How many VC funds can you count where all three partners have had babies while raising the fund, have deep connections in Asia as well as Europe and the US, and include actress Anne Hathaway as an LP? Not much I would risk.
But this is the profile of Pact, a new Seed VC fund launched with a £30m ($36m) cash pot to support early stage startups in Europe. The Pact will target “task-oriented” initiatives, which it calls the “ABC” categories: Access (economic participation), Improvement (personal and professional well-being) and Climate. (This is a much more interesting way of addressing the UN SDGs, IMHO ‘doing good’ areas rather than one after the other). Investment tickets for the Pact will range from around £1m to £1.5m.
Alongside Anne Hathaway (not just an “Oscar Award-Winning Actor” but also a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador), other LPs include Jeff Dean, Head of Artificial Intelligence at Google, and co-founder (and former) shareholder Keith Teare. TechCrunch and former tech entrepreneur in the UK and US.
Anchor investor Campden Hill Capital joined them; Yeming Wang, Alibaba’s former head of EMEA; Fahd Beg, COO of Naspers; Todd Ruppert, retired CEO of T. Rowe Price Global and venture partner of 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 in ADV (of which Teare was a part) and founded a data analytics startup in Shanghai that he was dating. Wyndham was also an investor and former founder of ADV. Pham was part of the founding team of the first-stage Fuel Ventures fund and has launched several social initiatives in Africa and India.
Speaking to Reem Mobassaleh Wyndham, he told me they had been raising funding for a little over a year (during their pregnancy and first child) but the idea had been “in the works” for about five or six years: “We both joined ADV in the same week. We met Monik at about the same time. What we observed in the UK early-stage landscape were a few key things missing. There are very few early-stage fund managers in emerging markets who have both operational experience and deep operational experience abroad. And that’s something the three of us brought to the table with much praise.”
“We believe that capitalism should be inclusive and yet still produce great results,” he added. “And we really want it to be able to support companies that are shaping the future in a really positive way at an early stage. We’ve all built our careers with that North Star as a guide for us. It’s a value we’ve always embraced, but only now is the market really getting closer to it. Socially sustainable, “There shouldn’t be a trade-off between environmentally sustainable and commercially sustainable results. You have to think about both. And that’s a value that the three of us come together.”
Tong Gu told me: “I grew up in China and witnessed how entrepreneurship and technology allowed a large population of people who were formerly below the poverty line to become richer and better their lives. I started a tech company, and for me it was the experience of really driving economic inclusion, but in a tech-enabled way.”
Wyndham admitted that “it’s not a big fund.” However, he said the £30m would need to buy enough companies to achieve the “healthy diversification” needed for fund returns: “We can do 18 to 20 companies as lead or co-leader. We’ve been very thoughtful about how we organize our LP base. So the incoming LPS is strategic.” “And it provides domain expertise and market access, but it also maintains capital. The vast majority are looking for access to deal flow. So in that sense, that actually puts our firepower above 30 million.”
Regarding having a Hollywood movie star among his LPs, Wyndham added: “Actually, he’s been my friend and mentor for about 12 years, and we’ve been friends ever since and have shared values. One of the biggest reasons is the lack of childcare and care as the last frontier for gender equality. And that’s something we’ve experienced firsthand as three female GPs who had our first children while raising this fund. To do both, we needed to figure out how to overcome structural headwinds. That’s one of the lessons we hope to share with the ecosystem, and that’s where Anne comes in.”
Pact’s initial investment was in London-based Growth Kitchen, which is launching sustainable food brands based on data insights.
Past investments for Pact’s team members include Clause, which was acquired by DocuSign. Onto, an electric vehicle subscription service; Perlego, an online learning platform; and Yoco, an African FinTech company.