Anne Hathaway backs Pact, an all-female VC for mission-driven startups, West to East

Anne Hathaway backs Pact, an all-female VC for mission-driven startups, West to East

How many venture capital funds can you name where the three partners all had babies while raising funds, have deep ties in Asia as well as Europe and the United States, and include actress Anne Hathaway as an LP? Not much that I would risk.

But that’s the profile of Pact, a new Seed VC fund launched with a £30m ($36m) prize pool 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. (It’s a much more interesting way to approach the areas of “doing it right”, rather than skimming through the UN SDGs, IMHO). Pact’s investment tickets will range from around £1m to £1.5m.

In addition to Anne Hathaway (she’s not “only” an Oscar-winning actress, but also a UN goodwill ambassador), other LPs include Jeff Dean, the head of AI at Google , and Keith Teare, a founding (and former) shareholder of TechCrunch and former tech entrepreneur in the UK and US.

They are joined by lead investor Campden Hill Capital; Yeming Wang, former EMEA head of Alibaba; Fahd Beg, Chief Operating Officer of Naspers; Todd Ruppert, retired CEO of T. Rowe Price Global and 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 at other funds. Gu was an investor at ADV (which Teare was once part of) and created 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 the Fuel Ventures seed fund and launched several social enterprises in Africa and India.

Speaking to Reem Mobassaleh Wyndham, she told me that they had been fundraising for just over a year (during their pregnancies 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 Monik around the same time. What we’ve seen in the UK start-up landscape is that “there were a few key things missing. There are very few early-stage fund managers who have both operational experience and deep overseas operational experience in emerging markets. And that’s something the three of us , in a very complementary way, bring to the table.

“We believe capitalism should and can be inclusive while delivering huge results,” she added. “And we really want him to be able to support early-stage ventures that really positively shape the future. We’ve all built our careers with this Northstar as a guide for us. It’s a value we always have. championed, but it’s only now that the market is really catching on to it. There shouldn’t be a trade-off between socially sustainable, ecologically sustainable, and commercially sustainable outcomes. You have to think about both. And that’s a value which the three of us came together on,” she said.

Tong Gu told me, “I grew up in China and witnessed how entrepreneurship and technology enabled a large population of people who lived below the poverty line to become richer and to improve their lives. I created a tech company that empowered small independent brand owners to compete with the big ones. And for me, that was the experience of really driving economic inclusion, but kind of in a technological way.

Wyndham admitted “it’s not a huge fund.” However, she said the £30m should allow them to get enough companies to get the ‘healthy diversification’ needed for fund returns: ‘We could do 18-20 companies, either leading or co -direction. We’ve been very thoughtful about how we’ve organized our LP base. So the LPSs that have arrived are strategic and they provide domain expertise and market access, but they also provide continuity of capital. The vast majority are looking for access to deal flow. So in that sense, it actually increases our firepower beyond 30 million. »

Anne Hathaway (Source: Wikipedia)

On having a Hollywood movie star among their vinyl records, Wyndham added: “She’s actually been a friend and mentor of mine for about 12 years and since then we’ve become friends and share values. One of its main causes is childcare, and its absence, as the last 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 structural headwinds to be able to do both. That’s really one of the lessons that we hope to share with the ecosystem, and that’s kind of where Anne comes in.”

Pact’s first investment was in Growth Kitchen, a London-based company that launches data-driven sustainable food brands.

Past investments from 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.

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