Cornerstone VC, one of the leading funds in the UK with a diversity-led investment thesis, announced today the hiring of its latest partner: Ella Wales Bonner.
She will be the fund’s first female partner and will also focus time on building Cornerstone’s mentoring practice to support the founders within the fund’s portfolio. As an investor, Bonner tells TechCrunch she’s interested in consumer products, or “essentially any product or platform that everyday people can use,” she said.
Previously Bonner worked at JamJar Investments and M&C Saatchi and has a history of hosting events for diverse founders within the UK’s venture landscape. She believes it’s important for a woman of color like her to be visible in the industry so other underrepresented groups know there is space for them.
“When you don’t have those ties into VC, it can be hugely valuable to get an insider’s view on what can be a pretty opaque industry,” she said. “The more we can help open doors for others, the more this industry will better represent society.”
Cornerstone’s diversity-led thesis is greatly needed in the UK, where there has been an increased push to back more startups founded by women and people of color. For example, the latest figures show that Black British founders raised 0.25% of all funding in 2020. Women are faring better: all-female-led companies raised 6% of all venture funding last year in the UK, compared to around 2% in the US.
Bonner’s appointment is also important as more women of color rise through the ranks of venture. She joins Cornerstone at a key moment, with the wider venture market still in the midst of a downturn. Bonner said the fund is still in the early stages of its fund, so it is less exposed to inflated valuations as it has yet to deploy vast amounts of capital. Still, she sees this moment as a great opportunity.
“The change in the market means we can spend more time getting to know founders through our investment process,” she said. “We are a people-first fund, so having time to foster strong relationships with our portfolio is really important to us.”
Cornerstone invests in pre-seed and seed rounds, with average check sizes ranging from £250,000 to £1 million. It is currently investing out of its £20 million fund, which closed in August of last year. It plans to back up to 40 companies, reserving 40% of the capital for follow-on investments.
Bonner is overall excited about this next phase of life. The UK is going through a cost-of-living crisis, plunging many consumers and businesses into uncertainty and changing how people think about their work and lives. People want balance and fulfilment, she said.
“I am still hopeful we will see a new wave of brilliant businesses being born out of the need for change.”