How many VC funds can you name where the three partners have all had babies while raising the fund, have deep connections in Asia as well as Europe and the US, and are LPing actress Anne Hathaway? Not many I would risk.
But that’s the profile of Pact, a new seed VC fund that was launched with a £30m ($36m) cash pot to support early-stage start-ups across Europe. Pact targets “mission-driven” startups in the so-called “ABC” categories: Access (economic inclusion), Enhancement (personal and professional well-being) and Climate. (This is a much more interesting way of addressing “doing good” areas, in my opinion, rather than highlighting the United Nations SDGs). Pact’s investment tickets range from around £1m to £1.5m.
Alongside Anne Hathaway (she’s not “just” an Oscar winner, she’s also a UN Goodwill Ambassador), Jeff Dean, Google’s head of AI, and Keith Teare, a founding (and former) shareholder, more LPs from Eureka News Now and former tech entrepreneurs in the UK and US.
They are joined by anchor investor Campden Hill Capital; Yeming Wang, former Alibaba head of EMEA; Fahd Beg, the COO of Naspers; Todd Ruppert, retired CEO of T. Rowe Price Global and Venture Partner at Greenspring Associates, and Tilo Bonow, CEO of PIABO.
The three partners – Tong Gu, Reem Mobassaleh Wyndham and Monik Pham – were former VCs in other funds. Gu was an investor at ADV (of which Teare used to be a part) and built a data analytics startup in Shanghai, which she left. Wyndham was also an investor in ADV and a former founder. Pham was part of the founding team of early stage fund Fuel Ventures and founded several social businesses in Africa and India.
Speaking to Reem Mobassaleh Wyndham, she told me they’ve been raising the fund for a little 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 came up with it in the same week to ADV. And we met Monique around the same time. What we observed 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 extensive overseas operational experience in emerging markets. And the three of us bring that to the table in very complementary ways.”
“We believe that capitalism should and can be inclusive while still delivering tremendous results,” she added. “And we really want to be able to support companies at an early stage that really shape the future positively. We’ve all built our careers with this Northstar as our guide. That’s a value we’ve always espoused, but it’s only now that the market is really getting into it. There should be no compromise between socially sustainable, environmentally sustainable and commercially sustainable outcomes. You have to think of both. And that’s a value that all three of us came together on,” she said.
Tong Gu told me, “Growing up in China, I have witnessed how entrepreneurship and technology have enabled a large population of people who used to live below the poverty line to become more prosperous and improve their lives. I started a technology company that allows independent small brand owners to compete with the bigger ones. And for me, that was the experience of really driving economic inclusion, but in a kind of tech-enabled way.”
Wyndham admitted that “it’s not a huge fund.” However, she said the £30m should give them enough companies to provide the “healthy diversification” needed for fund returns: “We could run 18 to 20 companies, either lead or co-lead. We thought very carefully about how we curated our LP base. So the newly added LPS are strategic and offer expertise and market access, but they also offer continuity of capital. The vast majority are looking for access to deal flow. In that sense, this actually scales our firepower beyond 30 million.”
On having a Hollywood movie star on their LPs, Wyndham added, “She’s actually a friend of mine and a mentor for about 12 years, and since then we’ve become friends and share common values. One of its major causes is child care and the lack of it as the final frontier for gender equality. And we experienced that firsthand as three doctors who all had their first children while raising this fund. We had to figure out how to overcome 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 was in Growth Kitchen, a London-based company bringing sustainable food brands to market based on data insights.
Previous investments for Pact 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.