It’s clear there is an enormous and growing appetite amongst consumers to switch to products and services which address some of the biggest issues of our era, whether it be climate change or problems with society. As such, we’ve seen the rise of ethical investing apps, or ways to reduce our carbon footprint, or shop more ethically. So it follows that VC should come up with funds to invest in these consumer spaces.
That’s been the focus of U.K.-based Eka Ventures since it started investing in April 2020.
It’s now reached a final close on its $95 million (£68 million) fund, and claims to be the “largest impact-driven early-stage venture capital fund focused on the UK”, although TechCrunch was unable to verify that claim.
Investors in the fund include British Business Bank, BSC, Isomer, Guy's and St Thomas' Foundation, Planet First Partners, Draper Esprit, Snowball and others. It’s also backed, it says, by 24 entrepreneurs, 12 of whom are founders the Eka partners have previously backed either at fund or individual level.
Eka’s aim will be to invest in consumer technology companies focused on sustainable consumption, consumer healthcare, and the "inclusive economy". The fund will focus on the U.K. at between £500,000 and £3 million per deal.
Founders Jon Coker, Camilla Dolan and Andrew Richardson have previous experience in venture, where they were involved in VC deals for Gousto, Bloom & Wild, Peak and Elder. Coker was previously with London-focused VC MMC Ventures.
Jon Coker, general partner of Eka, told me: “We only invest in companies where we see a clear impact directly connected to the product or service that they sell. So as they grow, the impact grows with the company. We won't invest in companies where we don't see that. We’ve said to all of our investors that we will only invest in companies where that is delivered. When we're assessing companies we look for founder alignment, so understanding how the founders are thinking about building their company and the impact that's delivered through the products and services. Once we've gone through that process of alignment and assessment we then measure that impact over time. We will also co-invest with investors that don't have a specific impact focus on their fund.”
I asked him how they expect to measure the impact of their investments: “We use a framework called the Impact Management Project framework, which is trying to create an industry standard around the measurement of impact in venture. It looks at different dimensions to identify the specific impact that the company you're investing in is creating. When you're backing really early-stage companies, you can measure the impact that their product is currently having but you also want to measure progress against projects that will deliver future impact. We have a number of impact-focused LPs in the fund who have done a lot of work with us actually on helping us think about this framework.”
Camilla Dolan, general partner of Eka, said: “One of our first investments was Urban Jungle insurance. This is an example where we think about it as being inclusive, as they saw a big opportunity to try and serve the segment that has historically been underserved. They do that through underwriting using behavioral characteristics rather than demographic characteristics, which is how the incumbent industry does it. This excludes a lot of the customers. They're now launching a social housing-specific product because they had so many testimonials from social housing.”
She added: “When it comes to working with companies, we are clear in our desire for scale, and we will do everything in our power to help the founders we work with achieve their ambitious goals. We are looking for entrepreneurs who set the bar for impact-driven innovation high and who are focused on fundamentally changing or creating a category, in the same way Tesla has single-handedly propelled the electric vehicle industry forward. We set Eka up to back companies with that level of ambition.”
Timo Boldt, founder of Gousto said: “Jon and Camilla are two of the best investors a founder could possibly hope for. They supported Gousto with our Series A back in 2013 and have been cheerleaders ever since. Their new venture, Eka, is tightly aligned with our own philosophy because of their focus on sustainability. Much like them, we believe in the power of people to drive change.”
Ken Cooper, managing director, Venture Solutions, British Business Bank said: “The Bank’s Enterprise Capital Funds programme is a key tool in helping to develop and maintain an effective venture capital provision in the U.K., lowering the barriers to entry for emerging fund managers and for those targeting less well-served areas of the market. Our commitment of £36 million to Eka Ventures will enable them to support new and growing sustainable consumer technology businesses in the U.K.”