BThe idea of hello Adegbulu came to him by accident – literally. Closely averting a car crash inspired London's idea of smart navigation software that could predict the safest route for drivers and prevent some of the 1.3 million deaths from traffic accidents worldwide each year. With over 90% of these fatalities occurring in developing countries, including Adegbulu's native Nigeria, the concept has come to fruition.
The 30-year-old spent two years working on his company's Predina pilot with co-founder Meha Nelson before getting funding from Impact X Capital Partners: a new black-owned venture capital firm in London, aiming to reverse the lack of funding for startups led by, or serving, women and people of color.
The total amount of funding Predina raised last month is still confidential, but the pair – which recently launched a consumer app, Waymaker – plans to spend the money on extra staff to help develop their product for sale. it to major companies, including car manufacturers, worldwide.
Impact X, which was quietly launched last year, is now in a fundraising campaign and is taking advantage of wealthy individuals and institutional investors along the way. Its chief executive, Eric Collins, hopes to attract £ 100 million to invest in companies that his team believes will not only bring financial returns, but will have a positive social impact on underrepresented communities across Europe.
This approach for us has already attracted top investors from across the black community, including comedian Lenny Henry, actor Adrian Lester and board member of Uber Ursula Burns – the first black woman to run a Fortune 500 company when she served as boss. from Xerox. The company has supported nine companies, from iPhone subscription services to filmmaking companies.
Collins, 53, said venture capitalists have been investing in marginalized groups in the US for decades, but that European talent is relatively untouched.
“Venture capital funds in Europe have not invested much in these categories. This allows us to have a fantastic green field of opportunity, ”explained Collins. “Less than 1% of venture capital goes to people of color, less than 4% of venture capital goes to women. And given the numbers in Europe, this is a great time to invest in underrepresented populations. "
But reversing this trend is a big task for a stereotypical company that supports the same young whites as venture capitalists rubbed their shoulders at university and fostered a "frat bro" culture, often synonymous with Silicon Valley.
"We want to put our resources into something that really benefits underrepresented entrepreneurs," said Collins. “In Silicon Valley, if you look at entrepreneurs and even workforces, there are so few people of color, there are so few women. We will not replicate this in Europe. "
The problem was not that black entrepreneurs were rejected for funding after making a proposal, he said: it was that they were struggling to get in the door. When it comes to who you know, the chances of success for marginalized communities diminish.
Collins co-founder Paula Groves said: "Venture capitalists like to invest with the people they know, the people they studied with, the people I paddle with on the crew, the people they attended." The five-year-old American – from New Orleans but now traveling between Colorado and London – has been working with venture capital since the 1990s, when she founded Axxon Capital. The £ 54 million fund, intended to invest in minority and women's startups, supported companies such as the online security company Guardent, which sold for $ 140 million before Groves left in 2004.
Groves said the Impact X team had been relying on their own networks for new talent. They include members of the black communities from their Ivy League university days, which are now scattered around the world, as well as local colleges and technology incubators in Europe and the UK: “We believe we can identify gems from under-represented communities. only in the way Silicon Valley has identified gems in their communities. "
They studied 400 companies last year, nine of which made the Predina cut among them. These include Pace, which uses AI to help hoteliers determine room rates, and Raylo, an iPhone leasing service that offers a new device every two years for a monthly subscription of less than £ 50. sterling before selling the devices abroad. Impact X plans to evaluate a similar number of companies each year as new talent emerges in industries spanning lifestyle, media and entertainment, technology, health and education.
The small team of five is headquartered in London, but while constantly looking for new investment opportunities, Collins encourages entrepreneurs who are not approached to contact them by email.
Collins, originally from Alabama, had his first contact with venture capital in the late 1990s. The son of a university and music professor, he graduated from Princeton University and spent some time working as a business strategy consultant. mergers before founding SpeedSolve, a consumer complaint tracking platform he took to Groves for funding. This company was gradually destroyed as the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, but Collins was not prevented.
Over the next 20 years, he helped launch and sell a handful of companies – including predictive text company SwiftKey, which Microsoft bought for £ 250m in 2016 – before joining forces with Groves to start Impact X.
Collins said the venture should have been launched decades ago, but the opportunities in Europe are now too big to ignore. “We want to meet the young woman in Bristol, we want to meet the man in Edinburgh, an underrepresented individual who has an idea that will change the world and benefit him greatly, and we think we can really identify those through our origins. "