How many VC funds can you quote where the three partners all had babies while raising the fund, have deep connections in deep Asia as well as Europe and the US, and include actress Anne Hathaway as an LP? Not much I would risk.
But that’s the profile of Pak, a new Seed VC fund that launched with a £30 million ($36 million) pot of cash to back early-stage startups across Europe. Pak will aim for ‘mission driven’ startups in what he calls the “ABC” categories: Access (economic inclusion), Improvement (personal and professional well-being), and Climate. (That’s a more interesting way to address areas of ‘doing well’, instead of overreaching the UN SDGs, IMHO). Pact investment tickets will range from around £1m to £1.5m.
Like Anne Hathaway (she’s not ‘only’ an Oscar-winning actor, but also a United Nations Women’s Goodwill Ambassador), other LPs include Jeff Dean, Head of AI at Google, and Keith Teare, a founder (and former ) shareholders. of TechCrunch and former tech entrepreneurs in the UK and US.
They are joined by Anchor investors Campden Hill Capital; Yeming Wang, former head of EMEA Alibaba; Fahd Beg, Naspers COO; Todd Ruppert, retired CEO of T. Rowe Price Global and venture partner 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 formerly a part) and built a data analytics startup in Shanghai from which he exited. Wyndham was also an investor for ADV and a former founder. Pham was part of the founding team of early stage fund Fuel Ventures and has launched several social enterprises in Africa and India.
While talking to Reem Mobassaleh Wyndham, she told me that they had been raising the fund for a little over a year (during their pregnancy with their first child) but the idea had been “in the works” for about five or six year: “Both of us. joined ADV the same week. And we met Monik at the same time. What we observed in the early stage landscape in the UK was that some key things were missing. There are very few managers early-stage funds that have both operational experience and strong overseas operating experience 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 be and can be inclusive while still producing great results,” he added. “And we really want it to be able to support companies at the first stage that really positively shape the future. We all built our careers with this Northstar as a guide for us. It is a value that we have always been married to, but only now at this point that the market is really coming around. There should not be an exchange between socially sustainable results, environmentally sustainable and commercially sustainable results. You have to think about both. And this is a value that we all three came together on,” he said.
“Growing up in China, I witnessed how entrepreneurship and technology allowed a large population of people who used to be below the poverty line to become richer and improve their lives,” Tong Gu told me. I started a technology company that allows small independent brand owners to compete with the bigger ones. And for me, that was the experience of really driving economic inclusion, but in sort of a technology-enabled way.”
Wyndham admits “it’s not a big fund”. However, he said the £30 million should get enough companies to get the “healthy diversification” needed to return the funds: “We could do 18 to 20 companies, either leading or co-leading. We were very thoughtful about how we’ve organized 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 deal flow. So in this sense, this actually increases our firepower beyond the 30 million.
On having a Hollywood movie star among the LPs, Wyndham added: “In fact, he’s been a friend and mentor of mine for about 12 years and since then we’ve been friends and shared values. One of its main causes is childcare, and the lack of it, as the last frontier for gender equality. And this is something that we experienced first hand as three GP women who all had our first children while raising this fund. We had to figure out how to overcome structural headwinds to do both. That’s one of the lessons we hope to share with the ecosystem, and that’s one way Anne comes in.”
Pact’s first investment was in Growth Kitchen, a London-based company launching sustainable food brands based on data insights.
Past investments for Pact team members include Clause acquired by DocuSign. Onto, an electric car subscription service; Perlego, an online learning platform; and Yoco, an African FinTech company.