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Impact X-Venture Studio: Microsoft’s drive to accelerate underrepresented tech startups

With more unicorns than France and Germany combined, the UK has no shortage of innovative entrepreneurs. Yet investment remains a challenge – particularly for founders from minority groups. That’s why Impact X — a venture capital firm founded to support underrepresented entrepreneurs across Europe — is partnering with Microsoft to launch the Impact X-Venture Studio.  

The initiative will make tools and funding available for startups to help them accelerate their companies. Sustainability is a key focus, and the Impact X-Venture Studio is collaborating with Spring Innovation, the water sector’s centre of excellence. Spring Innovation’s mission is to accelerate transformation across the water industry. 

By connecting the expertise and skills of Impact X, Microsoft and Spring Innovation, Impact X-Venture Studio hopes to achieve three core things: unlock the potential of tech startups, at scale; help tackle the most pressing challenges the water sector is facing; and ensure fairer representation of minority groups in the start-up space. And hopefully find a unicorn in the process.  

Rebalancing investment for underrepresented groups  

Research shows that in recent years more than 90% of the total amount of venture capital raised went to white entrepreneurs, while only 0.24% went to black entrepreneurs and only 0.02% of investment going to black female founders.

“There are many great startup ideas out there and plenty of great founders,” says Eric Collins, CEO of Impact X. “But often we see that the biggest challenge facing founders is getting those initial enterprise trials and contracts that really change the game when it comes to fundraising and long-term success.”   

Eric Collins, CEO of Impact X, meeting delegates at an event and shaking hands with a female entrepreneur

Eric Collins, CEO of Impact X, shakes hands with delegates at an event

“A venture builder like the one we are creating with Microsoft can really bring together those threads and short-circuit the long arduous process that is getting those initial contracts in place,” he adds.  

Impact-X Venture Studio: Empowering entrepreneurs  

“Impact X intends to create a small cohort of diverse led startups that can move the needle in terms of efficiency, optimisations, and innovation in the water industry,” Collins explains.

Research has revealed that venture builders that match entrepreneurs directly with industry challenges are starting to outperform classic accelerators. Recent data shows that 72% of startups from venture builders going from Seed to Series A funding were successful — compared to only 42% of traditional startups. Overall, the venture builder approach achieves 44% better results compared to traditional start-ups. 

“A venture builder like the one we are creating with Microsoft can short-circuit the long arduous process in getting initial contracts in place.”Eric Collins, CEO and Co-founder, Impact X 

“Impact X exists to discover extraordinary founders and to empower them to generate a double bottom-line return,” explains Collins. “We believe that the Impact X-Venture Studio with Microsoft not only increases the likelihood of that outcome but also drastically reduces the time frame.” 

Making a splash with water innovation 

The initiative comes at a critical time. Climate change and water scarcity are forcing water companies and the wider sector to adapt and invest significantly in water supply and wastewater treatment. The Water Innovation Strategy 2050 data-contrast="auto">—which Spring Innovation works toward – outlines the importance of finding sustainable solutions. 

“To deliver real progress against our biggest societal challenges we need innovative solutions, a diversity of ideas, and equal access to entrepreneurial opportunity that can turn ideas into action.”Musidora Jorgensen, Chief Sustainability Officer, Microsoft

These challenges will range from how the water industry might become net positive through opportunities in natural capital, to minimising adverse impacts from wastewater, and how the industry can improve affordability of water for all.  

Sustainable solutions are an important focus for Microsoft. To deliver real progress against our biggest societal challenges we need innovative solutions, a diversity of ideas, and equal access to entrepreneurial opportunity that can turn ideas into action,” explains Microsoft’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Musidora Jorgensen. “Through industry partnerships we can provide both opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs and tackle critical sustainability challenges around water availability and security head on. 

Building for a sustainable future 

Carly Perry, Managing Director of Spring Innovation explains: “Spring is excited to be representing the UK and Ireland water sector in this exciting collaboration with Microsoft Venture and Impact X. We hope that the Impact X-Venture Studio in partnership with Microsoft illustrates the water companies’ commitment to engaging and supporting start-up innovators and will drive increased representation of start-up innovations into the sector.” 

Water safety, security and availability are foundational with regards to sustainability,” reflects Eric Collins agrees. “Partnering with Microsoft to address this area of opportunity brings together one of the great tech companies with Impact X’s innovator sourcing talent. The impact on sustainable solutions is potentially huge.”  

Tailored mentoring and expert guidance 

Microsoft are looking for their first entrepreneurs and start-ups to kickstart these industry challenges, providing support including $150,000 in free Azure credits, expert guidance from technical advisors and Azure specialists, free working space in Shoreditch, and tailored mentoring.  

Jimmy Cockerton, UK Innovation and Startups Lead at Microsoft explains: “It’s been a real privilege leading Microsoft, Impact X and Spring Innovation to help drive innovation in the water industry, and diversity in the start-up community.”  

“Through the Impact X-Venture Studio in partnership with Microsoft, I’m excited to see how we can rapidly innovate with our enterprise customers whilst accelerating start-up growth through revenue creation. This is an amazing opportunity bringing corporates and start-ups together to deliver greater impact for people and planet.”

Find out more 

To learn more about the Impact X-Venture Studio in partnership with Microsoft, you can visit the Venture Studio section on their homepage