How many VC funds can you name where the three partners all had babies while raising the fund, have deep connections in both Asia and Europe and the US, and record actress Anne Hathaway as an LP? Not much I would risk.
But that’s the profile of pact, a new Seed VC fund launched with a £30 million ($36 million) pot to support early stage startups across Europe. Pact will focus on “mission-driven” startups in what it calls the “ABC” categories: access (economic inclusion), enhancement (personal and professional well-being), and climate. (That’s a much more interesting way of tackling “do-good” areas, rather than pushing the UN’s SDGs, IMHO). Pact’s investment tickets will range from around £1m to £1.5m.
Besides Anne Hathaway (she’s not ‘just’ an Oscar-winning actor, but also a UN Woman Goodwill Ambassador), other LPs include Jeff Dean, the head of AI at Google, and Keith Teare, one of the founders (and former) londonbusinessblog.com shareholder and former tech entrepreneur in the UK and US.
They are joined by Anchor investor Campden Hill Capital; Yeming Wang, former head of EMEA at Alibaba; Fahd Beg, Naspers COO; Todd Ruppert, retired CEO of T. Rowe Price Global and venture partner at Greenspring Associates, and Tilo Bonow, CEO of PIABO.
The three female partners — Tong Gu, Reem Mobassaleh Wyndhamand Monique Pam — were former VCs in other funds. Gu was an investor at ADV (which Teare used to be a part of) and built a data analytics startup in Shanghai which she left. Wyndham was also an investor for ADV and a former founder. Pham was part of the founding team of startup fund Fuel Ventures and launched several social ventures in Africa and India.
Speaking to Reem Mobassaleh Wyndham, she told me that they had been raising the fund for a little over a year (during their pregnancies and first children), but that the idea had been “in the works” for five or six years: We both joined ADV the same week And we met Monique around the same time What we saw in the early stage landscape in the UK were a few key things that were missing There are very few entry level fund managers who have both operational experience and deep operational experience abroad in emerging markets, and that’s something the three of us bring to the table in a very complementary way.
“We believe that capitalism should and can be inclusive yet deliver huge results,” she added. “And we really want it to be able to support early stage companies that are really positively shaping the future. We’ve all built our careers with that Northstar guiding us. It’s a value we’ve always embraced, but it’s only now that the market is really starting to get to it. There should be no trade-off between socially sustainable, environmentally sustainable and commercially sustainable results. You have to think about both. And that’s a value that all three of us came together for,” she said.
Tong Gu told me: “Growing up in China, I have seen how entrepreneurship and technology have enabled a large group of people who previously lived below the poverty line to become richer and improve their lives. I started a technology company that allowed independent small brand owners to compete with the bigger ones. And for me, that was the experience of really driving economic inclusion, but in a kind of technical way.
Wyndham admitted “it’s not a huge fund”. However, she said the £30m should give them enough companies to get the “healthy diversification” needed for the fund’s returns: “We could do 18 to 20 companies either lead or co-lead. We have put a lot of thought into how we built our LP base. So the LPS that have come in are strategic and provide domain expertise and market access, but also provide capital continuity. The vast majority are looking to access the deal flow. So in that sense, it increases our firepower in fact to over 30 million.”
On having a Hollywood movie star among their LPs, Wyndham added, “She’s actually a friend of mine and mentor for about 12 years and since then we’ve become friends and have shared values. One of its great causes is childcare, and the lack thereof, as the last frontier for gender equality. And we experienced that firsthand as three female GPs who all had our first children when they raised this fund. We had to figure out how to overcome the structural headwinds to be able to do both. That’s really one of the lessons we hope to share with the ecosystem, and that’s kind of where Anne comes into the picture.”
Pact’s first investment has been received Grow Kitchena London-based company launching sustainable food brands based on data insights.
Past investments for Pact’s team members include Clause acquired by DocuSign. Onto, an electric vehicle subscription service; Perlego, an online learning platform; and Yoco, an African FinTech company.