Startups backed by the British Royal Family

Startups Backed by the British Royal Family

27 April 2022
By Annabel Beales

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The British Royal Family and high-growth startups is perhaps an unexpected combination. After all, the former represents tradition and heritage, whilst the latter is a space fostering innovation and growth. It turns out, however, that several members of the Royal Family (and one in particular) are well-versed in the UK’s startup ecosystem.

Indeed, the Royal Family are active investors in some of the country’s most ambitious businesses, in industries including hospitality, materials and property. Here, we explore five high-growth UK companies known to have secured backing from members of the British Royal Family. But with investments being just one way in which the Royal Family makes its money, let’s first take a look at the others.

The Sovereign Grant

The Royal Family’s income primarily comes from the Sovereign Grant, which is paid by the UK Government. This comes from roughly 15% of the profits of the Crown Estate revenue, a real estate business which is technically owned by the monarch but managed by an independent board. The money is used to cover the Royal Family’s official duties, essential maintenance, press and communications, security detail, travel, and maintenance of their homes, such as Buckingham Palace.

Royal duchies

A duchy is a domain ruled by a duke or a duchess. There are currently two in the United Kingdom: the Royal Duchy of Lancaster (held by the Queen) and the Royal Duchy of Cornwall (held by Prince Charles). The Queen and Prince Charles make money from the commercial side of the land, property and assets within their duchies; in fact, the majority of Prince Charles and Camilla’s income comes from the Duchy of Cornwall.

Personal income, investment and inheritance

Many members of the Royal Family have established separate sources of income outside of the Sovereign Grant. Most notably, Prince Harry has explored a number of new jobs recently, having famously cut ties with the royals, including his brother Prince William and sister-in-law Kate Middleton. Since concluding his royal duties as the Duke of Sussex, in search of a better life for his family in California, Harry has looked to the US startup space. 

One of these positions is a ‘“meaty role” as Chief Impact Officer at BetterUp. The San Francisco-based mental health startup has created a platform to develop career leadership, mental fitness, and inclusion and belonging for people, teams and organisations. It offers proactive coaching and skills development to encourage business growth.

BetterUp CEO Alexi Robichaux commented that the new job is an extension of Harry’s life’s work as an advocate for mental health initiatives. After Harry joined the Silicon Valley startup, its valuation tripled to £3.5b, over just eight months.  

Alongside other projects, such as a Netflix documentary and Spotify podcast Archewell Audio, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (formerly the Duke and the Duchess of Sussex) have also announced new roles with Ethic, a fintech asset manager which promotes sustainable investing. The couple have joined the tech startup as impact partners and investors, aiming to democratise investing and encourage considered financial decisions in people’s lives. 

But Harry and Meghan are not alone in their penchant for startup investment, nor does it take a formal separation for royal family members to have their own professional interests. Various family members are known to back fast-growing companies, alongside carrying out their royal duties. Enter our list of startups backed by the British Royal Family…let’s dive in.

Sector:
Materials technology

Head office location:
Hammersmith & Fulham

Year founded:
2015

PolyMateria

London-based PolyMateria has developed technology that allows for the manufacture of recyclable and biodegradable plastic products. The company’s scientists have created a proprietary additive that can break down plastic safely, turning a product into an earth-friendly wax once it has reached its maximum usage. 

The UK tech startup has also partnered with groups from Imperial College London, Avient and BEIS to develop a new British standard for biodegradable plastic, which ensures that claims about biodegradability can be independently verified without harming the environment. Ultimately, the company aims to solve the problem of ‘fugitive plastic’, littered plastic or plastic which has leaked out of a waste collection system into the natural environment. 

PolyMateria has raised £28.7m worth of equity investment, across seven funding rounds, and received two grants, totalling £869k. It’s raised money from purpose-led growth investment platform Planet First Partners, among other investors. But one of its most notable shareholders is Prince Charles, with the senior member of the Royal Family owning a 0.25% stake in the company. 

Prince Charles has long been a supporter of green initiatives. Alongside funding PolyMateria, he has launched a number of sustainability projects, including the Sustainable Markets Initiative. In 2017, he won the GCC Global Leader of Change Award for his contribution to global environmental preservation and protection.

Sector:
Consumer estate agency services

Head office location:
Kensington & Chelsea

Year founded:
2006

Banda Property

Founded by Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, the entrepreneur and property developer husband of Princess Beatrice, Banda Property offers a range of property services. It aims to create exceptional homes that are both beautiful and functional. 

