Matt and I launched Ada Ventures, a $34m VC fund that invests in overlooked founders and markets, on the 11th December 2019, one year ago today.
Our strategy for generating outstanding returns is to (i) increase awareness of, and access to, venture capital amongst previously overlooked founders, and (ii) make Ada Ventures the fund of choice for the boldest founders from any background. [For more on us — watch our video, read my post on fundraising and privilege or read our thesis].
Yesterday we announced that we’ve increased the size of the fund to $50m, bringing on some fantastic new investors including Big Society Capital to complement our existing investor base.
When we launched we couldn’t have predicted the devastation and tragedy of Covid-19, or the social dislocation, hurt and outrage precipitated by the killing of George Floyd. These events have provided the backdrop of the first year of deployment from Ada Ventures Fund I and in that context, the Ada strategy is more relevant — and urgent — than ever.
Whilst it feels strange to celebrate anything this year, we we are pleased to have a deeper pool of capital to invest in exceptional founders addressing society’s biggest challenges.
As well as increasing the fund size, we felt that this would be a good moment to share an update on what else we’ve done this year:
- We reviewed, analysed and recorded nearly 1,000 companies on strategy, of which 43% had a female founder and over half came to us without a ‘warm introduction’. Thanks to everyone who took time to speak to us about their businesses and reviewed us on Landscape.
- We invested in eight bold and groundbreaking seed stage companies, tackling issues from mental health, to obesity, to workers rights and affordable, flexible childcare. We have announced four of these and can’t wait to share details of the next four soon.
- Of these eight companies, four have female co-founding CEOs, including Organise and RGrid.
- As part of our ‘Open Venture’ mission, we launched a first-of-a-kind angel programme, enabling five new angel investors to go through the Angel Investing School and write their first cheques. Anjel, David, Ash, Nicole and Arfah are our inaugural cohort and two of them have already made their first £10,000 investments.
- We also supported our portfolio company, Huboo Technologies to raise a £14m Series A, led by Stride VC and Hearst Ventures.
- We created a rolling Venture Partner programme, through which we have worked with Kelly McDaid, Michael Tefula, Kate Glazebrook, Alasdair Thong, Abadesi Osunsade, Mandy Nyarko, Harry McLaverty, Ahmed Medhat, and John Spindler. These brilliant people have supported us in a range of ways, including establish the whole operational infrastructure for Ada (thank you Kelly!), developing impact frameworks for our companies, diversity, equity and inclusion support and bringing challenge and new ideas to our investment process.
- We held several events, both physical and virtual. From dinner in San Francisco with US based friends and portfolio companies, to drinks in Berlin around the Super Venture conference, to AdaCon, our annual celebration of overlooked talent on Ada Lovelace Day in October.
- We worked with 58 scouts, holding quarterly coffee hours, sending out 12 newsletters, many whatsapp’s and holding events.
- Opened a small office right in the heart of Bristol (pictured above), in addition to our London base
- Spoke at events as far and wide as Falmouth, Australia, Peru and the US.
- Became certified at Level One of the Diversity VC Standard
- Supported organisations including TERN, Kwanda, BYP, The Stephen Lawrence Trust, Greenhouse and Beam which are aligned with the Ada Ventures mission.
Many Ada portfolio and pre-fund portfolio companies have made a tangible positive impact with their customers in this really difficult year, just some of which are listed below:
- Bubble delivered tens of thousands of hours of free childcare to NHS staff as well as enabling parents to maintain balance throughout the challenges of 2020.
- Organise grew their members from 70,000 to more than 900,000 and campaigned the government to provide support for the self-employed support during the Covid-19 pandemic, which they did.
- Huboo kept businesses running throughout 2020, growing from two employees, 60 clients and £20,000 MRR to 120 employees, over 500 clients and £800k MRR.
- Planera launched (and instantly sold out of) the world’s first dissolvable sanitary pad.
- Ferly kept people having mindful sex during one of the most stressful years of our lives.
- Trouva kept the 1000+ boutiques operating on their platform open across Europe during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
- Juno launched the first ever vaginal microbiome test, helping to close the gender data gap.
We continue to be incredibly ambitious and have a number of focus areas identified moving into 2021 to continue to execute on our vision for ‘Open Venture’.
- We will continue to invest in bold ideas from exceptional founders, particularly in areas that are non-correlated from our current portfolio.
- We will continue to grow our scouting network across the UK, particularly bringing in scouts from our focus areas of LGBTQ+, disabled entrepreneurs and regions outside of London.
- We will grow our team by hiring two full-time employees to the Ada Ventures team to scale our operations.
- We will inject diverse thinking to our fund with our rolling Venture Partner programme and scouting network.
- We will support our first cohort of angels in building their portfolios of diverse, early stage companies.
- We hope to be able to spend time with the Ada Ventures community in person during 2021!
Thank you to everyone who has been part of the Ada Ventures journey this year. Here’s to 2021.