 25 year history, Insight has been relentlessly committed to continuous innovation. That started with being one of the first investors to prioritize building a team of former operators to work and consult with our portfolio companies. Today, we are intensely focused on building the most powerful assets and services, which will enable our companies to scale rapidly and benefit from the lessons already learned by the more than 300 companies in our portfolio.


Q: Tell us about your career journey. At what point in your career did you decide to work in the investment ecosystem and what made you join Insight Partners?

I started out at McKinsey in the U.K. as a strategy consultant before heading to Buckingham Palace to join the management team running operations for the Queen and Royal Family. I then moved to the U.S. and ran a professional development startup dedicated to accelerating women into leadership. It was clear to me that the times I had been most energized were in the design, development and scaling of innovation programs within larger organizations. 

Thus, the role at Insight dedicated to innovation for the firm felt like a good fit. I had known and worked with some of the folks at Insight for many years and had always been struck by the passion, enthusiasm and vision of the firm. The people and authentic commitment to true collaboration and entrepreneurship was a very powerful force in deciding where I would go next.


Q: What past experiences have contributed to honing your skillset for your current role?

Over time, I have been lucky to work with some inspirational leaders, and to watch and listen to how they galvanize change and action in others. The biggest theme I try to bring to every project is the importance of empathy, listening and kindness. You can get a lot more done when you understand what motivates others and how to forge a win-win in any situation.


Q: What’s the biggest misunderstanding that either founders or aspiring investors have about the investment industry?

I think there is a misconception that the investment industry is inherently adversarial, overly competitive or prone to conflict. The reality is that we are here to support our founders and help them realize their potential. We actually spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about what founders need, how we can help and how we can organize ourselves to help founders solve their most pressing problems.


Q: How do the programs you develop support portfolio companies?

We are constantly thinking about what companies need and how we can best tailor our support to be accessible and seamless. The needs of a company at Series A are fundamentally different from those in the run-up to going public. We want to ensure that the help on hand is tailored to the moment we find the companies in. Sometimes this requires thinking a little differently, not following the status quo and being creative. 


Q: What advice do you have for others looking to work in the innovation in investment ecosystem?

Talk to lots of different people to understand their role and the nature of their organization. An innovation role will vary greatly depending on the size, scale and stage of the firm you’re working for. It is also worth being vulnerable in asking all those you have worked with for feedback on your contributions so you can get crystal clear on when and how you are best positioned to add value. 


Q: How have you changed as a professional since working in your role?

I am even more excited about the potential for growth and see possibilities everywhere. Working in a software investing firm, I get to see some of the world’s most exciting and emerging technologies as they are scaling up and taking off. It is a privilege and gets me excited every day to keep moving forward.


Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? In turn, what is your biggest triumph thus far?

I continue to be very bad at asking for help. I try to quiet the voice in my head telling me that I am failing if I don’t always have all the answers.

I am really proud of the amazing people who I have been privileged to work with during my career. My current and former colleagues continue to be an inspiration and I am proud to be a part of their story.


Q: Do you mentor aspiring professionals? Do you feel that these opportunities are important for the future of the industry?

Yes, I personally derive huge energy from mentoring others, both internal to my organization and through a number of other groups in the startup ecosystem who are focused on moving underrepresented talent into leadership. It is incredibly important, not to mention extremely fulfilling, to nurture the journeys of others around you.

Hannah Gräfin von Waldersee is a member of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies extraordinary entrepreneurial women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection and high-impact resources. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to their monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.

  • Originally published January 12, 2022, updated April 26, 2023