Channel 4 targets new wave of investment into overlooked founders

Channel 4 is launching Untapped, a ground-breaking commercial initiative to invest in entrepreneurs who have traditionally been overlooked by the VC ecosystem.

The initiative – led by Channel 4’s consumer investment arm, Channel 4 Ventures – is informed by new research which shows that founders securing significant investment historically fall into a narrow range of elite profiles.

Untapped seeks to address this – and generate new revenues for Channel 4 – by investing in high growth businesses led by founders with a broader range of profiles based on factors including gender, education, socio-economic history, race and ethnicity, location and employment history.

The strategy is based on a new, industry-leading framework which will determine founders’ profiles across a range of criteria. It will enable Channel 4 to identify more potential investment opportunities in early-stage businesses led by a broader range of founders. These include women, founders educated outside of a small subset of institutions, companies based across the UK, people from ethnically diverse backgrounds and entrepreneurs from outside the start-up ecosystem.

Channel 4 Ventures is committing that a significant proportion of potential deals taken to its investment committee for approval each year will be in businesses led by such founders. In doing so, it aims to channel millions of pounds of media value into a new wave of entrepreneurs – driving investment across the UK and supporting the development of new consumer propositions and innovation.

The initiative will grow Channel 4 Ventures’ portfolio, supporting Channel 4’s Fast Forward strategy to ramp up new, diversified sources of revenues as it becomes a genuinely digital-first public service streamer.

Vinay Solanki, head of Channel 4 Ventures, said: “Untapped will enable Channel 4 to invest in and incubate high-growth businesses, delivering significant commercial returns to drive forward Channel 4’s distinctive remit. The data implies that a wide range of talented founders leading attractive commercial organisations are being overlooked by the current ecosystem and we are committed to identifying and backing them. More broadly, Untapped can be a catalyst to grow the UK consumer investment landscape and encourage others to follow in the investment space.”

Channel 4 Ventures benchmarked the profiles of hundreds of founders that secured investments valuing their companies at £100 million or more since 2013. The data is based on analysis of founders’ own disclosures of their race and ethnicity, gender, education background, employment history and company base – via analysis of publicly available data from LinkedIn and Pitchbook. It reveals that these founders come from a narrow section of society:

  • 94% of founders were men, despite men representing only 41% of all UK graduates.
  • founders are fifty-one times more likely to have graduated from an Oxbridge university or its US equivalents, than a graduate of a university outside the top 100 institutions globally.
  • consumer companies in London, Oxford, or Cambridge are 11 times more likely to have raised a valuation of £100m+ than a company located anywhere else in the UK.
  • white university graduates are ten times more likely to have founded a consumer company at a valuation of £100m+ than a black graduate, and nearly twice as likely as an Asian graduate.
  • 67% of founders were either previous founders or came from within the traditional start-up / investor ecosystem.

Anyone interested in submitting their business plan and associated information should contact by 5pm on April 17. After receiving proposals, Channel 4 Ventures will analyse founders’ self-submitted data to identify entrepreneurs’ profiles. Channel 4 Ventures will run a series of annual Untapped roadshows across the UK.

Channel 4 Ventures is a leading consumer venture capital investor which re-invests returns into Channel 4. The fund is a pioneer of the media-for-equity investment model in the UK, investing in consumer companies from the seed to pre-IPO stages using Channel 4’s advertising space and in return receiving equity stakes in the companies it backs.

Untapped connects the best of Channel 4’s commercial expertise to high-growth ventures across the UK. Businesses partnering with Channel 4 Ventures will be able to access Channel 4 Sales’ sales experts who are based across the UK, providing start-ups with access to the transformative power of TV advertising.

By embedding its insights around founder profiles into Channel 4 Ventures’ decision-making, Untapped will continue Channel 4’s track record of advancing representation and follows initiatives including Black in Business, Diversity in Advertising Award and workplace policies focused on women’s health.

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