How many VC funds can you name where the three partners all had babies while raising the fund, had deep connections in Asia and Europe and the US? Not many I’d risk.
But that’s the profile of Pact, a new seed VC fund launched with a £30 million ($36 million) pot of cash to support early-stage startups across Europe. Pact will target “mission-driven” startups in what it calls the “ABC” categories: access (economic inclusion), betterment (personal and professional well-being), and climate. (This is a much more interesting way of addressing ‘doing good’ areas, instead of trotting out the UN SDGs, IMHO). Pact’s investment tickets will range from around £1m to £1.5m.
As well as Anne Hathaway (she’s not ‘only’ an Oscar Award-winning actor, but also a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador), other LPs include Jeff Dean, the head of AI at Google, and Keith Teare, a founder (and (former) shareholder of TechCrunch and former tech entrepreneur in the UK and US.
They are joined by anchor investor Campden Hill Capital; Yeming Wang, the former head of Alibaba’s EMEA; Fahd Begg, the COO of Naspers; Todd Ruppert, the 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 — are former VCs at other funds. Gu was an investor in ADV (of which Teare was once a part) and built a data analytics startup in Shanghai that she spun off. Wyndham was also an investor for ADV and a former founder. 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 raised the fund for a little over a year (during their pregnancy and first children), but the idea had been “in the works” for about five or six years: “We Both joined ADV the same week. And we met Monique around the same time. What we noticed in the early stage landscape in the UK was a few key things that were missing. There are very few early stage fund managers. who both have operational experience and deep operational experience abroad in emerging markets. And that’s something that the three of us, in a very positive way, bring to the table.”
“We believe that capitalism should and can be inclusive while still producing 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 Northstar as a leader for us. It’s a value we’ve always espoused, But it’s only now at this point that the market is really coming to 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 a value that we all Three are 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 be below the poverty line to become richer and make their lives better. I started a tech company that allows independent small brand owners to compete with the larger ones. And for me, that was the experience of really driving economic inclusion, but in a sort of tech-enabled way.
Wyndham admitted “it’s not a huge fund”. However, she said the £30 million should get them enough companies to get the “healthy diversification” needed for fund returns: “We could do 18 to 20 companies, either leading or co-leading. We’ve been very thoughtful about how We’ve curated our LP base. So the LPs that have come in are strategic and they provide domain expertise and market access, but they also provide capital continuity. The vast majority are looking for access to trade flow. So in that sense, it’s Actually scaling our firepower beyond the 30 million.”
On a Hollywood movie star among their LPs, Wyndham added: “She’s actually been a friend and mentor of mine for about 12 years and since then we’ve become friends and have shared values. One of her big causes is childcare, and lack thereof, Like the final frontier for gender parity. And that’s something we experienced firsthand as three female GPs who all had our first children while raising this fund. We had to figure out how to overcome the structural headwinds to be able to do both. That’s very much one of the lessons we hope to share with the ecosystem, and that’s exactly where Ann comes in.
Pact’s first investment was made in Growth Kitchen, a London-based company that launches sustainable food brands based on data insights.
Past investments for Pact’s team members include Claus acquired by DocuSign. Onto, an electric vehicle subscription service; Perlego, an online learning platform; and Yoko, an African fintech company.