What was your career path prior to Houghton Street Ventures?
Hannah: I moved to India after my undergraduate degree to work for a big foundation on health and education initiatives. Whilst there my eyes were opened to the role that entrepreneurship could play in solving global problems. I then came to LSE to do my Masters in this field with every intention of going into impact investing but instead I fell into fintech. I’ve spent the subsequent decade working in all corners of the tech and venture capital world - working with early and high-growth companies, running accelerators, setting up innovation departments, building new products for big corporates, working with venture capital funds, as well as dabbling in my own founder journey.
Adam: I took a very traditional LSE career path and worked at Goldman Sachs as a Derivatives Trader for seven years. However, I became increasingly interested in the role technology had in financial services and I left to found what is currently one of Europe's most successful fintech businesses, Scalable Capital. During this time, I was actively investing in early-stage businesses and became increasingly interested in becoming a full-time venture capitalist to support other founders who were building technology businesses.
What inspired you to found Houghton Street Ventures?
Hannah: Adam and I have known each other for close to 10 years now through our work within the UK’s fintech ecosystem, but we both came to this via different lightbulb moments. Since 2016, I’ve been involved with LSE Generate, the school’s entrepreneurship centre, and I’ve seen the LSE’s startup ecosystem flourish over this period. At a pitch competition in 2019, I happened to sit next to another LSE alumna, Veronika, who was in the early stages of proposing an LSE-partnered venture capital fund, backing alumni founders, to the School. I was frankly captivated by the idea and didn’t think twice about throwing myself in.
Adam: Hannah and I were catching up when she mentioned the proposal, and this planted a seed in my head that I couldn’t stop thinking about. As an LSE-alum founder myself, I thought such a thing would be incredibly valuable and couldn’t quite believe it didn’t already exist. I knew of a handful of other LSE alumni founders, including a couple I had invested in, and that led me to investigate the whole LSE entrepreneurial network. What I found was an undiscovered ecosystem of founders building interesting businesses all over the world, and the rest is history.
How did your time as a student at LSE prepare you for founding Houghton Street Ventures and working with founders and investors?
Hannah: One of my closest LSE friends and I joke that we only became friends because we were one of the few people from the UK on our course! I guess I tell this story as a demonstration of the fact that LSE is a unique pocket of London in which to spend a year (or three) of your life. With 69 per cent of students from outside of the UK, you are thrown in with people from all over the world who have grown up in entirely different cultures, with diverging experiences and viewpoints. Immersion in this world encourages you to be open, curious, and develop a sustained interest in the way that people think, engage and communicate. This is an essential trait for investing in founders and for building the type of community that we hope to see at Houghton Street Ventures.
Adam: Being back on campus now (our offices are on the top floor of the library) is amazing as we are surrounded by youthful optimism and energy, but most of the buildings have been knocked down and upgraded since I was a student. For me, it was being immersed in the centre of London and surrounded by ambitious, hard-working, intelligent people – these are all fundamental qualities of those looking to start pioneering businesses.
Why are you excited to be investing in LSE alumni founders?
Hannah: LSE alumni have certain qualities. They’re curious, hard-working, tenacious and question the status quo. These are strong founder traits. The size and strength of the LSE network is also immense - there are 200,000 alumni globally, working in every type of company, in every sector, at every level, and in every corner of the world. We can tap into this ready network, to provide support for founders - whether for talent, investment, or BD opportunities. The enduring affinity with LSE in the alumni community has blown us away - even 30 years after graduating, people are curious about our work and are keen to pick up the phone to see how they can be involved.
Adam: We are currently tracking over 25,000 LSE alumni founders and over 2,000 of those have gone on to raise venture capital. Of which, more than 50 are currently valued at over $1 billion or have had a successful exit via an mergers and acquisition transaction or IPO. We are investing in a pool of exceptional talent who are building businesses to solve big problems. These investments not only make great returns for the fund, they also support the School as we pledge a portfolio of our profits to the entrepreneurship and innovation programmes at the LSE.
Can you tell us about any of the investments you've made to date?
Hannah: The latest company we backed (who was our first female founder, first UK and first healthcare deal) has been founded by an LSE alumna who has a 16-year career across the NHS, WHO, healthcare private equity, most recently in heading up commercial teams at two of Europe’s leading health-tech businesses. She is now revolutionising the fertility sector through data, starting by developing Europe’s only community-rated and reviewed index of clinics, aiming to arm patients with the data they need to pick the right clinic for them, and help clinics improve their patient experience, outcomes and operational performance. She is one of a handful of LSE alumnae building game-changing healthcare businesses, globally - increasing education, access and transparency.
Adam: Another one of our investments has an interesting story - a second-time founder who sold his first business, in the AI space, to Microsoft for around $150 million. It was only then that he attended the LSE to study for his Master's, which is where he came up with the idea for his second business after seeing a big problem that students currently face. He had been working on the idea for a few years, post-graduation, and we had the opportunity to invest in his seed round alongside some top VCs and the family office of a very famous serial entrepreneur from Silicon Valley.
How can members of the global LSE alumni community get involved with Houghton Street Ventures?
Hannah: Simple. If you or anyone in your alumni network are interested in learning more about the fund do reach out. If you are an entrepreneur looking for venture capital funding, an alumni working in the venture Capital and startup world who might be keen to support and be plugged into the ecosystem, we would love to learn more and see how we can support you. You can contact us directly at email@example.com.