Startup Founders Turned Angel Investors
Lucy Wilson, 15 December 2022
Angel investors are an important fundraising source for early-stage companies, particularly those that are yet to secure investment from private equity and venture capital firms. And many of the UK’s most active angels and biggest stakeholders are former entrepreneurs themselves. These founders turned angels are a crucial part of our maturing startup landscape, even after exiting their businesses.
The UK’s high-growth ecosystem certainly has a plentiful supply of investment opportunities for high-net-worth individuals. All of the people listed here are current or former founders that have at least 10 active shareholdings in high-growth UK companies. Read on to discover some of the country’s top angel investors and the future unicorns they’re supporting.
Sophie Adelman co-founded Multiverse, which was launched in 2016 to provide apprenticeship programmes to non-graduates, and recently became the UK’s first edtech unicorn. The female entrepreneur is now also Co-Founder and CEO of The Garden. Founded in 2021, The Garden is a London-based media and entertainment company, which puts on a range of educational and informative events.
Prior to becoming a successful two-time founder, Adelman studied Geography at the University of Cambridge, undertook a Graduate Fellowship at Harvard, and later gained her MBA from Stanford. She was also Head of Sales for EMEA at Hired, a US-based tech company that operates an online recruitment marketplace.
Besides her stakes in Multiverse and The Garden, Adelman is an active angel investor and currently has shareholdings in nine other high-growth businesses in the UK. These include edtech startup Mindstone, professional development platform Progression, audiobook app Xigxag, and recruitment website Otta. Adelman was also Entrepreneur In Residence at Index Ventures last year, supporting the fund’s portfolio companies.
Robert Swann is a serial entrepreneur that started numerous business ventures before moving into angel investing. In 1997, he received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cambridge. Then, after three years at Cambridge Consultants (now part of Capgemini), he spun-out the semiconductor company Alphamosaic. He was Co-Founder and VP of Marketing at Alphamosaic until its acquisition by Broadcom in 2004.
Swann then went on to co-found image processing tech startup Spectral Edge (acquired by Apple in 2019) and, most recently, AudioTelligence. Founded in 2017 and also based in Cambridge, AudioTelligences’s software is designed to separate wanted noise from the many other sources of sound that could be present.
As a board member at Cambridge Angels, Swann is also an experienced angel investor. The angel group provides growth funding and mentoring to small businesses in Cambridge, Oxford and London, with a particular focus on deep tech and healthcare ventures. Swann has active shareholdings in 25 UK companies, including Myrtle.ai and mental health company Ieso Digital Health. He also had a stake in nine other high-growth businesses that have now exited, and holds several NED and Chairman roles.
Next on our list is Srin Madipalli, a serial entrepreneur and now angel investor. Madipalli graduated from King’s College London with a BA in Genetics, before moving into corporate law at Herbert Smith Freehills. He later received his MBA from the University of Oxford. In 2012, Madipalli co-founded Disability Horizons, an online publishing company that aims to give a voice to disabled people.
In 2015, Madipalli became CEO and Co-Founder at Accomable. The company developed an online marketplace for booking holiday rentals and hotels that provide facilities for elderly or disabled people. It was acquired by Airbnb in November 2017, with Madipalli becoming Head of Accessibility at the proptech giant. Following the success of Accomable, he went on to start AI company Listify in late 2020, which provides copywriting services for property listings. According to his LinkedIn, Madipalli is currently working on a new venture idea. He is also a startup mentor at the Oxford Foundry and Creative Destruction Lab accelerators.
Madipalli has been angel investing for the last couple of years, with active shareholdings in 25 high-growth UK companies. These include Integrated Finance, Omnipresent, holiday property rental site Altovita, pharmaceutical startup Micrographia Bio, wellbeing app Fika, and agritech company Dendra. On top of this, Madipalli is also part of the Atomico Angel Programme, and is on the advisory board at Included VC and 8 Dimension Ventures.
In 1996, former PE teacher Heather Frankham founded Lifetime Training, a Bristol-based training course and qualification provider, with a strong focus on personal fitness. The business has undergone two management buyouts to date, first with Sovereign Capital in 2011, and then with Silverfleet Capital in 2016.
Having exited Lifetime Training in 2016, Frankham then co-founded Bud. The edtech company develops an online platform that allows businesses to deliver apprenticeships and their accreditations. Frankham also set up co-working venture Origin Workspace, as well as a charitable trust (using proceeds from the Lifetime Training sale) through which she provides seed funding to charities supporting children and young people.
