Annette Anthony

Annette is an executive coach and Founding Member of Impact X Capital Partners; a double bottom line venture capital firm focused on supporting underrepresented founders across Europe and, by extension, creating jobs.   

Pictured: Annette Anthony

Impact X is a venture capital firm focused on supporting underrepresented founders and innovators across Europe. Tell me more about Impact X’s work and what inspired you to be one of the company’s Founding Investors?

It was the Founder, Eric Collins, who inspired me; I give him the credit! I knew his reputation and background – he had a great understanding of the business, technical, start-up and financial worlds. He also had a very clear vision and understood the structural challenges involved with inequality. This was paired with a solid and compelling proposition for how to address these inequalities.

Whenever you are looking at taking a risk, it is really about who you are taking the risk with. Venture capital is extremely high risk but he had put together the right team to deliver on Impact X’s purpose, which is to invest with impact and address structural inequalities. We were, and are still, addressing an overlooked opportunity resulting from diverse innovators not getting capital. The compelling business opportunity aligned with my ethos and values; it was a high integrity proposition. So, I really invested in a combination of the team, the founder and the objectives.

It was also exciting to see what would be achieved from this collaboration and what type of people would come forward when they knew about our resources. Even if we can’t invest in someone, there is still an ecosystem of support and advice. I knew that this is the type of world I would like to craft for myself, one that fertilises growth and opportunity for everyone.

Why do you think the work of Impact X is so important?

I have lived in the UK, France, countries in Africa, and am from North America. I believe that in Europe, there has been a myth that there is a level playing field of opportunity, which is not the case. I do have a few data points highlighting this: less than 3% of UK venture capital goes to female teams. For black teams this lowers to 2% and for black female teams it drops again to 0.02%. It is my understanding that black female entrepreneurship is the fastest growing entrepreneurial sector. At Impact X the goal was to redress some of that imbalance.

We like to believe that talent and ideas are evenly distributed (yet resource distribution would lead one to believe otherwise). When one looks at the data points, those numbers are wrong even if you look proportionally at the population. More data is coming out across Europe and we need to use it to identify and solve these problems.

More work has been done on this issue; Birkbeck has played its part, and creating a level playing field is coming to the forefront. Addressing this appealed to me as a civic and business-minded person. As globally we realise inequality is an enduring issue, I was glad that Impact X was ahead of the curve. I remember Eric, the founder, said that he has seen companies who are excellent but for some reason consistently are not getting funds and wondered why; there was a visual data point. Eric wanted to do something about this and asked if I was “in or out” (I was in of course). We sadly can’t invest in everyone but there are other ways we can be useful and, where appropriate, we provide intellectual resources for the businesses who approach us.

In real human terms, particularly in the investor field, it was concerning to have highly qualified people investing their time and resources, gaining traction with their ideas, but consistently not being able to secure capital. As mentors, what do you tell them when they ask why aren’t they getting that capital?

Do you have the opportunity to meet some of those who Impact X helps and can you share any examples with us?

Absolutely. The pandemic has for now changed this, but we did have a gathering in 2019 which was a warm moment and a chance for everyone to get together.

One example is a tech platform that we invested in. The business had a good pre-money valuation and looked promising. They expanded their growth x7 within ten months, an exceptional return. You can successfully manage and mitigate risks to generate impressive returns such as this. We’re still early days, so to see this traction was great.

You have had an incredible career; before becoming a founding member of Impact X Capital Partners and training as an executive coach, you started as Counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and have since supported a U.S. presidential campaign and other political races. What are some of your career highlights and do you have achievements of which you are most proud?

I think of my life in stages, and I don’t want to hang my achievements on career successes. What I am most proud of is surviving this life with my moral DNA and values intact. I believe that in all the challenges of life, the highs and lows, one must be able to face oneself in the mirror and always calibrate on your values. I am proud that I remain curious, engaged, and can still smell the roses.

Looking at past stages in my life, working at the U.S. Senate was phenomenal and an amazing career start. I am also incredibly proud of my family. In this third stage of my life, I was especially proud to be among those who accompanied Stacey Abrams, the beacon on voting rights in the United States, to 10 Downing Street in 2019 when she was invited during her visit to London. That was the culmination of a lot of activism, and I was very happy to have that moment.

