At Ada Ventures we’re supporting portfolio founders with childcare. Here’s why.

Francesca (Check) Warner
Ada Ventures
Published in
5 min readOct 3, 2023


A picture of me and my son Pip, alongside Hannah Sutcliff, co-founder of Ada Portfolio company Moonhub who is soon to have her first baby, Sarah Hesz, Chief Commercial Officer of Ada Portfolio company and UK’s leading childcare platform Bubble and Diarra Smith, Head of Portfolio and Brand at Ada Ventures.

The tech and VC industry isn’t currently designed for parents.

But it could be and should be.

If you’re a VC, there’s lots of travel, in-person meetings, late night phone calls. For founders, it’s even more intense. Full-on hours, regular firefighting, and the aforementioned investors to keep happy. It’s tough to do all of this whilst navigating the complexity of trying to conceive, getting pregnant, being a new parent and raising children. This is especially true for solo parents or people experiencing infertility or going through adoption.

It’s particularly tough on women, who disproportionately shoulder the majority of caring responsibilities. In fact, the lack of access to accessible, affordable childcare is regularly cited as one of the top 1–2 barriers to impact women’s likelihood to start and scale businesses. This impact plays out in the numbers. In 2022, only 1% of VC capital was raised by women-only teams. 87% went to all-male founding teams.

I have felt this. I wrote in 2021 about trying to conceive as the founder of a new business, of fertility worries and how open to be about pregnancy. I was fortunate to get pregnant. My husband Paddy and I welcomed our son Pip in 2021 and we will soon be parents of two when our daughter arrives next month. It’s been challenging to navigate leading a young business (Ada Ventures which launched just 3 years ago) and being a new parent. I suspect I haven’t always got it right, on both sides.

However, when Matt and I started Ada Ventures we had a shared vision — we wanted to set an example about how a company can embrace parenthood and actively support parents in our team, portfolio and wider community.

This is because we both believed then and believe now that the tech and VC industry can be not just compatible but actually very complementary to having children. I know I’m better at my job since having my son, Pip, who’s now 22 months. I manage my time better, prioritise more efficiently, and am able to see problems and solutions in a new light.

Like many start-ups and VC firms, Ada Ventures has an innovative culture where new ways of working are embraced and we leverage technology which means we don’t have to work 12 hours days in an office five days per week. This makes being a founder and working in tech and VC synergistic with being a parent. Yet I hear stories all the time of founders who are made to feel like they have to hide the fact that they are pregnant when fundraising, that they are seen to have ‘stepped off the partner track’ if they have a child, make up excuses for seeing their children’s nativity or that they simply can’t risk getting pregnant, for fear of losing their jobs.

I believe there’s a better way.

If founders are to be set up for success as I have been in having children and running their own business, they need two key things. The first is psychological support. Knowing that my business partner, the talented Ada team and our investors are not simply supportive of me having children, but actually share my belief that it makes me a better founder and leader is incredibly empowering. This support manifests in both having fantastic workplace policies (such as a night nanny benefit and generous parental leave) but also not feeling judged for leaving the office to get back to see Pip before he goes to sleep.

The second is great childcare.

But I know my experience isn’t typical. In fact, it’s almost an aberration for our industry, where less than 15% of partners of funds are female and there are only a handful of female founders of VC funds. Lots of VC funds still don’t even have parental leave policies in place beyond the statutory minimum. And nor do most early stage start-ups. Founders often feel chronic guilt about leaving their work baby to look after their actual baby; returning to work far too soon as a result.

VCs often make this worse for founders. Instead of supporting them in the transition to parenthood, I’ve heard bleak stories of VCs chastising founders for their audacity in starting a family.

We have to pioneer a new way.

At Ada, I hope we’ve shown over the years that we don’t just talk the talk. We put intention into action. And after my maternity leave and transition back to work, we began thinking much more deeply about how we could empower our founders to enjoy a similarly positive experience.

That’s why today we’re announcing our new policy to cover the cost of the ‘back-up’ childcare founders may need to rely on each year. We believe we’re the first VC in Europe to do this, possibly elsewhere too (although if you’ve heard of a similar scheme, please let us know, we’d love to connect and learn from other funds’ experiences).

From this month onwards, each founder in the Ada Ventures portfolio will be entitled to claim up to 40 hours of childcare each year. The offering will be delivered via Bubble, the UK’s leading on-demand childcare platform (and an Ada portfolio company). We’ve designed the scheme to cover the gaps created by childcare arrangements falling through — such as through child sickness or nursery closures — following Bubble’s research that found parents are forced to take eight days off work each year because of this.

For the pre-seed and Seed founders we back, we believe this will remove a meaningful financial burden but also show that we genuinely think that being parents will make them better leaders and that supporting them with this important part of their lives makes business sense. Over 50% of our current portfolio companies have founders who are parents (or who will be soon).

We’re also going to be rolling out firm-wide guidance for portfolio companies around parental leave; creating a roadmap to help founders design maternity and paternity policies that work for them and to foster positive conversations with investors around founder parental leave, something we believe all founders should take.

But this is about much more than money. It’s also a signal to founders from us as their investors. A signal that we support their choices, should they decide to become parents, or make other significant life choices. Our role is to enable our portfolio companies to thrive and they can’t do that if they’re not supported in ways that reflect the realistic trajectories of their lives.

We don’t believe being or becoming a parent should put founders at a disadvantage. In fact, we think it can offer founders a huge advantage — one that most investors overlook.

I hope this childcare offering and commitment to parental leave transparency is an approach other investors adopt. It’s not complicated, but the impact stands to be huge. If you’re serious about diversity, particularly about female diversity, you can’t authentically move forward without addressing the parenthood question.

We believe this is a vital step towards a new era for genuinely inclusive venture.



Francesca (Check) Warner
Ada Ventures

Partner, Ada Ventures. Investing in breakthrough ideas for the hardest problems we face. Co-founder & CEO of Diversity VC.