How many VC funds can you name where all three partners had children when raising the fund, have deep connections in Asia as well as Europe and the US, and include actress Anne Hathaway as LP? I was not much in danger.
But that’s the profile of Pact, a new Seed VC fund launched with a £30 million ($36 million) pot of money to back early stage startups across Europe. The Accord will focus on ‘mission-driven’ start-ups 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 addressing ‘well done’ areas, instead of trying the UN SDGs, IMHO). Pact investment tickets will be around £1m to £1.5m.
In addition to Anne Hathaway (not ‘only’ an Oscar-winning actress, but also a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador), other LPs include Jeff Dean, Head of AI at Google, and Keith Teare, founding shareholder (and former shareholder). of 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 EMEA at Alibaba; Fahd Beag, 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 Wyndham, and Monik Pham – were former VCs in other funds. Gu was an investor at ADV (which Teare was previously a part of) and built a data analytics startup in Shanghai that she left. Wyndham was also a previous investor and founder of ADV. Pham was part of the founding team of the early stage fund Fuel Ventures and launched 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 their pregnancy and their 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 Monik around the same time. What we noticed within the early stage landscape in the UK were some key things that were missing. Very few early stage fund managers have operational experience and deep operational experience overseas in emerging markets. And that’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 still producing massive results,” she said. “And we really want it to be able to support early-stage companies that are positively shaping the future. We have built our careers with that Northstar as our guide. It’s a value that we’ve always discussed, but it’s at this point that the market is really coming around to it. There should not be a trade-off between socially sustainable, environmentally sustainable results and commercially sustainable results. You have to think about both. And that’s a value that the three of us came together on,” she said.
Tong Gu told me: “I grew up in China, and I saw how entrepreneurship and technology enabled a large population of people who used to live below poverty to become richer and improve their lives. I started a technology company that enables independent owners of small brands to compete with the biggest ones. And to me, that was the experience of really driving economic inclusion, but in a technologically enabled way.”
Wyndham admitted that “it’s not a huge fund”. She said, however, that the £30 million should get enough companies to get the “healthy diversification” needed for fund returns: “We could do 18 to 20 companies, either pioneering or joint- leadership. We are very thoughtful about how we maintain our LP base. So the LPS that came in are strategic and provide domain expertise, and market access, but they also provide capital continuity. Most are looking for access to deal flow. So, in that sense, our firepower is scaling beyond the 30 million.”
When the Hollywood movie star was among her LPs, Wyndham added: “She’s been my friend and mentor for about 12 years and ever since then we’ve had a friendship and shared values. One of her biggest reasons is childcare, and the lack of it, as the final frontier for gender parity. And that is something that we have experienced firsthand as three female DGs who all had our first children while raising this fund. We had to figure out how to overcome the structural headwinds to do both. That’s very much one of the lessons we hope to share with the ecosystem, and that’s where Anne comes in.”
Pact has made its first investment in Growth Kitchen, a London-based company that launches sustainable food brands based on data insights.
Past investments for Pact team members include Clause acquired by DocuSign. Onto, an electric vehicle subscription service; Perlego, an online learning platform; and Yoco, an African FinTech company.