Interview

May 19, 2021

Tom Blomfield turns to angel investing, making fourth bet this year

Exclusive: The ex-Monzo CEO has started backing early-stage ventures, despite initial reticence


Isabel Woodford

2 min read

Tom Blomfield has kept his head down since officially leaving Monzo earlier this year, citing mental health reasons.

But the entrepreneur is ready to get hands-on again as an angel investor, he tells Sifted. He's quietly backed four startups in the past few months.

His latest bet is in Pento, a SaaS startup focused on automating payroll in-house, which has just raised $15.6m.

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Aside from Blomfield, Pento has attracted funding from General Catalyst Partners, LocalGlobe, Point Nine Capital, and a series of angels — including Blomfield's old cofounder at GoCardless, Matt Robinson.

"It's not so much that I know anything about [Pento's] market fit. It's more that I know what it's like growing from 50 to 500 people. There are repeatable lessons in that scaling journey," Blomfield told Sifted, explaining his motivation for investing in Pento.

The Monzo founder added that he also was excited about Pento's "great use of modern APIs," which is already allowing it to partner with other payroll startups like WageStream.

Aside from Pento, Blomfield's other ventures include a young startup called Cordless, founded by two (female) ex-Monzo employees who join the digital bank's growing entrepreneurial 'mafia'. Blomfield has also backed a yet-unnamed consumer subscription business, founded by serial entrepreneur Greg Marsh, which is currently in stealth.

Blomfield is the latest to join Europe's group of founders-turned-angels, most notably TransferWise's Taavet Hinrikus.

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Dipping a toe in the venture waters

Blomfield's experiment with angel investing is something of a volte-face.

In October last year, he told Sifted that he wasn't sure he had the knack for it.

"I find the idea of angel investing quite daunting — I’m not sure I’d be very good!," he said at the time.

Yet since stepping away from Monzo, Blomfield says he has spent time thinking about what he wants to do next. That included briefly flirting with the idea of becoming a VC himself, hoping to support promising founders.

"I thought about becoming a VC but I realised I wouldn’t be a very good one," he laughs.

Reluctant to get sucked into VC politics, but still keen on backing entrepreneurs, Blomfield has instead opted to invest his own money (the founder has an estimated net worth of up to £140m, albeit largely still locked up in Monzo shares).

I'm [still] not sure if I'm any good at investing, but I really like working with early stage companies.

"I'm [still] not sure if I'm any good at investing, but I really like working with early stage companies," he said.

Notably, Blomfield has opted for some handholding by mainly co-investing alongside familiar venture firms like General Catalyst and Passion Capital.

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This year, Blomfield expects to "end up making 7 to 8" investments across sectors, showing no particular attachment to fintech.

It helps, moreover, that investing seems to have the founder's undivided attention. Blomfield told Sifted he was doing "absolutely nothing" else on the professional front, and was enjoying a career break (including volunteering as part of the Covid vaccination effort).