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Meet Ada’s Angels — the investors hoping to diversify funding

More than 90% of angel investors in the UK are male, and 93% of them are white, but a new scheme by VC firm Ada Ventures is determined to change that. Ada Ventures launched in 2019 with a $34m fund, aiming to invest in overlooked founders. Under their new ‘Ada’s Angels’ scheme, five candidates with … Continued

By Freya Pratty

More than 90% of angel investors in the UK are male, and 93% of them are white, but a new scheme by VC firm Ada Ventures is determined to change that.

Ada Ventures launched in 2019 with a $34m fund, aiming to invest in overlooked founders. Under their new ‘Ada’s Angels’ scheme, five candidates with direct experience in underrepresented communities have been selected, and they’ll each receive £50,000 to make five £10,000 investments into businesses across the next year. 

Several reports have highlighted the barriers to becoming an angel investor for people not connected to traditional VC networks, which tend to be overwhelmingly male. 

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“Angel investing has very high barriers to entry,” says Check Warner, founding partner of Ada. 

“You need a huge amount of capital at your disposal to be able to make regular, comparatively risky investments into young companies. Due to the profile of most angel investors, this means that companies founded by founders from diverse backgrounds are being overlooked.”

A lack of diversity among investors has repercussions for everyone, the firm says, causing biases in who receives investment and therefore in the services, products and tech that gets to market. 

One of the five candidates selected for the scheme is Arfah Farooq, who founded Muslamic makers, a community for Muslims working in the tech sector. 

“Building a community of Muslims in technology has allowed me over the last few years to meet many founders,” says Farooq.

“Access to early-stage capital is a massive hindrance in them being able to take their startup to the next level. Being Muslim and sometimes from a low social economic background means that they don’t have the privilege other founders do. They get overlooked and miss out.”

David Fisayo, one of the five new angel investors.

David Fisayo, director of Foundervine, a social enterprise that specialises in digital startups for diverse founders, is another of ‘Ada’s Angels.’

“To effectively level the playing field and diversify the founder landscape, it is very important to have a diverse pool of angel investors to fund them,” says Fisayo. 

As well as Fisayo and Farooq, the three other investors selected are Anjel Noorbakhsh Ashman, founder of the Iranian Women’s Association, Nicole Crentsil, founder of Black Girl Fest and Ash Phillips, who founded Yena, a community for startups which provides accelerator like business benefits by subscription. 

The Ada team believe that the initiative became even more critical once the coronavirus pandemic hit, because evidence is already showing that the economic effects of the virus will be uneven across society, with women and young workers particularly badly affected. 

“We hope that Ada’s Angels will help to discover a new generation of investors, and continue to break down the barriers in the UK tech industry,” says Matt Penneycard, another of the firm’s founding partners. “Especially those that exclude people that do not fit an old and tired template of what an investor should be.”

 

Freya Pratty covers news at Sifted. She has previously interned at Bloomberg and tweets from @FPratty

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LM Jo1990
LM Jo1990

This initiative looks promising and it’s vital to have BAME people represented. But as a person of color I thought about it deeply. Here is the contrarian view to angel programs such as this which have been devised to increase diversity. Both Matt and Check seem like good people who are trying to make a real difference on diversity and though the comments here refer to them it also involves the much wider investment community Angel scout program (Caveat – we only see the articles written and not the contract signed by the angel scouts.) * They give the angels… Read more »

Amy Lewin
Amy Lewin

Hi LM.
Thanks for such a thoughtful comment! Have you seen this piece from Anisah Osman Britton on our site? It discusses some of these exact challenges: https://sifted.eu/articles/vcs-are-exploiting-underrepresented-people-to-solve-their-diversity-problems/

Check
Check

Thanks so much for this thoughtful and detailed comment. We are aware of some of the issues and critiques that you highlight and we have thought deeply about them in designing the scouting and angel programme. However, we are open to feedback and want this programme to be as effective as possible so we welcome this discussion to make sure that what we’re doing is constructive and has the impact that we intend. The intention of the programme is to create a world in which investors of any background can raise their own funds and being part of this programme… Read more »

Fred Destin
Fred Destin

My observations on this are as follows: 1/ Most initiatives start small, and they blossom over time. Ada is a first time fund and for them to deploy a portion of the cash in a scout program with explicit diversity aims is a great start. Perhaps in 5 years it’s a real movement and they move the needle. 2/ If you’re giving someone the ability to invest in pre-seed rounds, even small amounts, you’re giving them a start at building track record. The founders will take that money because of the relationship and help they are getting as well as… Read more »

Ash Phillips
Ash Phillips

Humbled to be part of this programme. Incredible work, as always, from the Ada team!