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Branson backed VC firm raises £250M to back technology start-ups

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A venture capital firm backed by Sir Richard Branson has raised $250 million to invest in technology businesses in Britain, the United States and the Nordic region.

The fund will base its global headquarters in London and has brought in Lord Browne of Madingley, the former BP chief executive, David Miliband, the former foreign secretary, and Linda Avey, the founder of 23andMe, the data company, as advisory board members.

Giant Ventures already has a number of investments in its portfolio, including the Calm, the mental health app. The platform, which provides guided meditations and mental health advice, was valued at $2 billion after it raised $75 million in 2020.

The fund also has invested in Agreena, a sustainable farming company, and in Field, a British start-up focused on battery storage for renewable technologies.

Giant Ventures has raised capital from BMW, RIT Capital Partners and several former directors of large companies, including Rolls-Royce, Goldman Sachs, Booking.com, Intel and BP. It will be able to invest $100 million in 25 start-ups and a further $150 million in a fund providing growth investment for climate-focused businesses.

Giant Ventures said the global economy was facing “the harshest technology fundraising environment in 25 years” and that it believed “the biggest technology companies of the decade will be built by solving climate change and improving healthcare, two of the most urgent issues facing humanity”.

UK start-ups attracted $15 billion in investment from venture capital firms last year. The funding available has declined after a pick-up in the previous two years and the government has set out a series of measures aimed at unlocking extra capital for high-growth businesses from the pension fund industry.

Britain’s top venture capital funds have signed up to the Venture Capital Investment Compact to help retirement schemes to increase their investments in start-ups. The funds, which include Octopus, Balderton and SV Health Investors, have pledged to deliver proposals that could unlock more than £50 billion of new capital by 2030.

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