How can I submit an application?
Our website has an application form where you can upload and submit information about your business and opportunity. We ask for quite a lot of information, which helps us give you a better quality response up front. The information we are asking for is stuff that you will need to compile for any other investor too, so you might find this a helpful way of working out if you have everything ready that you will need when making initial approaches to investors. We will review all the applications we receive, but please bear with us, we are a small team and often busy on live deals so it can take us a little while to review and revert.
Am I eligible for funding?
If you are an arts organisation you should look at the Arts and Culture Finance Website to see if our arts focused funds are right for you. Otherwise to work out if you are eligible have a look at our investment criteria page to work out if you think we will be the right investor for you. We are especially interested in high growth potential tech ventures at Seed to Series A stage where there is intentional social or environmental impact integral to the commercial business model.
Do you only invest in certain kinds of social impact?
We look for ventures that are closely aligned to Nesta’s Mission impact goals: improving school readiness at age 5 and secondary school attainment, tackling obesity, reducing household carbon emissions and improving productivity.
Have a look at our Social Impact page to see how we evaluate and measure impact. If your business delivers products or services that make a meaningful difference to the lives of people who are or are at risk of being left behind – or accelerates progress to net zero households – we would be interested in finding out more.
Do you only invest in high-growth ventures?
It is important to us that the businesses we back are innovative and have the potential to deliver impact at scale. Growth is generally a significant aspect of the things we do. The ultimate target scale of the businesses we back does depend on the potential depth of impact achieved. We are happy to invest in businesses with light impact, but if we do we expect them to achieve very significant scale (millions of users). Conversely a business making a very significant change in the lives of people at significant disadvantage would only need to reach tens of thousands.
What do I need to demonstrate in my application?
Essentially that you have the vision, knowledge, capabilities and resources required to practically achieve a significant social impact and create a valuable business.
Who can I talk to if I have further questions?
Send us an application and we will work out if we think we are the right investors for your business, if so we will be in touch.
How much time will the application process take up?
The time required to do the web application will depend on how much of the information we ask for you have to hand. It will probably take at least half an hour, but could take much longer if you have yet to prepare a business plan, financial projections etc. Our investment process typically takes three to six months to complete. This is partly about the time it takes for us to run our process, and partly about the time it takes for us to get to know each other properly. Remember that taking on investment is like getting married – it’s a long term relationship and really difficult to get out of if you find it’s not working. Taking a while to work out if it’s right or not is important.
What sorts of funding are available, and in what sizes?
We make equity investments typically between £500k and £1million.
What will you NOT fund?
Anything without a deep commitment to social impact. Anything without a realistic possibility of delivering an appropriate financial return for the risk we are taking. Anyone not wanting an engaged and active relationship with us as an investor.
What are the key dates and timelines?
Our investment process typically takes three to six months to complete. This is partly about the time it takes for us to run our process, and partly about the time it takes for us to get to know each other properly. Remember that taking on investment is like getting married – it’s a long term relationship and really difficult to get out of if you find it’s not working. Taking a while to work out if its right or not is important. We do have scheduled investment committee meeting times every month, but try to fit additional meetings in to meet company timetables where possible.
What support does Nesta provide beyond the investment itself?
Nesta has deep domain expertise and significant network particularly in the fields of education, health, sustainability, social impact evaluation, data and behavioural science. We try our best to use this knowledge and network to support our investee companies in whatever way we can. In addition our team has extensive experience of investing in and supporting businesses from early stage ventures to late stage growth. This experience enables us to provide constructive and understanding support to founders and management teams during the life of our investment.
What is impact investment?
What financial return do you look for?
Because of the high risk of investing in early stage and small businesses and the high potential loss rates on investments the return we get on individual successful investments needs to be significantly higher than this. The return we target on an individual investment will vary depending on our assessment of risk, but is likely to range from 25% to 55% IRR or 3 – 20X depending on the stage we invest.