Ascension Ventures has welcomed 14 new shareholders and ‘venture partners’ who will help identify, back and scale UK tech businesses.
The London and Birmingham-based early-stage tech investment firm has sold a 30 per cent stake to the 14 entrepreneurs, investors and businesses, including Vin Murria, who received an OBE for her services to the UK digital economy and advancing women in the software sector.
Murria, who also has years of years in venture capital and private equity, built Advanced Computer Software into one of the UK’s largest software companies before selling the business in 2015 for £765 million.
Jean de Fougerolles, co-founder and CEO of Ascension, said the new partners will support his vision of building the firm into the UK’s top VC brand, “a place where seasoned tech operators can back the next generation of entrepreneurs”.
“It really enhances our infrastructure with some very credible characters who’ve been there, done it and have knowledge across a variety of sectors beyond just the ones that I’m comfortable with,” he told BusinessCloud.
Among the new venture partners is ex-CEO of Expedia Erik Blachford, who is a venture partner at TCV in San Francisco, an active angel investor and a board director at a string of US businesses including SiteMinder, TourRadar and Liftopia.
Blachford said he’s noticed “a proliferation of strong UK tech businesses” over the past few years.
“I felt that working with Ascension was a great opportunity to access the UK’s best early stage tech deal-flow, and I look forward to supporting these portfolio companies as they scale up and enter the US market,” he added.
In terms of what the move means for UK tech start-ups, de Fougerolles told BusinessCloud that entrepreneurs who secure funding from Ascension can expect “lots of post-investment support to get you to the next level”.
Since 2013, Ascension has invested in more than 75 early-stage tech companies across the UK, including Vidsy, Moteefe, Wagestream, A Million Ads and Hazy, which have gone on to raise multimillion-pound rounds.
De Fougerolles said his long-term vision for Ascension is to be the “leading brand” for tech entrepreneurs looking for early-stage investment.
My vision has always been to build Ascension as the top seed VC brand in the UK,” he said. “I want to be the Balderton of early-stage tech investing in the UK.”
Speaking about Britain’s tech investment ecosystem, de Fougerolles admits there’s a lack of ‘infrastructure’ for early-stage technology businesses outside London.
“It’s not just in terms of VCs, but also angel investors and mentors who’ve ‘been there, done that’ and know how to build a tech business and support these young entrepreneurs,” he said.
“I do feel there’s a tech divide between London and the regions – which is improving but not at a fast enough rate – and I’ve thought long and hard about how to solve that problem but I don’t have an easy solution.”
De Fougerolles added that there’s still a gap in the market for tech businesses looking to raise between £1 million and £2 million, funding which is still “largely shouldered by the angels”.
The group of Ascension’s new venture partners also includes Multiplay founder Craig Fletcher; Remy Minute, founder and former CEO of CSC Media Group; Telefonica’s accelerator Wayra UK; Pharus Advisors; Emma Blackburn; Antonin de Fougerolles; Aleks Habdank; Jami Jenkins; Ian McClelland; Remy Minute; Diane Stewart; and Barney Worfolk-Smith.
Alongside the venture partners, Ascension has also appointed Kip Meek as its new chairman.
Meek is the founder of the Communications Chambers and director of the Wireless Infrastructure Group. He was previously a senior adviser to EE and BT, chairman of the Radiocentre, a board member of Ofcom and the founder of Spectrum Strategy Consultants.