Funds Backing Diverse Founders

Diversity in Funding: 16 VCs and Angel Networks Backing Diverse Founders in the UK | 2023 

Farzana Haque, 16 February 2023

Despite diversity being good for business, the flows of equity investment have yet to achieve a fair reflection of society.

Earlier this month, our flagship report on equity investment in the UK (The Deal 2022) found that less than 2p in every £1 invested during 2022 went to all-female founding teams, versus 85p to all-male founding teams. Unfortunately, the lack of diversity doesn’t stop there. A 2022 report by Diversity VC revealed that only 1.3% of venture capital deal flow in the US went to companies with Black founders. From Silicon Valley to Europe, the vast majority of venture capital funds are deployed to well-educated, white, male founders. This leaves diverse demographics with a lot to be desired. 

We’ve already seen great new initiatives that bridge the gap between diverse founders and that all-important investment. For example, grassroots LGBTQ+ community initiative: Proud Ventures. Its 2023 report on UK LGBTQ+ founders and VCs is the first of its kind and contains five actionable recommendations for every investor.

Many funds are also starting to take positive steps to increase diversity in the venture capital ecosystem. In a survey of venture capitalists published last year, Morgan Stanley found that of the 42% of VC firms that made public pledges around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) over the past 12 months, eight in 10 followed through with all or most of the commitments.

16 of the Most Active Funds Investing in Diverse Founders

We’ve spotlighted 16 VC funds and angel networks that are most actively investing in UK companies with all different types of diverse founding teams and even included a selection of their portfolios. So, whether you’re searching for funding or looking to diversify your deal flow, check out the profiles below. 

Boost Fund 

Fund type: Private investment vehicle
Location: London

Boost Fund is a  new investment fund backed by high-net-worth angel investors and managed by early-stage investor Capital Pilot. Launched by Capital Pilot’s CEO Richard Blakesley, it announced on the 1st of December 2022 that its first fund had been fully allocated via nearly 100 deals. 

The  Westminster-based fund has a specific commitment to helping underrepresented founders and regions of the UK and always invests exactly £50k. As one of the most active funds on this list, Boost Fund has invested in at least 45 companies with 74% of its investment going into seed-stage companies and 26.1% going into venture-stage companies. Whilst the fund invests in any sector, the most common sector so far from its first round is tech, with 33.7% of its investments going into technology/IP-based businesses. 

When looking at its investment decisions, we found that 37.8% of its investments went to majority-female or all-female-founded companies— a fantastic step forward for gender diversity when considering that only 9% of announced deals in 2022 went to companies with women founders. 

The application process for this fund involves taking the Capital Pilot Investability Rating test; companies rated highly automatically qualify for funding. Unsuccessful companies are able to receive an in-depth report on the strengths and weaknesses of their business plan.

Distill Ventures 

Fund type: Private equity and venture capital
Location: London

Founded in 2013, Distill Ventures is different from the rest of the funds on this list as it invests specifically within the spirits industry. Its Pre-Accelerator, set up in 2021, encourages underrepresented groups to apply for early-stage investment. Successful applicants for the programme receive an initial investment of up to £350k and six to nine months of support. This comes in the form of helping startups identify target consumers, test commercial propositions and evaluate product market fit. 

Distill Ventures provides equity investments ranging from £250k (for a pre-launch startup) to £10m (for established businesses), which comes solely from British multinational beverage company, Diageo. The funding, available to entrepreneurs with businesses in spirits and non-alcoholic drinks, comes alongside mentoring. 

Distill Ventures has invested in at least eight companies so far. In November last year, it invested in The Oxford Artisan Distillery which produces spirits using organic grains.

1818 Venture Capital 

Fund type: Private equity and venture capital
Location: Guernsey

1818 Venture Capital was established as part of RAW Capital Partners in 2012 but became fully independent in 2017. The fund has since gone on to enjoy great success with six portfolio companies already exiting. 

The fund typically invests in early and growth-stage tech companies, with fintech being the most common sector among its portfolio. Looking particularly for companies based in the UK, 1818 prioritises underrepresented founders as well as businesses with a social purpose. 

With a portfolio of 28 companies, the fund’s most recent investment took place just last month. Alongside Boost Fund and others, 1818 invested in Kent-based cleantech Greenspark. Other companies in the fund’s portfolio include VR training company MOONHUB and insurtech for cyclists Laka.

Pink Salt Ventures 

Fund type: Private equity and venture capital
Location: United Kingdom

Founded by Samira Ann Qassim in 2019, Pink Salt Ventures is the UK’s first VC firm dedicated exclusively to female founders. This new fund invests in early-stage technology companies that are female-led. Here, the phrase “‘female-led” refers to a company where women hold an equal proportion (50% or more) of the founding equity.

Pink Salt Ventures announced its intention to invest in 12 early-stage companies in the UK for around 5-15% stake back in December 2021 when Saloni Bhojwani joined as Co-Founder to the new fund.

