Introducing a new movement in VC: Inclusive Alpha®

Francesca (Check) Warner
7 min readOct 9, 2023
A photo from our Ada Angels launch event in March 2023–5 years after strarting Ada Ventures. We’ll be here later today announcing Inclusive Alpha on Ada Lovelace Day 2023.

When we started Ada Ventures in 2018, it was with the ambition to invest in overlooked founders addressing the needs of underserved groups. Five years and 38 investments later — we’ve learned a lot.

This summer we had a chance to reflect as a team on how we are doing against our stated mission — where we have succeeded and where we have fallen short. We’ve also reflected on what has happened in the last five years — the MeToo movement, TimesUp, the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. Then the depression in tech markets and withdrawal of funding for diversity programmes. We stand at a moment when the values that we hold dear: that every founder, no matter who they are, or where they come from, gets an equal opportunity to apply for and receive funding for their business, are under threat.

Today, our mission to invest with an inclusive lens is more urgent than ever.

We also know that our mission is widely misunderstood.

When we speak to people about investing with an inclusive lens their immediate assumption is that there must be a trade off with performance. They assume that the founders building companies that target underserved groups must be less ambitious. They assume that Ada Ventures is willing to compromise on generating best-in-class returns, alongside meaningful positive impact. None of this is true. We hate it and the founders we invest in hate it too.

We think language matters. That is why today we are proposing a new term which firmly debunks the misconceptions above. A term which pairs best in class performance with inclusivity.

Introducing — Inclusive Alpha.

Inclusive Alpha is a new term that Ada Ventures is introducing today. Inclusive Alpha describes an investment approach where an inclusive lens is prioritised in every part of the investment process — from the investment team structure, to the investment strategy, to sourcing, selection and portfolio support. All of this is done to drive investment performance alongside positive impact.

Why Alpha?

Alpha is an investment term describing an investment strategy’s ability to systematically beat the market. The term ‘alpha’ is typically associated with some of the most toxic parts of finance and bro culture — matching gillets, aggression and bravado.

Today we are reclaiming alpha.

We are driving alpha performance without any of this.

Why do we believe that an inclusive lens from end-to-end will drive alpha?


An investment firm which is built and led by a diverse team, where the team are genuinely included and equitably rewarded is one where there is less likely to be groupthink, more likely to be creative ideas and investors are more likely to pick outlier companies.


An investment strategy with an inclusion focus targets groups who haven’t had venture backed products and services built for them before. This results in finding companies with limited competition, where acquisition costs are lower, customers are stickier, companies have pricing power. These groups are not niche — they make up over 50% of the global population and include women, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities and many more.


A sourcing strategy with an inclusion focus finds founders outside the typical ‘warm’ networks, results in investment opportunities where there are fewer bidders, so funds can take their time to do proper due diligence and negotiate fair pricing.


A selection strategy with an inclusion focus where bias is reduced when making decisions will result in higher quality decisions.


A portfolio support approach with an inclusion focus where people’s individual circumstances are considered ensures that founders are less likely to experience burn-out or other mental health issues, they are more likely to be supported by their families and they are more likely to be able to stay the course and become effective, empathetic leaders.

Ada’s version of Inclusive Alpha

Ada Ventures has done a number of things differently throughout the investment process that together make up our version of Inclusive Alpha. One example, in the ‘sourcing’ part of our process is Ada’s Scout network, which now has over 70 members. In our first fund, 9 out of the 28 companies (32%) we invested in were referred to us by Ada Scouts. This translates to £45,000 being paid to individual Ada Scouts in referral fees, and each Ada Scout being entitled to 10% of carried interest generated by that investment. In our second fund three of the 10 companies invested in so far have come through the scout network. Moreover, scout sourced companies have more diverse teams — 10x more all-female teams and 6x more all-black teams than the UK benchmark according to a study we carried out with University College London (UCL) Behavioral Insights Exchange (BIX) program, summarized in this article.

Another example, on the ‘support’ side, is the 40 hours of back-up childcare that Ada is funding for founders in the portfolio. We will be reporting the impact of this programme and the impact it has had on the diversity of founding teams that approach us and the experiences of portfolio company founders after we have invested.

As a result of some of these programmes, we have invested in and supported diverse founders — and those founders are building exceptional companies, in many cases addressing the needs of underserved groups.

70% of Ada Portfolio companies today have one underrepresented founder (not white or male), with 49% having female founders and 45% having non-white founders. This compares to the dismal statistics from Extend Ventures that only 11% of VC funding in the last 10 years has gone to female founders and 4% to all-ethnic teams.

Our intention to do more

Whilst we are proud of some of these stats and programmes, frankly they still fall far short of where they could be and we are determined to do a lot more.

We haven’t always proactively addressed the systematic barriers that diverse founders face when we have invested in them — something we know is of critical importance given the headwinds they face. We are operating in a wider VC system of Venture Capital where diverse founders face bias and discrimination. We can’t necessarily solve for this. However, we can recognise the systemic barriers they face and design interventions to reduce or remove those barriers.

We haven’t proactively built diverse leadership at the board and executive level at the companies we’ve invested in, something we know would make a big difference to company culture as these firms scale.

Our investing partnership of Matt and Check, who receive the majority of the economics in the fund are two white, cis gender, privately educated people.

Sharing our commitments

Today, on Ada Lovelace Day 2023, we are introducing Inclusive Alpha as a new framework to talk about our approach to inclusive investing, to share our learnings and to centre the opportunity to drive outperformance in the conversation about DEI investing. Alongside introducing this new term, we are making a number of commitments. We believe that these commitments will accelerate the pace with which we can achieve our stated mission.

  1. We will be adding to the core decision-making and investment team to promote better decision-making and reduce group-think.
  2. We will report on the diversity stats for our own team
  3. We will report on the founder diversity in our investment pipeline
  4. We will report on the founder diversity in our portfolio
  5. We will proactively support founders in building diversity at the leadership level of portfolio companies
  6. We will publish an impact report which will include how far companies have progressed through our pipeline and their outcomes post investment
  7. We will share the impact of Inclusive Alpha practices such as the Ada scout network (as we have done here), where possible in partnership with independent research organisations which can audit the outcomes of this work.
  8. We will build an ecosystem around Inclusive Alpha to share best practices and shine a light on others doing brilliant work in this space

On Ada Lovelace Day 2024 we will report back on progress against these commitments.

We are proud that Ada is one of many funds who have identified the opportunity of investing with an inclusive lens and we owe so much to the pioneers in this space who have gone before us. Leaders like Freada Kapor Klein and Mitch Kapor of Kapor Capital, Arlan Hamilton at Backstage Capital, Anu Duggal at Female Founders Fund and many more.

We are excited about the companies that these Inclusive Alpha funds will fund. They will be our children’s role models, deliver incredible shareholder value, shape our future delivering products and services, show how leaders can be empathetic and compassionate.

Despite the progress made over the last 10 years in investing in a more equitable way — we know this is just the beginning. Asset owners are demanding a new approach, beneficiaries want their capital to be invested by people like them and founders want to build companies which combine best in class performance with positive societal impact. We believe that Inclusive Alpha can be a new frontier in Venture Capital.

If you’d like to get involved, you can learn more at



Francesca (Check) Warner

Partner, Ada Ventures. Investing in breakthrough ideas for the hardest problems we face. Co-founder & CEO of Diversity VC.