P | P | P feat. Ethical Equity

We had the opportunity to chat with Ali Kazmi, founder of Ethical Equity and founder of AI Simulator. Ethical Equity is the UK’s first dedicated, ethically compliant investment platform connecting ethical start-ups/scale-ups with like-minded investors.

The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best start-ups with grand potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Tareek @ ADLIB: Can you please introduce yourself, what your business does, what stage you are at currently and what makes your business and offering unique?

Ali: I am Ali Kazmi, the founder of Ethical Equity and founder of AI Simulator. 

Ethical Equity is a solutions led approach and is the UK’s first dedicated, ethically compliant investment platform, connecting ethical startups / scale-ups with like-minded investors.

Ethical Equity’s mission is to open up the world of Impact Investment to a more diverse range of investors and investees.

We intend to deliver this using a digital platform and financial principles built on an ethical framework. By connecting these principles with financial opportunities, we help our clients deliver positive social, environmental and cultural change.

Our Investor Readiness Marketplace is for start-ups and scale-ups, to provide them with access to vital products and services that will enable them to be investor ready.

We have brought together like-minded serial investors, key stakeholders, and thought leadership, from across the UK to form an Angel Group, to complement our investment platform. This is to enable us to stimulate and energise deal flow in the UK private markets, whilst creating a diverse and inclusive environment to accelerate the dissemination of knowledge across the whole of Ethical Equity’s ecosystem.

The AI Simulator is designed to educate first time founders, aspiring angel investors and experienced angel investors in how to better deploy their capital within the start-up world. It is also designed to educate founders and angel investors without the significant cost associated with a traditional training course, and to provide a safe online environment to experience angel investing without any risks to their capital. 

The ultimate aim is that it will, in due course, unlock more angel investors in the UK, from various untapped communities. This will in turn unlock more capital which can be deployed to more start-ups.

Tareek @ ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of your business and Service / Product?

Ali: I am a tax specialist and have been around start-ups and angel investors for the last 10 years or so. For me it has now become very clear what the problem is. 

In the 10 year period of advising founders and investors, I can comfortably (and sadly) say that I have never advised a founder that looked like me, sounded like me, or even had the same name as me. Nor in my professional career have I advised an underserved angel investor. 

It is very clear that the world of venture capital, private equity and angel investing is closed to the underserved communities. Data now supports this, which may surprise a lot of people within the industry. However, underserved founders, employees and bystanders have always known this, and often have accepted being second class.  

The need for our products is very clear. Since 2016, just 2% of capital raised and 4% of funding rounds went to female founders, according to statistics from Sifted. The situation is even starker for ethnic minority entrepreneurs, who have received just 1.7% of the total venture capital that was available in the decade of 2009 to 2019, according to the Extend Ventures research. Within that 1.7%, black entrepreneurs received 0.24% and black female entrepreneurs just 0.02%. 

Tareek @ ADLIB: Speaking of People, can you share some challenges you have faced, are facing or are anticipating around scaling and growing your team? Do you have any top tips you could share with those businesses faced with the same issues?

Ali: The absence of visible role models and mentors is one of the key things that impact ethnically minoritized business leaders who are just starting out or trying to scale. 

Therefore, I would like to see more genuine efforts by larger institutes to encourage and welcome the underserved community within the start-up world. I would also like to see more learning and investment resources dedicated to founders that want to create a positive and lasting impact within their communities.

What I don’t want more of is large institutions offering underserved founders a place on their programmes without addressing the lack of true representation, in their leadership and their organisation. 

If institutions truly want to make a change and tap into the untapped communities, they must change their business culture, routines and processes & procedures. 

I truly believe this can be achieved through education, awareness and simply authentically embracing equity, diversity and inclusion as a real business benefit, rather than just an add on to business as usual.   

Tareek @ ADLIB: Moving to Product, what has been your approach to understanding and implementing product market fit?

Ali: Our approach has been somewhat simple, talking and understanding the needs of the underserved entrepreneur and investor communities.

The research that is now produced automatically amplifiers our product market fit. We offer the chance to correct some of the historic imbalances by arming founders with the confidence and communication skills to approach investors. 

Equally important, training the next generation of impact angel investors.

Tareek @ ADLIB: And then Potential, can you share some challenges or barriers you had to overcome to create a Product / Service offering with potential?

Ali: For me personally, all the statistics show that I am destined to fail, from the outset. My skin colour, my name and where I come from, are all barriers in terms of accessing the right networks, investors and institutions. 

On the other hand, if my businesses were to be set up by a white founder, statistically, he (not she) will have much more success in accessing networks, investors and institutes.

Tareek @ ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around best approach?

Ali: Raising capital for a start-up is a full-time job! I have been building my network of angel investors for the last 5 years or so (before launching my own businesses). We still require more funding in order to scale for both Ethical Equity and A I Simulator.

The only valuable advice I have is, mentally prepare yourself for many rejections and learn to move on very quickly. Try to build your resilience from the outset. 

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Start-up / Scale-up / Developers & Technology

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Tareek Lamhaouli