Despite investing in pre-seed and seed companies, its early portfolio companies have already shown signs of success. Alena, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup that develops a mental health-focused support platform), has raised £2.04m since the investment from Pink Salt in March 2021.

Angel Academe 

Fund type: Angel network
Location: United Kingdom

Founded in 2014, Angel Academe is an angel network investing in female-founded tech startups. The network invests only in companies with at least one woman in the founding team. Whilst it aims to encourage women to get involved in investing—indeed 70% of the network is female—Angel Academe is open to all who share the vision of striving towards a diverse funding ecosystem. 

Angel Academe specifically backs early-stage companies that are either EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) or SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme)-qualifying (or both), with a pre-money valuation between £1m and £10m. It typically invests between £70k and £350k and encourages its members to provide active support to portfolio companies. The network backs tech companies and has a preference for fintechs, medtechs, edtechs, cleantechs and cyber security businesses. Angel Academe’s website also states that it has a preference for B2B businesses, though it will consider B2C companies. 

The network has backed 40 tech startups and scaleups, including AI startups FeedForward and Deployed, and soft drink brand Nix & Kix. With an exit horizon of three to 10 years, the network has already enjoyed some success. So far, two of its companies have exited via acquisitions: BuyMyWardrobe in 2018, and BuddyBounce in 2016.

January Ventures 

Fund type: Private equity and venture capital
Location: United States

Founded in 2018 by Jennifer Keiser Neundorfer and Maren Thomas Bannon, January Ventures is an early-stage fund investing in diverse founders, particularly female entrepreneurs within the tech space. Previously known as Jane VC, the fund is based between Boston and London. It invests in pre-seed and seed-stage B2B software companies across the US and Europe. The fund typically writes cheques for $250k to $750k and focuses on companies operating within the future of work or health sectors. 

January Ventures is one of the more prolific funds on this list with at least 25 portfolio companies. The most common sectors among the fund’s portfolio are HRtech, Collabtech and AI. Its most recent UK-based investment went into tech startup, FLOWN, which operates an online platform aimed to increase workplace productivity. Other UK companies the fund has invested in include DNA sequencing startup Sano Genetics and sexual wellness app Kama.

mint Ventures 

Fund type: Angel network
Location: Scotland

mint Ventures is a women-led angel network. Spurred on by the philosophy that inclusion is essential to innovation, the network invests in female entrepreneurs and companies with diverse executive teams and boards. Much like Angel Academe, mint Ventures also seeks to encourage women to become angel investors, though the network is open to both men and women. 

The network focuses on early-stage companies across all sectors, as well as companies serving women’s needs and interests with products and services. It typically invests £50k to £250k into companies eligible for the EIS or SEIS schemes and has an exit horizon of five to seven years. It’s a non-profit organisation in that it is the individual business angels that benefit financially. 


Fund type: Private equity and venture capital
Location: London

Founded by Charmaine Hayden in 2017, GOODsoil is a UK venture capital firm that invests in pre-seed and seed-stage companies based in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. The fund backs founders from diverse backgrounds, such as ethnic minorities. It also has a preference for businesses with a global reach that aim to benefit communities, specifically through innovations in sustainable technologies within agritech, fintech and green energy sectors. 

The fund writes cheques of £50k to £250k and offers access to its team of founders, operational experts and investment professionals to help its portfolio companies to scale. GOODsoil’s website mentions nine portfolio companies, including UK startups Steelo Style and Vitae London.

Cornerstone Partners 

Fund type: Angel network
Location: London

The lack of diversity among the founders of UK businesses inspired the establishment of Cornerstone Partners– an angel network solely investing in companies owned by Black founders and diverse teams. Drawing on our data, Cornerstone’s 2020 report on Access to Venture Capital found that just 3% of VC-funded founders identify as Black. 

The network offers both equity investments and loans and backs exclusively SEIS and EIS-qualifying companies. In 2021, Cornerstone VC, an investment firm was born, spinning out of the network. 

Cornerstone’s portfolio includes at least nine companies, including market research company Tectonic, e-commerce fulfilment service Hutch, and fitness class provider Boxx. Its most recent investment was in April 2022, where it participated in a £2.27m investment in By Rotation—an app that allows users to rent clothes—alongside Redrice Ventures and True Early Stage.

CGV (Community Growth Ventures) 

Fund type: Angel network
Location: London

Founded in 2017, CGV (Community Growth Ventures) is an angel network that invests in and supports pre-seed and seed-stage startups led by underrepresented founders in the UK. It specifically invests in companies where 25% of the startup’s founding team are from overlooked backgrounds. CGV typically invests between £25k and £50k and also provides a range of support services, such as strategy consultancy. The fund has stated that it focuses investment into software businesses which are showing early indication of demand (through revenue growth, paid pilots, or customer acquisition), and have a possible £10b+ market size. 

CGV’S current portfolio includes Afrocenchix, which develops vegan, organic hair care products for consumers with afro hair, and Freyda, a Hackney-based startup that develops software aiming to automate data entry and analysis for financial services.

