The future of Accelerated Digital Ventures (ADV), the U.K. early-stage investment firm now majority owned by Legal & General, is in flux after three of its founders have lost their seat on the board, TechCrunch has learned. ADV’s investments include Push Doctor, WeFarm and Perlego, amongst many others.
Rumours began circulating earlier this month within the London startup community that three of ADV’s founders and members of the executive team, including CEO Lee Strafford, had abruptly left the firm. Around two weeks ago, I understand that ADV portfolio companies were also informed that there had been management changes at the firm, and that going forward L&G’s managing director of principal investing (and ex-lawyer) Jasan Fitzpatrick would be their point of contact. A spokesperson for ADV declined to comment.
Regulatory filings with Companies House point to three board terminations: CEO Stratford, COO Michael Dimelow and David Carr. All three are listed on LinkedIn as ADV co-founders, in addition to Andrew Sloane and David Fogel (who I understand parted company with ADV late last year). They’ve been replaced by Fitzpatrick and L&G’s interim head of venture capital investing Marika Svardstrom and L&G’s CFO Stephen Halliwell.
(Curiously, Keith Teare, who is a founding shareholder of TechCrunch, was on ADV’s board up until September 2016 but is now listed as ADV’s U.S. Managing Partner.)
Meanwhile, the changes to ADV’s executive team aren’t wholly surprising. Originally founded to bring more transparency and access to early-stage venture capital in the U.K. — both from the founder and investor perspective — the firm pitched itself as an “evergreen” investor, co-investor and fund of funds backed by Woodford Investment Management (of Neil Woodford fame), L&G, the ADV management team and U.K. taxpayer funded British Business Bank. However, last year saw Woodford sell its stake to L&G, leaving the financial services giant as the majority shareholder.
According to multiple sources, things came to a head after a disagreement by L&G and members of the ADV executive team around future strategy and whether to bring in additional outside investors. The two competing visions appear to have been continuing to open up early-stage venture as an asset class by using software to help scale that process, or operate as a more traditional venture arm.
However, while it is easy to speculate which side won, one source tells me that the future of ADV remains unclear, both within the firm and externally amongst its 40-plus portfolio companies and wider ecosystem. A final decision may not be made public for at least a few months, given how slow corporates often move. As always, watch this space.