Alongside her business ventures, Frankham is a leading female angel investor and a member of Bristol Private Equity Club angel network. She has 10 active shareholdings in high-growth UK companies, mostly based in the South West, including Bristol startups Blu Wireless and Inductosense.
Read about female angels in the UK, in our latest report with UKBAA and NatWest
Tunstall-Pedoe started out his career as a software engineer, having worked on projects since the age of 13 and graduating from the University of Cambridge with a MA in Computer Science. In 2005, he founded the AI company Evi, which developed natural language understanding technology. Evi was sold to Amazon in 2012, with Tunstall-Pedoe becoming a Principal Product Manager, helping to build and launch Amazon Alexa.
In 2018, he moved on to start a new artificial intelligence venture, Unlikely AI. Alongside this, he also spent five years as a Fellow in Entrepreneurship at Cambridge Judge Business School, and is currently a Fellow at the Creative Destruction Lab startup accelerator.
On top of being a successful entrepreneur in the AI space, Tunstall-Pedoe has also been mentoring startups and angel investing for many years. He’s been a member of the Cambridge Angels investment network since 2016, and is an active shareholder in 34 high-growth UK companies. He also had shares in Audio Analytic and Bloomsbury AI (both acquired by Meta), health app Span (acquired by Eight Sleep earlier this year), and security software firm Thirdeye (acquired by Standard in 2021).
Another serial entrepreneur, Raj Sharma has an impressive track record, having founded five ambitious UK businesses already. These include football recruitment platform Skouted, peer-to-peer car sharing platform HiyaCar, and anti-microbial and anti-viral coating company CodiKoat. Alongside this, Sharma has been an angel investor since 2015, and has active shareholdings in 17 high-growth businesses in the UK.
Sharma’s broad investment portfolio includes agritech startup Herdvision, tea company Hope & Glory, and digital security and due diligence firm Neotas. He also has a stake in SFC Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm which offers private investors access to SEIS and EIS-qualifying investment opportunities.
Roberta (Beta) Lucca has two businesses to her name already, having co-founded both the BAFTA-winning games developer Bossa Studios and WonderLuk—in 2011 and 2013, respectively. WonderLuk designed and sold 3D-printed jewellery, but was dissolved in December 2017. Bossa Studios, meanwhile, creates video games that can be played through a number of mediums, including social media, games consoles and mobile devices.
This former founder, now angel investor and startup advisor, has shareholdings in seven high-growth UK companies. Cosmos Video, Heights, and Electric Noir Studios are just a few of the ambitious businesses she’s backed to date. Recent accolades include being named one of Forbes Top 50 Women in Tech, and appearing on The Apprentice as a judge and angel investor. Lucca also hosts the Hyper Curious Podcast, and has MBAs in both Management and Marketing.
Back in 2006, Will Neale founded Fonix Mobile, which develops mobile messaging and payment software for businesses in the telecoms, entertainment, and media sectors. The London tech startup went public in October 2020, listing on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in a £45m IPO. Alongside this, the former Accenture consultant also founded Grabyo, in 2013. The SaaS company has developed an online service that allows broadcasters and rights holders to create and distribute real-time video clips of their content.
Neale has been an active pre-seed and seed investor for many years now, opting to invest largely through VC funds. He’s been a LP at LocalGlobe since 2017, backing early-stage businesses in London, as well as King River Capital (an Australian and US tech VC), Seedcamp, Passion Capital, helloworld, Entrepreneur First, and Tiny. Adding to this impressive resume, he also invests via the Portfolio Ventures and Cocoa angel investment funds.
As a result of all this activity, Neale currently has 59 shareholdings in high-growth UK companies. These include the insurtech unicorn Marshmallow and fast-growing greentech company pledge. He’s also backed six further companies that have now exited, such as fintech startup Credit Kudos (acquired by Apple earlier this year) and real estate crowdfunding platform Property Partner (acquired by Better.com).
Back in 2006, former investment banker Errol Damelin founded the (somewhat controversial) payday lender Wonga. He led the company as CEO until 2013, and is now an active angel investor, providing seed funding to tech businesses across the world. Before starting the fintech company, he also founded Supply Chain Connect, which was acquired in 2005.
Although Wonga went into administration in 2018, Damelin has active shareholdings in 16 other businesses here in the UK. These include the blockchain company Elliptic, SME banking app Tide, proptech companies Habito and Nested, and fintech Nous. Damelin also had shares in Purplebricks at the time of its £25m IPO in 2015, and in Second Home when it was acquired by Global Asset Capital for £7.80m this year.
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