Anne Hathaway backs Pact, an all-women led VC for mission-driven startups, from West to East • TechCrunch

How many VC funds can you name where all three partners have had children while raising funds, have deep connections in Asia as well as Europe and the US, and include actress Anne Hathaway as an LP? I wouldn’t risk much.

But that’s the profile of Pact, a new Seed VC fund launched with £30 million ($36 million) in cash to support early-stage startups across Europe. The pact will target ‘mission-driven’ startups in what it calls “ABC” categories: Access (economic inclusion), Enhancement (personal and professional well-being) and Climate. (It’s a much more interesting way of dealing with areas of ‘doing good’, rather than the UN SDGs haul, IMHO). Pact’s investment cards will range from around £1m to £1.5m.

As well as Anne Hathaway (she’s not ‘just’ an Oscar-winning actress, but also a UN Woman Goodwill Ambassador), other LPs include Jeff Dean, head of artificial intelligence at Google, and Keith Teare, founder (and former) shareholder of TechCrunch and former technology entrepreneur in the UK and USA.

They are joined by lead investor Campden Hill Capital; Yeming Wang, former head of Alibaba for EMEA; Fahd Beg, Chief Operating Officer of Naspers; Todd Ruppert, retired CEO of T. Rowe Price Global and venture partner at Greenspring Associates, and Tilo Bonow, CEO of PIABO.

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The three partners – Tong Gu, Reem Mobassaleh Wyndham and Monik Pham – were former value investors in other funds. Gu was an investor in ADV (of which Teare was previously a part) and built a data analytics startup in Shanghai that she exited. Wyndham was also an investor in ADV and a former founder. Pham was part of the founding team of the early stage fund Fuel Ventures and has launched several social enterprises in Africa and India.

In a conversation with Reem Mobassaleh Wyndham, she told me that they had been fundraising 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: “They both joined ADV the same week. And we met Monik around the same time. What we noticed within the early stage landscape in the UK were a few 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 that’s something that the three of us, in a very complementary way, bring to the table.”

“We believe that capitalism should and can be inclusive and at the same time produce tremendous results,” she added. “And we really want it to be able to support early-stage companies that are really positively shaping the future. We have all built our careers with that North Star as a guide. It’s a value we’ve always championed, but it’s only now at this point that the market is really embracing it. There should be no compromise between socially sustainable, ecologically sustainable and commercially sustainable results. You have to think of both. And that is the value on which all three of us gathered,” she said.

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Tong Gu told me, “I grew up in China and witnessed how entrepreneurship and technology enabled a large population of people who were below the poverty line to become richer and make their lives better. I started a technology company that allowed independent small brand owners to compete with the bigger ones. And for me, it was an experience of really driving economic inclusion, but in a way enabled by technology.”

Wyndham admitted that “it’s not a big fund”. However, she said the £30m should provide them with enough companies to get the “healthy diversification” needed to return the funds: “We could launch 18 to 20 companies, either lead or co-lead. We’ve thought very carefully about how we’ve arranged our base LP board. So the LPSs that have come up are strategic and provide domain expertise and market access, but also provide continuity of capital. The vast majority are looking for access to business flow. So in that sense, this actually increases our firepower beyond 30 million.”

Anne Hathaway (Source: Wikipedia)

Anne Hathaway (Source: Wikipedia)

About having a Hollywood movie star among their records, Wyndham added: “She’s actually been my friend and mentor for about 12 years and since then we’ve become friends and have shared values. One of her big reasons is caring for children, and the lack of them, as the final frontier for gender equality. And this is something that we experienced firsthand as three general practitioners who all gave birth to their first children while raising this fund. We had to figure out how to overcome structural obstacles to be able to do both. That’s actually one of the lessons we hope to share with the ecosystem, and that’s where Anne comes in.”

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Pact first invested in Growth Kitchen, a London-based company launching sustainable food brands based on data insights.

Past investments for Pacta team members include a clause that was purchased by DocuSign. Onto, electric vehicle subscription service; Perlego, an online learning platform; and Yoco, an African FinTech company.


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