Zinc, the London-based company builder tackling various societal problems, has picked up £3 million in seed investment as it readies its second cohort and mission. Backing the round is LocalGlobe, Niklas Zennström’s Atomico, U.K. university LSE, and a number of angel investors.
Launched late last year, Zinc helps build startups almost from scratch. Somewhat similar to Entrepreneur First, it focuses on recruiting potential founders — in this instance, experts in social science, technology, design and business — who through the 9-month programme form new companies.
Each Zinc cohort is tasked with tackling a specific mission around a broader theme. The debut programme, which was used to prove the model and is currently drawing to a close, set out to create startups that can tackle the problem of women’s mental and emotional health. This saw 55 prospective founders and entrepreneurs participate, resulting in 17 new companies being formed.
They span tech-enabled businesses working on problems as diverse as perinatal mental health, loneliness amongst the elderly, young women discovering sexual pleasure, stress-related physical conditions like IBS, women walking safely in cities, new talking therapies, and more. One criteria of Zinc-founded companies is that the resulting solution needs to be applicable globally, and that the problem being tackled affects a large enough number of people in the developed world ie ~100 million or more.
“We try to solve huge societal issues by mobilising talent, ideas and capital, and by taking a mission-led approach,” Ella Goldner, co-founder and GM of Zinc, tells TD. “Our programme does so by finding the best talent, surrounding them with smarts experts to help them build new tech-enabled scalable businesses, and help them develop products and services that tackle the issues in the context of the mission”.
Zinc’s second mission, which the company builder is currently recruiting for, will see it focus on the 150 million people living in places that have been hit hard by automation and globalisation over the last 20 or 30 years, as traditional industries in those areas have declined (e.g. coal, manufacturing, textiles, shipbuilding, ports and tourism).
“The founders on the programme are a diverse group of entrepreneurial creative individuals who are driven by the mission, and are keen to set up a new business. They have background in tech, the mission’s focus area, or in ops and marketing. The average age is 34 and they are truly diverse in terms of nationalities… We believe in people’s ability to take control over those issues and solve them, rather than relying on public sector to do that,” explains Goldner.
Suzanne Ashman Blair, partner at LocalGlobe, echoes that sentiment and says that Zinc has got off to a great start with its first mission. “To have an impact on society’s deepest challenges, we need to bring together entrepreneurial talent and capital. Zinc has demonstrated that its approach to addressing social problems through technology is a powerful combination”.
LSE’s investment in Zinc also sees it effectively become a founder of the burgeoning company builder. The London university is leading a new consortium of U.K. universities (Oxford, Manchester, Sussex and Sheffield) who will work with the Zinc programme to “turn research insight into new businesses that have commercial and social impact”.
To that end, in addition to Goldner, Zinc lists it founders as Paul Kirby (a former Head of the No 10 Policy Unit and previously a senior partner at KPMG), Saul Klein (co-founder of LocalGlobe and a serial tech entrepreneur), and Professor Julia Black (Pro-Director for Research at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Board Member of U.K. Research & Innovation).
Meanwhile, Zinc says the new £3 million funding will enable it to plan future missions and replicate the success of its launch programme.