Tech-for-good venture builder Zinc has raised more than £3m in seed investment to help entrepreneurs on its programme to tackle social problems affecting millions. The news comes as Zinc launches a new mission to unlock opportunities in places hit by globalisation and automation.
The investment combines support from Atomico, the VC firm created by Skype founder Niklas Zennström, LocalGlobe, the venture firm led by Zinc’s own co-founder Saul Klein, and the London School of Economics.
The news comes as Zinc launches its second mission, to unlock new opportunities for people in places that have been hard-hit by globalisation and automation. Zinc emerged from its first mission in March with 17 new ventures formed to address women’s mental and emotional health, through technology.
Zinc’s nine-month programme takes on 50 entrepreneurs, offering support from experts in social science, technology, design and business to help them build companies from the ground up focused on solving social problems. Each programme looks to address a high-profile social problem affecting more than 100m people in the developed world.
In a bold choice of second mission, Zinc will focus on the 150m people living in places hit hard by automation and globalisation in recent decades, as traditional industries such as coal, textiles, shipbuilding, ports and tourism have declined.
“From the American rust belt to parts of the English north, cities and towns across the world have fought to adjust to economic change. There are now fears that the next wave of automation and globalisation, including the impact of artificial intelligence and the growing might of China, could leave behind a new generation of people and places,” Zinc said this week.
“While automation and globalisation will make many places richer and improve the overall quality of life, some people and places will continue to be caught up in the transition which, as we have seen over recent decades, can be painful and prolonged. Zinc’s mission is to create new solutions to help people adapt to changes so that they can create and benefit from the new opportunities.”
The new investment brings together a groundbreaking mix of venture capital and academic support. Alongside LSE’s position as a world-class university, Atomico and LocalGlobe are among Europe’s leading seed and early-stage venture backers. Other social investors and angels have joined the round, including Growth4Good investor Martin Leuw and Michael Norton of the Centre for Innovation in Voluntary Action.
As well as offering financial support, LSE will lead a consortium of academics from Oxford, Manchester, Sussex and Sheffield universities, to work with Zinc to drive greater collaboration between social scientists and entrepreneurs, helping turn research insights into new businesses with commercial and social impact.
Professor Julia Black, pro director for research at LSE said: “As a founder of Zinc, we are really pleased to also be investing in this round, as part of this unique combination of investors. It is exciting to be combining the insights, expertise and resources of top universities with the creativity of entrepreneurs and the potential of new digital solutions.”
Zennström (pictured) said: “We need more tech entrepreneurs to focus on the big social challenges that we face across the world. Zinc has the expertise and partnerships to lead the way, not only in Europe but across the developed world.”
Zinc’s new mission starts on October 1 and is open to would-be entrepreneurs from anywhere. Applications are open until July 9, at www.zinc.vc/apply