After spending the last four years advocating for greater diversity and inclusion in the venture capital industry, Check Warner is officially launching a fund of her own aimed at investing in previously underserved startup founders.
Her partner at Ada Ventures is long-time colleague Matt Penneycard, after the two had previously worked together at Downing Ventures and then the space investment specialist Seraphim Capital.
An experienced investor herself, Warner has spent the last four years on her passion project, Diversity VC, a non-profit organisation which advocates for more diversity in the VC industry. Now Warner is backing up that mission with real cash.
The government-owned British Business Bank is providing two-thirds of the total £27 million fund size through its Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF) programme, with big-name investors like TransferWise founder Taavet Henrikus, the founders of Finnish gaming company Supercell, Backstage Capital founder Arlan Hamilton and the New York-based quant investment firm BlueSky Capital filling out the roster.
Ada – named after Ada Lovelace, of course – will focus its first fund on initial seed investments of around £500,000 in about 30 companies with “founders who come from diverse backgrounds and who are solving some of the worlds most significant problems, problems that have been overlooked by the current crop of founders and VCs,” according to a statement from Warner. Its core sectors are healthcare, consumer and the future of work, with a strong technology underpinning.
According to research by Diversity VC and the British Business Bank conducted in 2017, 89p in every pound invested in the UK goes to all-male teams, whereas Ada so far has invested just 29p of every pound in all-male founding teams, namely in two companies: Huboo and Inoviv.
Its portfolio at launch includes the maker of flushable sanitary pads Polipop, jewellery startup Motley and the ecommerce fulfilment specialist Huboo.
“As a femtech company with a strong sustainability mission, we found investors were hesitant in an unfamiliar market. From the first meeting with Ada, it was clear that Check and Matt were different. They were not only fantastic advocates for the femtech space but also for female and minority founders,” Polipop cofounder and CEO Olivia Ahn said in a statement.
The fund is also looking to do things slightly differently to the norm by employing a network of ‘Ada Scouts’ to find startups in their community and be rewarded if those leads end in an investment.