Alongside your work you have also held several not-for-profit roles and supported organisations that champion the arts, broaden education and tackle structural inequality. Do you have an overarching passion that guides you in the work you become involved with?

My parents raised me to be a surgeon like my father. However, when I was pretty young, I realised that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t have the mettle for dissection! However, my father wasn’t just a surgeon. He helped many, those who couldn’t afford medical care, for instance. This idea of helping people really formed me. I also saw this in my extended family, and I think it’s something innate in me.

We each decide how we will use our minds, and everyone has their purpose; I wanted to use mine to improve the lives of other people where I can and believe that, in turn, will improve all of our lives. Essentially, the root of all my passions, whether through the arts, politics or professionally, is my pull towards engaging with those who can have a tangible impact on a civic platform. That is where I choose to place my energy.

I also use another method when making my choices; considering a desert island and deciding who I would like to be stranded with. Who do you value?

You are now an accredited executive coach. What inspired you to move into this field?

Friends, entrepreneurs, and senior executives had regularly approached me for career advice or to discuss issues or brainstorm. I decided to make this more formal. It allows me to help people find out how they can improve their lives and get what they need. It’s also an effective way to share my own life experience, a way in which I can usefully disseminate what I have learned. I am excited about the coaching and enjoy it. It is also a nice compliment to my interests in the start-up space.

What would be your advice to those looking to broaden their career paths or begin entrepreneurial ventures of their own?

Draw lessons from your experiences. We all know that knowledge mastery, drive, and passion are critical, but learning lessons from life experiences is so important. For instance, I had a complex experience when first investing; I invested in a talented entrepreneur who had a vision and traction but had issues of capacity. Things didn’t go to plan. However, I didn’t let it deter me, and I drew many lessons from experiences like this. Those lessons helped me to anchor my perspective and land on the right agenda eventually. Impact X started to incubate soon after.

Also, not just to learn from experience, but to continue learning new things. It is always worthwhile investing in yourself, and that’s precisely what I did at Birkbeck, I invested in myself.

You came to Birkbeck to do a short course in creative writing; what brought you to Birkbeck and how did you find the experience?

The experience was transformative, genuinely wonderful. It was an adventure for me to try and get away from technical writing, into a more creative sphere. I decided to enquire where I could do evening courses and found out that Birkbeck was the best for mature students because of the high quality of the faculty and the students themselves; we were quite an eclectic and interesting mix. This mix really attracted me.

When I am published I will undoubtedly credit Birkbeck. They helped me to discover a passion I didn’t know I had and helped to take me into my ‘third age’ – my next stage of life.

The course that attracted me, and I’ll never forget it, was called the ‘Secret Lives of Women’ and it was a great experience. Unfortunately, the lecturer has now passed away, but she was exceptional, and we had remained close to her, even in her final moments. I read a quote from Maya Angelou that I think embodies what she taught us – ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’ I studied a decade ago and women’s voices are still so important to hear. We are in a different phase of this now, but it is just as much needed.

What, if anything, do you feel makes Birkbeck special?

I was educated in the United States, where there are many reputable institutions, as there are in London and the UK. However, what made Birkbeck special for me was the quality faculty, especially when looking at evening programmes, and the breadth of options. I realised that I could do a lot to progress my interests by using my evenings – I was raising my family at the time and was involved with charitable work.

I remember we all raved about the student group; people balanced studies with other full-time commitments making them an engaged group. When you add that commitment to learning on top of other daily responsibilities, it shows real dedication. That was part of the attraction, you want to be with people who want to be there. Similarly, the enthusiasm of my lecturer stood out. I have lectured in France on women in the law, so I have some experience first-hand, and I found the faculty exceptional.

You have now written your first book. What is it about?

Yes! I am proud to say that I have finished, and I am looking to publish it; it is a cooking memoir. As well as this, I am working on my second book, this time fiction, though can’t say too much about that yet. The course really kicked off an interest that has become an essential part of my life.

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Alumni & Student Ambassador Officer

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