How many venture capital funds can you name where all three partners had children when they started the fund, have strong connections in Asia as well as Europe and the US, and actress Anne Hathaway as LP? Not much I would risk.
But that’s the profile of Pact, a new seed VC fund set up with a £30m ($36m) cash pool to back early-stage startups across Europe. The pact will target “mission-driven” startups in what are called the “ABC” categories: access (economic inclusion), improvement (personal and professional well-being) and climate. (This is a much more interesting way of dealing with areas of “good performance” than the UN SDGs, IMHO). Pact’s investment tickets range from around £1m to £1.5m.
As well as Anne Hathaway (she’s not “just” an Oscar-winning actor, but also a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador), other LPs include Jeff Dean, head of Google AI, and Keith Teer, a founding (and former) shareholder. TechCrunch and a former tech entrepreneur in the UK and US.
They are joined by Anchor investor Campden Hill Capital; Yeming Wang, former head of Alibaba EMEA; Fahd Beg, Naspers COO; Todd Rupert, retired CEO of T. Rowe Price Global and venture partner at Greenspring Associates, and Tilo Bonov, CEO of PIABO.
The three female partners — Tong Gu, Reem Mobassaleh Wyndham and Monik Pham — were former VCs in other funds. Gu was an investor in ADV (which Tira used to be a part of) and founded a data analytics startup in Shanghai, which she left. Wyndham was also an investor and former founder of ADV. Pham was part of the founding team of early-stage fund Fuel Ventures and has built several social enterprises 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 her pregnancy and first children), but that the idea had been “in the works” for about five or six years: “We both joined ADV the same week. And we met Monica around the same time. What we saw in the early stage landscape in the UK were some key things that were missing. There are very few early stage fund managers who have both operational experience and deep operational experience overseas in emerging markets. And it’s something that the three of us, in a very complimentary way, bring to the table.
“We believe that capitalism should and can be inclusive while delivering massive 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 using this Northstar as a guide. It’s a value we’ve always agreed on, but it’s only now that the market is really catching on.” it. There shouldn’t be a trade-off between socially sustainable, environmentally sustainable and commercially sustainable outcomes. You have to think about both. And that’s the value that all three of us came together for,” she said.
Tong Gu told me, “I grew up in China and witnessed how entrepreneurship and technology have allowed a large number of people who were below the poverty line to become richer and improve their lives. I built a technology company that allows independent small brand owners to compete with the big ones. And for me, it was an experience that really promoted economic inclusion, but in a technology-enabled way.
Windham acknowledged that “it’s not a huge fund.” However, she said the £30m should give them enough companies to get the “healthy diversification” needed for the funds to be profitable: “We could build 18 to 20 companies, either lead or co-lead. We’ve been very thoughtful about how we’ve built our LP base. So the LPS that have come in are strategic and provide domain expertise and market access, but they also provide continuity of capital. Most are looking for access to transaction flow. So in that sense it actually increases our firepower beyond 30 million.
On having the Hollywood star on their LP, Windham added: “She’s actually been my friend and mentor for about 12 years and we’ve become friends and shared values ever since. One of her main reasons is childcare and its lack as the last frontier for gender equality. This is what we have experienced as three family doctors who all had their first children when creating this foundation. We had to figure out how to overcome the structural headwinds to be able to do both. That’s one of the lessons we hope to share with the ecosystem, and that’s where Anne comes in.
Pact’s first investment is in Growth Kitchen, a London-based company that launches sustainable food brands based on data insights.
Previous investments for members of the Pact team include the clause purchased by DocuSign. To the electric car subscription service; Perlego, an online learning platform; and Yoco, an African FinTech company.