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Ascension VC announces £17m first close of new impact fund

Published: 5 April 2024

Anchor investor Big Society Capital is joined by Places for People, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, several family offices and high net-worth individuals as financial backers.

A man reaches out to a homeless person in London
The UK has been grappling with a cost of living crisis, which has widened social inequaity | Photo by Tom Parsons on Unsplash

Ascension VC, a London-based early-stage venture capital fund, announced a first close of £17m for its impact institutional fund. The Ascension Fund III (AFIII) aims to reduce social inequalities by enabling technology to serve a mass market and low-income audience in areas such as economic opportunity, financial inclusion and better health.

The firm said it expected to hit its final £50m fundraising target next year.

“At AFIII, we believe in the power of technology to drive positive change,” said Jean de Fougerolles, Ascension VC’s founder and managing partner. “Our fund is dedicated to identifying commercially astute mission-driven founders who are at the forefront of key tech trends, capable of delivering attractive venture-style returns while reducing social inequalities.”

The first close of AFIII attracted a mix of new and existing investors, Ascension VC said. These include anchor investor Big Society Capital, a UK-based social impact investor, as well as housing association Places for People, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, several family offices and high-net-worth individuals.

‘Impact Dragons’

In a reference to the UK’s BBC television show “Dragons’ Den”, a reality show in which budding entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to seasoned investors, Emma Steele, partner at Ascension VC, said the company was “on the hunt for impact dragons”.

Gabriel Ng, investment director at Big Society Capital, said that so-called ‘Tech for Good’ businesses, which aim to deliver a positive impact through technology, can play a “substantial role” in the UK, which is grappling with a cost of living crisis that has widened social inequality.

Its track record over the past five years has shown that Ascension VC “demonstrated that impactful investments can yield significant returns”, the firm said. It highlighted early acquisitions of two of its portfolio companies, with fintech startup Credit Kudos being bought by electronics giant Apple and tech company Guardian Angel by Octopus Wealth.

Since its inception in 2010, Ascension VC has invested in more than 150 startups.

Tech for Good ventures can help the most vulnerable in society by “redressing some of these inequalities, both by mitigating their impacts as well as addressing their root causes”, Ng said.

‘Tough’ fundraising environment

In a statement on his LinkedIn page, De Fougerolles said he was “super pleased” with the first close, following “18 months of tough fundraising”. De Fougerolles has over 25 years of experience working in technology, innovation and venture, and has led the Ascension team in each investment decision for the past nine years.

De Fougerolles’ comments echo those of Craig Douglas, partner at climate tech venture capitalist World Fund, who told Impact Investor last week the VC fundraising environment in 2022 and 2023 had been “very, very difficult”, particularly for institutions.  

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