Zinc VC, a London-based firm that claims to back new companies that solve the developed world’s toughest social issues, announced on Tuesday that it has completed the first close of a new fund at £28M (approximately €32.85M) with a target of a final close at £33M (approximately €38.75M).
The firm says its aim is to invest in “entrepreneurs who want to build commercial solutions to our most pressing societal challenges.” Since its inception in 2017, Zinc VC has supported over 200 entrepreneurs and helped them build over 60 ventures.
The firm was founded by Ella Goldner, Paul Kirby and Saul Klein, and backed by its early investors, including the London School of Economics.
About the new Fund
Zinc 2 Fund, an early-stage venture capital fund, backs mission-driven talent, pre-team and pre-idea, to build new commercial businesses that address the world’s greatest societal problems.
Ella Goldner, co-founder of Zinc, says, “Rather than waiting for good companies to appear, Zinc helps individuals (before they have a business idea or a team) to build from scratch a new commercially-ambitious company to solve the social challenge that they are most passionate about. Typically, those individuals are 10 to 20 years into their career, but are frustrated that they are not having the social impact they want.”
“Either these individuals are in the commercial world (eg. product, tech, marketing, sales, entrepreneurs) and frustrated that their commercial skills are not being used to solve the most pressing social issues. Or, they are in the social impact world (eg. doctors, teachers, researchers, NGO workers) and frustrated that they do not have the same freedom, and pace as businesses to innovate and scale. Zinc brings these groups together to combine social impact and commercial skills,” adds Goldner.
Zinc helps such individuals to join a cohort of up to 70 people, who all share the same mission, and access a 12-month programme of support and investment. For instance, the most recent programme had 68 individuals who were all passionate about improving the mental health of children and young people.
The programme also gives the cohort the opportunity to find a co-founder, access expert support, build a product, and win financial investment. The firm says it will invest up to £250K in each of the companies created.
What to expect from this Fund?
Each of Zinc’s venture builder programmes has 70 entrepreneurs, all focused on one of Zinc’s four missions: improving mental health, protecting the natural environment, improving the quality of later life, and helping people impacted by automation and globalisation.
Paul Kirby, co-founder of Zinc, says, “Our missions are a call to arms: ‘Who wants to quit their jobs and spend the next decade or more solving this problem?’ Each mission unites people who care deeply about the same unsolved problem, cutting across the traditional silos (by industry, profession and private/public/charity) which get in the way of innovation.”
Kirby adds, “The mission-led approach has not only attracted brilliant entrepreneurs, with thousands of people willing to quit their job and join the Zinc programme. It also attracts fantastic experts and partner organisations who are equally passionate about the mission and want to help entrepreneurs succeed. Each of our programmes has 100 Visiting Fellows and an extensive network of partners.”
The Zinc 2 Fund will back seven of its venture builder programmes, which will include about 500 entrepreneurs, and will invest in 100 of the businesses that are created.
The first programme is focused on the mental health of children and young people. The next programme will start in October, 2022, with 70 founders – all focused on B2B solutions to help transform the industries that have the most impact on our environmental crisis.
Diane Morgan, Zinc’s Director of Talent, says “We call it the Great Re-evaluation as more and more people are wanting to make a difference in the world and benefit from the freedom to innovate that entrepreneurship offers. Zinc is tapping into that wave of passionate, frustrated talent while also being determined to open-up access to entrepreneurship.
“In a time where less than 5 per cent of VC funding in 2021 went to female founders, and less than 0.5 per cent of venture capital funding went to Black-led startups, the danger is that the products being built won’t meet the needs or tackle the challenges society faces. That’s why we have built cohorts with more than half of our entrepreneurs being women, the cohort being ethnically diverse, and an average age of 38 years and embracing age diversity with a range from mid-20s to mid-50s. We’re attracting talent from around the world, with over 30 nationalities represented in our entrepreneurs, with many of them relocating to the UK to join Zinc and start their business here,” adds Morgan.
Some of Zinc’s previously backed startups include Vira Health, menopause support; Tandem, transportation for workers in small cities and towns; Pexxi, personalised contraception pills; Bellevie, for better jobs in homecare; Untangle, grief support; Beanbag, support for eating disorders, and more.
Investors backing Zinc VC
The investment came from the British Business Bank’s Enterprise Capital Funds programme, which supports new and emerging VC fund managers who target the early-stage equity gap.
Ken Cooper, Managing Director, Venture Solutions, British Business Bank, says, “The British Business Bank’s Enterprise Capital Funds programme plays an important role in developing and maintaining effective VC provision in the UK, lowering the barriers to entry for emerging fund managers and for those targeting under-served areas of the market. Our commitment to Zinc will help it to provide finance and support to businesses created by a diverse range of founders, who are focussed on delivering social impact at scale.”
The fund also found backing from other investors, including Big Society Capital, Molten Ventures, Isomer Capital, Dunhill Medical Trust, Atomico, Anthemis Group, family offices, and some of Europe’s successful tech entrepreneurs and early-stage investors such as Taavet Hinrikus from Taaven+Sten, among others.