- Flickr/Joi Ito
- LoveFilm was acquired by Amazon for £200 million in 2011; After LoveFilm, Klein worked as an investor at venture capital firm Index Ventures, which has backed companies like Facebook and Deliveroo; Zinc will run a new mission each year and it eventually plans to expand into other countries.
Saul Klein, the cofounder of LoveFilm and several other startups, has formally announced his latest venture: Zinc.
Zinc is a “company builder” in the same way that established London companies like Entrepreneur First and Founders Factory are company builders.
However, unlike its rivals, Zinc plans to run a series of “missions” around some of the world’s biggest social problems – specifically those in the developed world that affect over 100 million people.
“The key difference in our minds is the fact that it’s mission-driven and the missions are focused on solving the world’s toughest issues,” Klein told Business Insider on Monday. “We’re at a point in tech evolution and social adoption where tech has the ability to address tough, big social issues. We felt the time was right to do something like this.”
Zinc was incorporated in May but the company’s first six-month mission – focused on women’s emotional and mental health – has just got under way, with 55 entrepreneurs (selected from 800 applicants) set to relish the challenge out of Camden Town Hall between now and next March. Zinc wants the world to know that it exists: Digital minister Matt Hancock is planning to attend Zinc’s official launch party next Monday.
Klein said 650 million women and girls are affected by emotional and mental health issues, adding that the market is worth $100 billion (£75 billion).
Zinc said those taking part in the first mission will be “immersed in expertise” on women’s emotional and mental health, and introduced to speakers from top UK universities including Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, The London School of Economics, and King’s College London. They’ll also meet people from the NHS and other people that the Zinc founders have access to through their own personal networks.
Founded in partnership with Paul Kirby, KPMG’s former head of government and public services, and Ella Goldner, a tech entrepreneur that used to work as a strategist for BT, Zinc has been seed funded with £500,000 from Klein’s venture capital fund, LocalGlobe. It is now looking to raise more funding from angel investors, venture funds, and corporates.
After learning about the challenge they’re trying to tackle, the cohort of doctors, data scientists, UX/UI designers, parents, and serial tech entrepreneurs will form teams and try to develop scalable technologies that can have a positive impact on tens of millions of people around the world. The average age of a cohort member is 33 and over half of them have previously founded a company, Zinc said.
Zinc said it expects to form between five and 10 startups at the end of each six month programme. Zinc will take an 8% stake in each one.
The next mission is yet to be determined but Klein said he likes the idea of doing something around “second chances in life” for people who lose their jobs to robots, or for people who are leaving the military or prison. He explained: “There’s big macro changes happening around automation and AI. People are very worried about what’s going to happen if there jobs and their livelihoods are affected.”
Klein declined to say how much Zinc will invest in each company that emerges from Zinc’s missions but he’s confident they’ll appeal to other investors as well.
“We’re hoping the businesses are going to be ambitious and compelling so other investors will be interested in investing. In the second phase of the programme, we’re going to be exposing the founders to investors and angels and have demo day and that stuff.”