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9 October, 2017 - 13:21 By Kate Sweeney

University launches potential £100k social ventures seed funding

Cambridge Social Ventures

Social ventures emerging from the University of Cambridge have been dangled a £100k carrot through a new joint seed funding initiative.

Cambridge Enterprise has joined forces with Cambridge Social Ventures at the university’s Judge Business School in a pilot programme designed to invest up to £20,000 each in as many as five businesses making a positive social or environmental impact. 

Any returns will be reinvested in future social ventures, the partners have pledged.

The funds boost an offer already available to social ventures in the University: over the past three years dozens of Cambridge staff and students have joined more than 500 entrepreneurs from across the UK for support from Cambridge Social Ventures – part of the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation.

Anne Dobree, head of Seed Funds at Cambridge Enterprise, says the partnership will enable Cambridge Enterprise to better support social ventures, which fits with its mission to help university members “make their ideas and concepts more commercially successful for the benefit of society.

“We are enthusiastic about being involved in the social investment arena – a growing and exciting area. We anticipate that the small investments from the fund may lead to follow on investments as the ventures grow.”

Cambridge Social Ventures director Belinda Bell says it’s exciting to see the University of Cambridge using capital in innovative ways to create scalable social impact.

“There’s an appetite for people to consider more deeply the impact that their investments make, and we’re looking forward to working with Cambridge Enterprise to support University spin-outs with social impact embedded at the core of a thriving business,” she says.

Cambridge Social Ventures is a small team at Cambridge Judge Business School with a remarkably big impact. Since 2014, ventures supported by the programme have raised more than £10 million in funding and have doubled the number of beneficiaries they reach year on year. 

It supports entrepreneurs who don’t fit the stereotypical profile: women make up 60 per cent of the entrepreneurs supported and 30 per cent are black or an ethnic minority.

The programme has just recruited its latest cohort of ventures, which will be the first to benefit from the new fund. 

One enterprise previously supported by Cambridge Social Ventures and funded by Cambridge Enterprise through a prior funding scheme is Healthera, a provider of next-generation, pharmacy-integrated personal health management solutions. Cambridge Enterprise investment manager Tania Balsa sits on their board.

Healthera’s CEO and co-founder Quintus Liu says this support has enabled Healthera to grow from a small startup to a thriving technology company with its own culture.

“The engagement and business advice from the Cambridge Social Ventures team, as well as the generous office space, definitely helped us to build our innovative and socially-responsible products,” he said. 

“With the investment from Cambridge Enterprise, we have been able to rapidly grow into a structured technology company with strong technical and commercial teams.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: The Cambridge Social Ventures team. Left to right – Belinda Bell (director), Mark Goodson, Tamzin Byrne and Karen Leigh Anderson.

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