MMC Ventures launches fresh £52M seed fund aimed at London startups

Synthesia is a London-based startup that recently achieved notoriety after powering the technology behind the recent global campaign showing Malaria survivors speaking through David Beckham to help raise awareness around the Malaria Must Die initiative.

That is, at least now, well-known. What was less well-known until today was that to achieve this, Synthesia was backed by the (also) London-based VC MMC Ventures, via its new fund, announced today by the mayor of London. The new £100 million Greater London Investment Fund — of which MMC Ventures has been appointed to manage £52 million ($65.6 million) — is aimed at enabling investment into high-potential tech companies in London.

As well as investing in 170 companies, the fund will seek to secure at least another £103 million in private sector investment, with the aim of creating 3,500 new jobs in the capital.

The bulk of the money for the new fund comes from European Union sources, which the government is yet to give any assurances about replacing post-Brexit: £35 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme, overseen by City Hall and the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP); and £50 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB). But the ERDF cash has long since been banked by the city, prior to the U.K.’s moves toward Brexit, and the fund has already started drawing down funds from the EIB.

MMC will invest from the GLF at seed and Series A, creating a portfolio in which MMC can deploy capital, utilising MMC Ventures’ other funds over multiple rounds as they scale.

The new fund has to be seen partly thought the optics of Brexit. Not only is Mayor Sadiq Khan a staunch opponent of Brexit, and a potential prime ministerial candidate, but the new fund will boost his image as a business-friendly politician in an era where most politicians seem to have replaced their business credentials with “Brexit credentials.” Furthermore — and somewhat ironically — London is finally having to shout about itself, having rested on the laurels of being the EU’s financial heart for 40+ years.

The new fund will primarily back companies already based in London, but will also seek investments in businesses either relocating to London or opening or expanding an office in London, providing local support to the business and any co-investors. Clearly this may be tempting to some European startups that were previously put off by the U.K.’s strange Brexit optics.

What’s to be welcomed is that it will also target investments in businesses founded or run by individuals from under-represented groups — including female entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs of minority ethnic groups and those with disabilities, in partnership with the mayor’s team.

Plus, it will invest in sectors that align with the mayor’s Economic Development Strategy, including Advanced Urban Services, Cultural and Creative Industries, Financial and Business and the Circular Economy.

Simon Menashy, partner at MMC Ventures said: “MMC has been investing in London’s startups and scale-ups for the past 20 years, supporting some of Europe’s most successful growth stories. Over that time, we’ve proven that you can generate growth and financial value while creating well-paying jobs and supporting sustainable business — something close to our hearts.”

MMC has already made its first investments through the fund — backing the aforementioned AI video synthesis platform, Synthesia, as part of a $3.1 million funding round, and yulife — the life insurance business — in a $12.6 million Series A.

MMC has also created a pre-seed programme — the MMC Greater London Lab — that will write cheques alongside angels, seed funds, incubators and programmes of different types.

MMC has a bit of a track-record in this respect, The MMC London Fund, launched in 2013, managed in partnership with City Hall, that is now entering its eighth year. That leveraged £14 million of initial investment to raise more than £120 million of co-investment from private partners, and invested in startups like Gousto, Appear Here, Love Home Swap and Masabi.