The high-growth company develops multi-unit developments, as well as private residential projects, has a private client search team helping individuals find the most desirable homes in London, and offers bespoke interior design services. Meanwhile, its store currently hosts the Kwanza Collection, described as “striking marble pieces” for the home. 

Banda Property’s projects are based in super prime residential areas of London, close to the royal residence of Buckingham Palace. These include Notting Hill, Lancaster Gate, Holland Park, Chelsea and Fulham. It has also completed projects internationally. 

Now operating at the growth stage of evolution, Banda Property has over 30 employees and is classed as a 20% scaleup (a company that has average annualised growth greater than 20% per annum over a three year period, measured by either the number of employees or by turnover). 

Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi is not only Founder but also CEO at Banda Property, and holds a 56% stake in the company. Alongside his royal duties, Mapelli Mozzi has far-reaching interests in property, and has written for Property Week on the topic of redevelopment projects in Central London.

Sector:
Food and drink processors

Head office location:
Westminster

Year founded:
2014

Double Dutch

Double Dutch is a venture-stage startup that produces and sells drink mixers. The company was founded by twins Raissa and Joyce De Haas, who realised that tonics and mixers were not innovating in the same way that alcoholic drinks were. 

Seed funding for Double Dutch came in the form of an award for best dissertation at the end of their Masters in Tech Entrepreneurship. The De Haas twins went on to create 19 different mixers, with flavour pairings such as cucumber and watermelon and cranberry and lemon. Double Dutch’s products are low-sugar, free from artificial flavouring and colouring, and are produced with sustainability in mind.  

Alongside attending two accelerator programmes (The Hatchery and the Mayor’s International Business Programme), female-founded Double Dutch has raised £4.96m in equity funding to date, across four rounds. Its backers include various business angels, with Princess Eugenie’s husband, Jack Brooksbank, holding a 0.14% stake in the company. 

The Royal Family member is well-known for his background in the hospitality sector. As well as investing in Double Dutch, he is the European brand ambassador for Casamigos, a tequila company that was co-founded by actor George Clooney. Brooksbank also has his own wine, beer and spirits wholesaler, Jack Brooksbank Ltd.

Sector:
Proptech

Head office location:
Islington

Year founded:
2015

Kamma

Proptech company Kamma develops property licensing software for letting agents, surveyors and landlords. It aims to improve legal compliance and the accuracy of property valuation, with the tech startup’s customers including Chestertons and Purplebricks.

Kamma’s technology searches for changes to the conditions of property licensing on a daily basis. Once the data is gathered, cleaned and aggregated, it is mapped across the UK and cross-referenced with clients’ properties or portfolios. Any actions to be taken are then priortised and presented to Kamma’s clients, to ensure compliance.

Having attended the PropTech Programme accelerator in 2017, Kamma has gone on to raise a total of £2.15m in equity funding, across three rounds. And, last year, it was featured in the BusinessCloud RegTech 50 high-growth list.

Kamma’s investors include Triple Point Ventures, EPIC Adventures, SuperSeed and LiFE Ventures, alongside Royal Family member Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. Having founded Banda Property aged 23, Mapelli Mozzi also owns a 0.94% stake in Kamma.

Sector:
Marketing services

Head office location:
Westminster

Year founded:
2018

BoxMedia

BoxMedia provides digital marketing and content creation services. The tech startup aims to “shape the future of digital content”, using cognitive science, cultural intelligence, neuroscience and AI. Despite falling outside of the property space, it is yet another UK venture with Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in its cap table, as he holds a 0.43% stake in the company. 

In total, BoxMedia has raised £3.66m in funding, across five equity rounds. It also attended the Mayor’s International Business Programme accelerator last year. 

The company has five distinct branches: BoxPlay, BoxEntertainment, BoxCreate, BoxStories and BoxLabs. BoxPlay is a course created for employees to learn about the data analytics ecosystem, while BoxEntertainment focuses on film and documentary production. BoxCreate is a creative, marketing and communications agency, BoxStories creates podcasts, articles, interviews and videos surrounding behavioural trends, and BoxLabs uses artificial intelligence to accelerate the deployment of digital media experiences. 

BoxMedia is a strong supporter of gender equality, diversity and inclusion, equal pay and sustainable initiatives. Its founding team is 80% female, while its senior leadership team is 44% female, and it was one of the first companies to sign the White House’s Equal Pay Pledge. It also practices responsible consumption and production.

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