Blog Post by Alex Bishop, Investment Manager for Ufi Ventures
It’s been almost a month since I joined Ufi, working in the Ventures team as an Investment Manager. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of questions and learnings, but I am excited about all the challenges that lie ahead.
One of the key differences at Ufi to my previous employer is that the organisation is entirely remote with a dispersed workforce.
My career so far has been working in large corporations and lockdown forced me in to working from home, so I felt like I’d had a little practise. Working from home because that’s how an organisation operates is different to having to suddenly work from home when you’re typically in a large office building - but I have adjusted to the new ways of working quickly.
A culture of collaboration & support
Ufi’s culture struck me straight away - one of collaboration and support, but with the benefit of each of us not having to commute hours every day!
Articulating clearly to friends & family what Ufi actually do was an interesting exercise. A colleague in my first week informally reached out as he had faced a similar challenge and shared this video...
The explanation I’ve landed on is that we provide funding to organisations who improve access to work and/or workplace education by using digital technologies in innovative ways.
Ufi Ventures is the part of the Trust that makes early-stage investments in companies that develop digital technologies to give people and businesses the skills needed for the future of work.
Over the next three years, we’re aiming to build a portfolio of around 20 companies which help adults to access and progress in work, help businesses to improve their performance through developing their workforce, and ultimately to demonstrate the attractiveness of VocTech as an investment sector.
The importance of making learning more accessible to everyone has only been accelerated during this turbulent year, as we face the deepest level of economic uncertainty in a generation and an impending unemployment crisis. With this in mind, as an investment team we will be carrying out a number of deep-dive research pieces into the most relevant areas within our thesis and we will look to share our thoughts and perspective on these as we produce them.
I'm interested in exploring how we can retrain workers for roles in the clean energy sector
With my background in environmental impact investing, I am particularly interested in exploring how we can retrain workers for roles in the clean energy sector, which will be critical to the UK’s ambitious target of being net carbon zero by 2050. This opportunity is aptly highlighted in a recent report by the Resolution Foundation, on the effects of the current economic crisis on the UK labour market.
Week of VocTech
I joined Ufi in the buildup to the signature event in the calendar – The VocTech Showcase. This is typically an in-person celebration of the achievements of the grant & investment portfolio, but this approach had to be rethought for this year. What resulted was a week-long fully digital celebration of Vocational Technology, encompassing webinars, live podcasts, and digital collaboration.
It was inspiring to hear the different perspectives, from educators, businesses, and investors and I found myself being a real sponge for information throughout the week. My personal highlight was the live VocTech podcast, where the panel explored the long-term focus for VocTech.
Deal Flow - one of my key areas of focus in my first month.
Deal Flow refers to the rate of incoming deals that signify investment opportunities. In Venture Capital, this is one of the most important components of running an effective investment process. Without consistent deal flow, even the best investment process will fall flat.
At Ufi, we’re lucky that we work with so many different types of organisations supported through our grant programme that we have a natural flow of potential opportunities. Several of our current Ventures portfolio have previously been supported with a Ufi grant before we made an investment.
I know we can do more to stimulate opportunities coming into the top of the funnel and this will be an important focus for us as we move in to 2021.
Focus Moving Forward
As an investment team we’re are already planning and setting our targets for 2021 – including the need to generate a wider narrative around how impact driven investors such as Ufi can respond to the employment & development needs of the most affected groups. We also hope to build out a wider network of vested parties who are aligned to our mission.
From my personal perspective, I continue to learn more about the sector each day. Ultimately, you never stop learning in this role and that is why it is so exciting!
We will continue to keep you abreast of our progress and please feel free to get in touch.