Permira pledges €1m cash for social enterprise

Permira pledges €1m cash for social enterprise

By James Quinn and Caroline Muspratt

British private equity house Permira is to launch a two-year philanthropic initiative investing time and money into the social enterprise sector.

Permira is one of a growing number of venture capitalists including Alchemy and Terra Firma attempting to overturn years of perceived negative publicity by giving something back to the community.

”Breakthrough” will be launched tomorrow night in Spitalfields, East London, at a high-profile debate involving Permira’s managing partner Damon Buffini and Ed Milliband MP, Minister for the Third Sector, which incorporates charities and social enterprise.

Its new venture will see €1m (£682,000) of Permira partners’ money invested into the Breakthrough project, but also commit partners and other staff to work with the projects in which it invests.

Breakthrough has invested in three social enterprises, including Green-Works, which sells unwanted office furniture to charities and community groups, and TimeBank, the volunteering charity.

Breakthrough will be led by a five-strong advisory panel, including Mr Buffini and Ernst & Young’s Tim Curry and Adele Blakebrough, the chief executive of Community Action Network (CAN).

Ms Blakebrough said: ‘Business has so much to offer the social sector and we have a lot to offer them in passion and innovation.’
CAN, a network of 850 social entrepreneurs, will run the Breakthrough project in association with Permira. It is understood Permira wanted to get involved in a charitable concern and approached CAN.

Permira is not the only venture capitalist to become involved in the sector, with the likes of Terra Firma’s Guy Hands and wife Julia, and Alchemy’s Jon Moulton investing in the Impetus Trust, which describes itself as a pioneer of ‘venture philanthropy’. Impetus works with charities on specific projects, such as rebranding, developing technology systems or getting their finances back on track, agreeing funding for a three-five year period.

Impetus’ chairman Stephen Dawson, said the organisation takes a ‘business-like approach’. Mr Dawson, who set up Impetus in 2002, was involved with private equity group ECI for more than 20 years and is chairman of technology consultants Ovum.

Impetus has raised nearly £3.5m since 2002, with most coming from individuals with venture capital connections, such as Messrs Hands and Moulton, and APAX founder Sir Ronald Cohen.

APAX’s chief investment officer Adrian Beecroft is an Impetus trustee.

Impetus supports six charities involved in various fields ranging from eating disorders to working with prisoners and ex-offenders and people with learning difficulties.