Founding investors of the new fund include BGF, The Hg Foundation (backed by software investor Hg), Senior Hg Partners and Atomico.
Investments will target UK tech-enabled businesses at pre-seed and seed stage led by diverse teams.
LONDON, under embargo until 05:00 Wednesday 3rd August 2022 Cornerstone VC, born out of black-led angel group Cornerstone Partners, has launched a £20m fund to invest in exceptional entrepreneurs in the UK from diverse backgrounds.
The fund will focus on tech-enabled companies at pre-seed and seed stage, typically investing initial cheques of between £250k and £1m with capital reserved for follow-on funding. It plans to invest in up to 40 companies with a significant proportion based outside of London. In an innovative ‘twist’ on the traditional VC model, Cornerstone’s angel network will also receive a share of the fund’s profits via carry participation.
Cornerstone VC’s mission is to establish a leading VC firm with a diversity led investment strategy that unlocks outperformance and delivers returns for investors. Building upon the findings of its research report – Access to Venture Capital (2021) – Cornerstone VC will target management teams with inherent (such as age, gender or ethnicity) and acquired diversity (social capital) and address the equity funding gap for entrepreneurs that are too often overlooked and underestimated by the wider funding community.
Cornerstone VC is led by Rodney Appiah, Founder and Managing Partner, alongside partners Edwin Appiah and Wilfred Fianko. Rodney co-founded Cornerstone Partners in 2016, is a non-executive director of UKBAA and Conduit Connect, and was formerly an investor at BGF and Foresight Group. Recent investments from the team’s pre-seed angel portfolio include ByRotation, Passionfruit, Hutch and MoonHub.
BGF, the UK’s most active investor of growth capital and The Hg Foundation, a grant-giving charity with a mission to remove barriers to education & skills in technology, both led the first round close, as well as others including Atomico, one of Europe’s leading VC funds focusing on Series A and beyond. Other investors include Nic Humphries and several senior partners from Hg, a leading software and services investor, as well as other individual investors including former BVCA Chair Neil Macdougall, Scott Mackin, Jamie Broderick, Stefan Ericsson and Sidumiso Sibanda.
“We are on a mission to put teams at the heart of our investment approach, believing diversity is key to driving outperformance. We are looking for businesses that are intentional about team composition, can excel in high growth environments and are truly obsessive about execution. People first, software second.”
“Contrary to perceptions around a pipeline problem, we don’t see any evidence of that. We meet more than 500 diverse founder led businesses a year and our own data indicates that there is a growing pipeline of high growth, innovation led, investment opportunities led by diverse founders, particularly at pre seed and seed stage requiring further institutional investment.”
Rodney Appiah, Managing Partner at Cornerstone Partners
Rodney has served as a committee member for Lloyds Banking Group’s Black Business Advisory Committee, Innovate UK’s Credit Committee and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Black Business Association. He previously chaired the CBI’s London Under 35 Committee.
Edwin currently serves as an IC member of Imperial College’s Enterprise Fund and was a former International Banker at Coutts, advising more than 100 owner manager businesses across US and Europe.
Wilfred currently serves as a board observer at a leading LSE Listed Private Equity firm in the UK and was formerly a senior management consultant at UBS and KPMG, specialising in financial services transformation.
“We are delighted to be backing Rodney, a BGF alumni, and the team at Cornerstone VC in the launch of its ground-breaking seed-stage tech fund, which complements BGF’s established minority investment for small and mid-sized growth businesses.”
“BGF is actively committed to supporting a targeted range of activities where the objective is to make a real and meaningful difference to broader representation in the investment and entrepreneurial communities. We are very encouraged that the work we have done supporting female entrepreneurs has resulted in us being the most active investor in women-led scaleups in the country.”
Stephen Welton, Executive Chair, BGF
“Hg has over 20 years’ experience in partnering with and rapidly growing innovative software businesses. This experience has demonstrated that diversity in leadership often leads to better investment and business decisions. Diversity in the technology sector continues to be a priority for us, the businesses we invest in and is also at the heart of The Hg Foundation. As such my colleagues and I are delighted to support the Cornerstone team and we look forward to working together.”
Nic Humphries, Senior Partner and Executive Chairman at Hg
RW Blears LLP (acting for Cornerstone VC) – Adam Lawrence, Christopher Spencer
Macfarlanes LLP (acting for BGF) – Stephen Robinson, Amelia Le Coyte, Catherine Born.
Proskauer Rose LLP (acting for Hg Foundation) – Nigel Van Zyl, Christopher Elson, Kobe Chow
The Fund Incubator Limited (acting for Cornerstone VC) – Barry Lawson
+44 (0)7788 295 321
About Cornerstone VC:
Cornerstone VC is a venture capital fund focused on a ‘people first’ investment strategy, investing at pre-seed and seed stage in UK technology businesses. Cornerstone VC was born out of Cornerstone Partners, a leading angel network for diverse founding teams in the UK. To learn more about Cornerstone VC, please visit www.cornerstonevc.co
BGF was set up in 2011 and has invested £3 billion in nearly 500 companies, making it the most active investor in the UK. BGF is a minority, non-controlling equity partner with a patient outlook on investments, based on shared long-term goals with the management teams it backs. BGF invests in growing businesses in the UK and Ireland through its network of 16 offices. In 2018, Canada launched its equivalent – the Canadian Business Growth Fund – and in 2020, Australia did the same, both based on BGF’s funding model. To learn more about BGF, please visit: www.bgf.co.uk
About The Hg Foundation:
The Hg Foundation is a grant-giving charity with a defined focus on education and technology. Our goal is to support those who may otherwise experience barriers to access, with the acquisition of skills that are often required for employment within the technology industry. We aim to achieve this by providing funding and operational support to charitable schemes and partnerships across the UK, USA and Europe where we can demonstrate measurable, long-term and scalable impact and make a difference to those that need it most. The Hg Foundation is backed by Hg, a leading software and services investor. It is a registered Charity no. 1189216. Please visit www.thehgfoundation.com
Founded in 2006, Atomico has partnered with over 100 ambitious teams – including those at Klarna, Supercell, Graphcore, Compass, MessageBird, Masterclass, Attentive Mobile, Pipedrive and Hinge Health. Atomico’s team of founders, investors and operational leaders have been responsible for global expansion, hiring and marketing at companies from Skype and Google to Twitter and Uber. The firm currently has $5B in assets under management. Please visit https://atomico.com