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Unconventional Ventures launches €30m fund to invest in underrepresented founders

Atomico, Vaekstfonden and PJ Pärson have all backed Unconventional’s new fund

By Amy O'Brien

Nora Bavey and Thea Messel

Unconventional Ventures (UV), a Copenhagen-based investor, has raised a new fund of €30m to invest in underrepresented founders in Europe.

Its mission? Get more money into the pockets of “unconventional founders”, who remain sorely underinvested in Europe. 

In 2019, UV began tracking data on what kinds of founders and companies get VC backing in the Nordics. Since then the numbers haven’t budged: 92% of capital invested in Nordic startups goes to all-male founding teams. 

UV hopes to shift those numbers in a positive direction.

Who’s leading UV and who’s backed the new fund? 

UV is led by general partners Thea Messel and Nora Bavey. Its last €200k fund — a “microfund” — was raised from a diverse group of investors (85% of whom were women), who were able to invest with tickets as low as €500.

Now, it’s graduated to its first conventional fund of €30m — although the focus remains on investing in founders identifying as women, people of colour, immigrants and/or members of the LGTBQ+ community. 

It’s nabbed some impressive institutional backers: 

  • VC firm Atomico
  • Vaekstfonden, the Danish state’s investment fund
  • PJ Pärson’s the Inner Foundation, which invests in startups and non-profits focused on diversity or mental health 
  • Danish investment firm Chr. Augustinus Fabrikker
  • Norwegian VC Investinor

Where and how will UV’s money be spent?

  • The fund will invest tickets ranging from €100k-700k in startups based in the Nordics and the rest of Europe at pre-seed and seed stage.
  • UV wants to back companies that “have a positive environmental and social impact at the core of their business model”. These will be focused across four areas: climate tech, healthtech, edtech and fintech.
  • The team also plans to co-invest with its LPs, as well as other investors that want to back underrepresented founders.
  • So far, UV has invested in nine companies, including EasySize, Equality Check, Tangy Markets, ImagiLab, SaltX and Panion.

Who else backs underrepresented founders?

Bavey says UV’s first two microfunds provided use cases it could show to institutional investors to demonstrate how underrepresented founders “know what to do with much less capital and network”.

“They still persevere and keep pushing through obstacles many investors can barely grasp,” she adds.

UV isn’t the only European investor that thinks underrepresented founders can produce great results — or to have raised a fund based on this thesis. There’s also: 

  • Auxxo, Germany’s first VC fund for female founders;
  • Ada Ventures, a UK-based fund investing in overlooked founders;
  • Impact X, a UK-based fund investing in underrepresented founders;
  • WinEquity, a French fund launched in 2021 to back early-stage female founders;
  • Borski fund, a €40m Dutch fund investing in female founders; 
  • Pink Salt Ventures, a UK-based fund investing in female founders at pre-seed;
  • Google for Startups’ Black Founders Fund, a £3m fund to invest solely in Black founders in Europe.

Sifted’s take

The (lack of) diversity in Europe’s startup ecosystem goes hand in hand with the lack of diversity within Europe’s investor community — and UV is addressing both these problems in one. The performance of funds like UV will play a big role in making the case for investing in diversity in the years to come.

Amy O’Brien is Sifted’s fintech reporter. She authors Sifted’s Fintech newsletter and tweets from
@Amy_EOBrien.

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