In recent years, so-called “tech for good” accelerators have appeared that address such worthy topics as ESG and SDG. Some observers have dismissed these efforts as only scalable up to a point. However, there is growing evidence that they are increasingly attracting some of the best talent in the world, because the best talent in the world really wants to solve some of the biggest problems on the planet. And where the talent goes, the money and endorsements will follow. In Europe, Entrepreneur First (EF) and Antler have attempted to scale their models as “talent investors”, while the Bethnal Green Ventures fund has even been acquired and recapitalized by its new owners. Clearly, this approach is on something of a streak. Zinc is an accelerator that appeared in 2017 when it was founded by Ella Goldner, Paul Kirby and Saul Klein (founder of LocalGlobe) and backed by early investors including the London School of Economics. He went on to support more than 220 diverse founders who built more than 60 companies, including Vira Health (menopause support), Tandem (transportation for workers), Pexxi (personalized birth control pills), and Untangle (bereavement support). As you can see, it is possible to create businesses that address what, to some, may seem like intractable problems. Zinc has now reached the first close of £28 million ($34 million) from a new fund and is targeting a final close of £33 million ($41 million) to invest in startups creating business solutions to some of industry’s biggest challenges. society. Zinc will invest up to £250,000 in each of the companies created. Zinc 2 Fund will back talent that (similar to EF) is pre-team and pre-idea to build these startups. The cohort attracts talent focused on four missions: mental health, the environment, improving quality of life in old age, and helping people affected by automation and globalization. Zinc and the entrepreneurs share the conviction that each of these missions is a great opportunity for both social impact and commercial success. Goldner, co-founder of Zinc, said in a statement:
Instead of waiting for great companies to come along, Zinc helps people (before they have a business idea or a team) build a commercially ambitious start-up from the ground up to solve the societal challenge they’re most passionate about.
“Typically,” he says, “those people have 10 to 20 years in their careers, but they are frustrated that they don’t have the social impact they want…Zinc brings these groups together to combine social impact and business skills.” Those chosen by Zinc join a cohort of up to 70 people who share the same mission and access a 12-month support and investment program. Each of our programs has 100 visiting fellows and a network of partners. Given the post-“Great Resignation” pandemic, Zinc believes it will appeal to those reevaluating their careers. Paul Kirby, co-founder of Zinc, says, “Our missions are a call to arms: ‘Who wants to quit their job and spend the next decade or more solving this problem?'” Some of the examples of founders who have built a company with Zinc include Dr. Rebecca Love, co-founder of Vira Health, who has raised $14 million of venture capital funding, and Alex Shapland Howes of Tandem, who has raised £ 2 millions. Other investors in the new Zinc fund include Big Society Capital, Molten Ventures, Isomer, Dunhill Medical Trust, Atomico, Anthemis Group, Taavet Hinrikus of Taaven+Sten, Illka Paannan (Supercell), Basecamp, Sarah Wood and Stuart Roden. Founders supported by Zinc in its most recent start-up program are more than 50% women, 15% African-American, with an average age of 38.