Ada Ventures 

Fund type: Private equity and venture capital
Location: London

Named after one of the first female computer scientists, Ada Lovelace, Ada Ventures is a venture capital firm that backs overlooked founders and markets. Ada Ventures finds and funds talent-building breakthrough ideas for the problems facing the world right now—from climate change to healthcare and ageing. The firm invests in early-stage (post-product, pre-revenue) UK-based tech companies with initial investments of £250k to £1.00m. It was launched in 2018 by seasoned venture capital partners Check Warner (co-founder of Diversity VC) and Matt Penneycard.

Ada Ventures has backed at least 24 companies since launch. Its portfolio shows great promise already with one exited company: Mirthy which was acquired by Rest Less last month. Among the fund’s portfolio, the most common sectors are services on demand and AI. Most recently, the fund took part in a £2.30m fundraising round last month for Blakbear alongside Green Circle Foodtech Ventures, Ponderosa Ventures and REMUS Capital.

Pact VC

Fund type: Private equity and venture capital
Location: London

Founded by Tong Gu, Monik Pham, and Reem Mobassaleh Wyndham, Pact VC invests in early-stage tech companies with underrepresented founders. The fund states on its LinkedIn that it follows a philosophy which it calls the “ABCs”: access, betterment and climate. As such, the fund aims for its investments to democratise access to products and services, better human well-being and target sustainable and climate-friendly technologies. 

Pact VC has so far invested in six high-growth UK businesses, all based in London. Its portfolio companies include Ruka Hair (an e-commerce company that sells a range of wigs), LVNDR (an e-health business that develops an app enabling users to track their sexual health) and Dapio (a fintech that helps businesses get paid more efficiently). In April 2022, the fund participated in a £3.00m investment in delivery-exclusive kitchen space provider Growth Kitchen alongside angel investors.

Simsan Ventures 

Fund type: Private equity and venture capital
Location: London 

Founded in 2021, by brothers Sahil and Sagar Chopra, Simsan Ventures invests in undervalued markets (Europe, South Korea and India) and underrepresented founders.

The fund invests at what it deems to be “underfunded stages”: pre-seed, seed, pre-series A and series A. It specifically seeks to invest in early-stage technology companies with a focus on fintech or deep tech. 

Alongside Simsan’s funding arm is its work to increase diversity on the founding side. It’s passionate about helping young people to break into the VC industry. It runs a university network where it holds workshops and events to demystify the VC environment. 

Its current UK portfolio includes Beyond Bamboo, an online marketplace for suppliers and merchants of sustainable products, and the Welsh-based hotel booking app Porter.

Impact X

Fund type: Private equity and venture capital
Location: London

Founded in 2018, Impact X is a London-based venture firm founded to support overlooked entrepreneurs across Europe, particularly the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. The team at Impact X consists of seasoned investors, advisors and serial entrepreneurs from ethnically-diverse backgrounds. The VC fund invests specifically in three sectors: digital and technology, healthcare and lifestyle, and media and entertainment. 

With £100m to invest, Impact X invests in companies at the seed, series A and series B stages. The fund explicitly seeks businesses with compelling IPO or acquisition opportunities and has already seen some success with its portfolio company Pace being acquired by FLYR in September 2022. 

Most recently, the fund has contributed towards an £870k fundraising round by Afrocenchix alongside Cornerstone Partners, GV (Google Ventures) and Backed VC.

Salonica Maroon

Fund type: Private equity and venture capital
Location: Jersey

Salonica Maroon is the social impact private equity arm of Salonica Group, an independent investment bank. Set up in the summer of 2021, the fund currently has £75.0m under management and is seeking to make investments of up to £5.00m. The fund takes a hands-on approach, offering operational and strategic support alongside financial investment. 

With a specific focus on diversity and ethnicity, the fund backs BAME founders and female-led businesses headquartered in the UK. Salonica Maroon also looks for startups with growth potential, proof of revenue and a sustainability focus. Its investment areas are broad but usually fall within one of the following sectors: beauty and cosmetics, retail and hospitality, household and pet care and entertainment. 

Investment decision-making is done by both the Investment Committee and the Sustainability Committee, and potential pitches are required to pass both committees in order to proceed. The fund provides long-term capital to its portfolio of high-growth companies, with an equal emphasis on financial returns and non-financial impact.

Merian Ventures 

Fund type: Private equity and venture capital
Location: United States

With a focus on Seed and Series A investments, Merian Ventures is a data-driven venture capital firm. It backs female-founded, co-founded or majority-owned technology companies. The fund was established in 2015 by Alexsis de Raadt St James, and invests in deep tech companies, specifically in cyber, blockchain, AI and machine learning. 

The fund invests across the UK and the US and has backed eight companies so far. One of two portfolio companies based in the UK is Provenance, a London-based company that develops blockchain technology for businesses to track items through supply chains. In March 2019, the fund backed Pivigo, which operates a data science training programme.

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