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

How many venture capital funds can you name where the three partners had babies while raising the fund, have deep connections in Asia as well as Europe and the US, and include actress Anne Hathaway as a long-shot? I wouldn’t risk much.

But this is the profile of Pact, a new Seed VC fund launched with £30 million ($36 million) in cash to support early-stage startups across Europe. Pact will target mission-driven startups in what it calls the “ABC” categories: access (economic inclusion), enhancement (personal and professional well-being), and climate. (This is a much more interesting way of dealing with areas of “doing good” instead of touting the UN SDGs, IMHO). Pact’s investment tickets will range from around £1 to £1.5 million.

Besides Anne Hathaway (she’s not “only” an Oscar-winning actor, but also a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Women), other long-playing albums include Jeff Dean, head of AI at Google, and Keith Tear, founder (and former) TechCrunch shareholder and former UK and US tech entrepreneur.

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

The three partners – Tong Gu, Reem Mobasale Wyndhamand Monique Pham — were former venture capitalists at other funds. Gu was an investor in ADV (of which Teare was previously a part) and built 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 early stage founding team of Fuel Ventures and has launched several social enterprises in Africa and India.

Speaking to Reem Mobassaleh Wyndham, she told me that they had been raising the fund 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: “They both joined ADV the same week. And we met Monique around the same time. What we observed in 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 deep 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 and can be inclusive while delivering huge results,” she added. “And we really want to be able to support early-stage companies that are really positively shaping the future.” We have all built our careers with this Northstar as our guide. It’s a value we’ve always held, but it’s only now at this stage that the market is really moving towards it. There should be no trade-off between socially sustainable, environmentally sustainable and commercially sustainable outcomes. You have to think about both. And that’s a value that all three of us came together on,” she said.

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

Wyndham acknowledged that “it’s not a huge fund.” However, she said the £30m should give them enough companies to get the “healthy diversification” needed for the funds to return: “We can create 18 to 20 companies, either lead or joint. We’ve been very thoughtful about how we’ve prepared our LP base. So the LPSs that have emerged are strategic and provide domain expertise and market access, but also provide capital continuity. The majority of them are looking for access to the deal flow. So in that sense it actually scales our firepower beyond the 30 million.

On having a Hollywood movie star among their full-length albums, 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 the lack of such a bottom line for gender equality. And it’s something we experienced first-hand as three female GPs who had our first children while we were 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 that we’re hoping to share with the ecosystem, and that’s kind of where Anne steps in.”

Pact’s first investment was made in A kitchen for growtha London-based company that launches data-driven sustainable food brands.

Past investments for Pact team members include a clause acquired by DocuSign. Onto, a subscription service for electric vehicles; Perlego, an online learning platform; and Yoco, an African FinTech company.

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