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Innocent Drinks founders’ VC JamJar raises £100m fund

It's the first time the consumer-focused firm has raised institutional capital

By Katja Staple

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JamJar, the consumer-focused VC firm from the founders of Innocent Drinks, has raised its second fund — and the first to take in institutional capital. 

A chunky £48m of the £100m new fund comes from the British Business Bank’s (BBB) Enterprise Capital Fund programme (ECF), which invested alongside other institutional investors and JamJar’s partners. This makes JamJar the largest ECF to date. After BBB, JamJar’s partners are the second biggest investor in the fund, followed by other institutional investors. 

In addition — in what seems to be a growing trend in the VC world — over 30 of JamJar’s portfolio founders, as well as friends and family, invested £2.4m on equal terms to other LPs through a private raise on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. 

JamJar was launched in 2013 by Innocent founders Adam Balon, Jon Wright and Richard Reed, alongside new partner Katie Marraché, just two days after selling their company to Coca-Cola for more than $700m. 

JamJar’s first fund has invested $30m of the founders’ own capital into 68 physical and digital consumer companies. So far, it has had 11 exits, including Deliveroo, Babylon Health, Oatly and Tails.com. Other investments include collapsed energy startup Bulb, grocery shopping app Lollipop, snack brand Proper, broadband challenger Cuckoo and location app What3words.

So far, so impressive. But in an era of record levels of VC funding, does JamJar still stand out? Do founders rate the team? And how good are the returns on the first fund?

JamJar’s investment rationale

JamJar will stay focused on early-stage consumer startups — particularly in fintech, healthtech, food and drink, marketplaces and beauty — in the UK and also across Europe. With this new fund, it will typically write initial cheques of £800k to £1m — slightly bigger than the average £500k cheque of the first fund. 

JamJar has also earmarked around half of the new fund for follow-on investments. “We used to leave a lot of pro rata on the table in terms of follow-on,” says Marraché. It plans to deploy its capital across the first three to five years.

So far, JamJar’s Fund II has backed at-home fertility startup Béa Fertility, prepared meal company Georgie & Toms and low-fat doughnut brand Urban Legend. Marraché says the team sees around “150 pitch decks a month”. 

What founders think

“JamJar don’t overreach,” one portfolio founder tells Sifted. “JamJar know what they’re good at — and that’s consumer branding and marketing — and they don’t try to do anything else. They don’t interfere and slow you down in any way, which is a low bar to clear but a lot of VCs don’t clear it… and they’re very friendly and supportive.” 

“Our typical role is that we are ad-hoc advisors — and because we have been there ourselves, we are confidants,” Marraché tells Sifted. Even though JamJar sometimes takes board seats, she says the firm’s “most common relationship with founders is as a source of useful advice. Even if founders might not always take our advice, they at least respect it.” 

Another portfolio founder says: “Adam Balon gave me the most useful advice on my strategy I ever got from an investor. He laid out the reasons why he thought I was wrong, but fully respected that I still wanted to go ahead. In hindsight, I should have listened to him. He was right.” 

JamJar tells Sifted that the three Innocent founders are still very active and that they play a central day-to-day role and are involved in all investment decisions. The total team is 11 strong today, with women making up half of the investment staff.

JamJar’s track record

JamJar did not disclose its exact returns to Sifted, however it did say its first fund achieved cash-on-cash returns of over 3x.

That’s pretty good; it means £3 was returned at the end of the fund for every pound invested. According to a VC Sifted spoke to, a good early-stage fund should return 3x cash-on-cash — but some great funds have passed 8x in the recent bull market.

According to the investor deck shared with founders via Seedrs, “Fund I shows a return of >4x” — a really solid return.

“Fund I” is an umbrella term for all the partners’ investments, including those made before JamJar was set up, such as Graze in 2008.

Of its ~70 portfolio companies the four big winners (those with over 10x returns) are Deliveroo, Tails.com, Babylon Health and Graze.

BBB backing

The British Business Bank (BBB) is the UK’s state-owned economic development bank and the largest domestic backer of VC funds in the UK. 

Ken Cooper, the managing director of venture capital solutions at the BBB, tells Sifted that the ECF looks at about 100 different proposals a year and backs maybe four of them. To make the decision it takes references, looks at the team’s track record and understands how they would work together.

“JamJar is a great team of people with entrepreneurial experience that really understand how to grow a business. They have done pretty well investing their money,” says Cooper. 

“Half of the battle for a fund manager is to understand what the entrepreneur is going through and that is what we saw with JamJar.”

Katja Staple writes about the business of startups for Sifted

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