BGF leads investment into Cornerstone VC, a new £20m diversity-focused fund

Cornerstone VC, born out of black-led angel group Cornerstone Partners, has launched a £20m fund to invest in exceptional entrepreneurs in the UK from diverse backgrounds.

The fund will focus on tech-enabled companies at pre-seed and seed stage, typically investing initial cheques of between £250k and £1m with capital reserved for follow-on funding. It plans to invest in up to 40 companies with a significant proportion based outside of London. In an innovative ‘twist’ on the traditional VC model, Cornerstone’s angel network will also receive a share of the fund’s profits via carry participation.

Cornerstone VC’s mission is to establish a leading VC firm with a diversity led investment strategy that unlocks outperformance and delivers returns for investors. Building upon the findings of its research report – Access to Venture Capital (2021) – Cornerstone VC will target management teams with inherent (such as age, gender or ethnicity) and acquired diversity (social capital) and address the equity funding gap for entrepreneurs that are too often overlooked and underestimated by the wider funding community.

Cornerstone VC is led by Rodney Appiah, Founder and Managing Partner, alongside partners Edwin Appiah and Wilfred Fianko. Rodney co-founded Cornerstone Partners in 2016, is a non-executive director of UKBAA and Conduit Connect, and was formerly an investor at BGF and Foresight Group. Recent investments from the team’s pre-seed angel portfolio include ByRotation, Passionfruit, Hutch and MoonHub.

BGF and The Hg Foundation, a grant-giving charity with a mission to remove barriers to education & skills in technology, both led the first round close, as well as others including Atomico, one of Europe’s leading VC funds focusing on Series A and beyond. Other investors include Nic Humphries and several senior partners from Hg, a leading software and services investor, as well as other individual investors including Neil Macdougall, Scott Mackin, Jamie Broderick, Stefan Ericsson and Sidumiso Sibanda.

We are on a mission to put teams at the heart of our investment approach, believing diversity is key to driving outperformance. We are looking for businesses that are intentional about team composition, can excel in high growth environments and are truly obsessive about execution. People first, software second.

Rodney Appiah, Managing Partner at Cornerstone Partners says: “Contrary to perceptions around a pipeline problem, we don’t see any evidence of that. We meet more than 500 diverse founder led businesses a year and our own data indicates that there is a growing pipeline of high growth, innovation led, investment opportunities led by diverse founders, particularly at pre seed and seed stage requiring further institutional investment.”

Rodney has served as a committee member for Lloyds Banking Group’s Black Business Advisory Committee, Innovate UK’s Credit Committee and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Black Business Association. He previously chaired the CBI’s London Under 35 Committee.

Edwin currently serves as an IC member of Imperial College’s Enterprise Fund and was a former International Banker at Coutts, advising more than 100 owner manager businesses across US and Europe.

Wilfred currently serves as a board observer at a leading LSE Listed Private Equity firm in the UK and was formerly a senior management consultant at UBS and KPMG, specialised in financial services transformation.

We are delighted to be backing Rodney, a BGF alumni, and the team at Cornerstone VC in the launch of its ground-breaking seed-stage tech fund, which complements BGF’s established minority investment for small and mid-sized growth businesses.

Stephen Welton, Executive Chair says: “BGF is actively committed to supporting a targeted range of activities where the objective is to make a real and meaningful difference to broader representation in the investment and entrepreneurial communities. We are very encouraged that the work we have done supporting female entrepreneurs has resulted in us being the most active investor in women-led scaleups in the country.”

Nic Humphries, Senior Partner and Executive Chairman at Hg, said: “Hg has over 20 years’ experience in partnering with and rapidly growing innovative software businesses. This experience has demonstrated that diversity in leadership often leads to better investment and business decisions. Diversity in the technology sector continues to be a priority for us, the businesses we invest in and is also at the heart of The Hg Foundation. As such my colleagues and I are delighted to support the Cornerstone team and we look forward to working together.”

By UKBAA 04 Aug 2022