Sustainable venture builders.

We believe early-stage businesses are the UK’s most important engine of innovation, change and value creation. So, we make it our mission to back, build and embolden start-ups that can have an impact in their markets and on society, supporting them on their sustainability journey at the same time.

What does our capital do?

We aim to put capital to work where it’s needed most: mentoring founders, optimising products, creating go-to market strategies, and bringing together outstanding teams. A key part of our philosophy is the desire for our portfolio companies to become more sustainable, no matter what their sector. You can read our sustainability manifesto here.


Introducing Vala

Jasper Smith  |  Founder, Vala Capital

Our founder

Jasper Smith knows the highs and lows of entrepreneurial life. His ventures include PlayJam, Playstack and Arksen, as well as being an early investor in Hutch. Jasper started Vala Capital because he wanted to create an investment company that put entrepreneurs first, working with companies who share his passion for making the world a better place. He’s built a team around him that shares his vision.

Meet the team

We have a strong portfolio of
fast growth companies making
an impact in their sectors


We have invested more than £30m
of our own money into early-stage
businesses and raised more than £75m
from other investors for those companies


We are sustainable venture builders who
use our experience to support our portfolio companies

Investment philosophy


to build

Our constructive mindset
helps turn bold ideas into
businesses built to last



We back UK-based talent, and our
investments use approved tax incentives
that support British businesses


Serious about

We invest to make a positive impact
and we prioritise sustainability
across all our decisions. In fact, we make our capital conditional on it.



We play to win, partnering with
determined founders who never
stop learning

Vala people

Vala’s team of experts bring with them a range of skills and years of experience - whether that’s building their own ventures or helping like-minded innovators build theirs.

Jasper Smith

Founder & Director

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Jasper has overall responsibility for the Vala EIS Portfolio’s deal flow and mentoring services. He is an entrepreneur who has founded and invested in many companies in the media, technology and engineering sectors. Previous ventures include: Static 2358, Electra Entertainment, Optimistic Entertainment Plc, PlayJam, PlayStack and Arksen. He has generated a number of highly successful exits, creating significant shareholder value along the way.

James Faulkner

Co-Founder & Managing Director

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James has responsibility for the day to day oversight of Vala. James has enjoyed a successful career in sales and marketing for over 30 years primarily within financial services with PwC, ABN Amro and Dun & Bradstreet but with spells in manufacturing and consulting too. James is a Chartered Member of the CISI and holds the Level 4 Investment Advice Diploma.

Jane Holland


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Jane is a qualified Chartered Accountant and brings a wealth of experience from holding senior finance roles in sectors including Media, Food and Beverage and FMCG. For the past 9 years Jane has specialised in Investment Management within the Media sector with her most recent role as Finance Director.

Asker Fawmy

Co-founder & Finance Director

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Asker has 15 years experience in business partnering, financial leadership and project management roles. He is a CIMA qualified accountant with substantial experience in reorganising complex financial systems. Asker has in-depth knowledge of statutory accounts, taxation, equity and property funds, corporate finance and risk management. He is also an expert in forecasting and using data to drive decision-making.

Jonathon Spanos

Head of Venture Investment

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Jonathon is responsible for Vala’s portfolio of venture capital investment activities across all funds. Jonathon has extensive experience in capital raising, investment advisory and venture building, having previously worked at Virgin StartUp, part of Sir Richard Branson's Family Office. During his time at Virgin, Jonathon launched a range of innovation accelerators (combined £50m fund) and investment programmes supporting >100 scale-ups to receive >£25m in venture funding. Prior to Virgin, Jonathon was part of the founding team that created Allbirds, a leading brand in sustainable fashion and innovative eco-material science.

Lian Michelson

Investment Director

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Lian has extensive technical, financial and operational experience. She has worked with funds including US-based Conscience VC as a Venture Partner focusing on the intersection of deep tech and consumer, and startup accelerator Antler as a Capital Advisor. Previously, Lian founded a fashion tech marketplace and ran the UK expansion of a European fintech company as their UK CEO. As an angel investor in 15+ companies, she utilises her experience to support founding teams with business development, strategy and fundraising. Lian started her career as a Fixed Income trader for Morgan Stanley where she managed $bn+ portfolio, and holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science.

Jake Wombwell-Povey

Venture Partner

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Jake is the founder and former CEO of Goji, a fintech asset management platform. Jake led the company through a number of VC-led investment rounds from some of Europe’s largest fintech VCs including Axa and Anthemis. Goji now provides asset management services to clients across Europe administering over £400m of assets.

John Oliver

Sales Director

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John is responsible for managing Vala’s new and existing relationships with financial advisers and intermediaries throughout the UK. Prior to joining Vala, John spent seven years working in the tax-efficient investment space, with a heavy focus on EIS distribution. His previous roles included working for both a large established company in the sector, as well as creating a tax efficient investment business line for two smaller companies and helping them grow those divisions. Prior to that, John worked in recruitment, sourcing financial professionals for the investment management sector.

George Robinson

Investment Associate

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George is responsible for managing Vala’s existing and new relationships with financial planners, family offices, and financial intermediaries. George also has several years experience distributing tax-efficient investments to financial planners in London, the South East and South West England. Prior to that, George worked in financial public relations managing the financial communications for FTSE and AIM listed UK companies. He holds the CFA UK’s Level 4 Diploma in Investment Management (ESG) and the CISI’s Investment Advice Diploma.

James Cooper

Business Development Manager

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James is responsible for Vala’s business development side managing existing and new relationships between high net worth individuals, family offices, and financial intermediaries. James has several years experience in the venture capital space working as an investor relations manager presenting and fundraising for tax-efficient investment products to LP and GP investors. Prior to that, James worked as investment analyst for an asset manager, creating DDQ’s and technical analytics reports for the company’s in-house trading team on the NASDAQ , FTSE 100 and Dow Jones after completing his Master’s Degree in Business.

Michael Bland

IT and Systems Manager

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Michael is an open source enthusiast who has worked in IT support and systems administration for over 15 years. The majority of his experience comes from working in start-ups and mobile marketing firms.

Paddy Willis

Investment Committee

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Paddy co-founded Plum Baby, a disruptor that became one of the UK’s fastest growing food brands. Plum was sold to Darwin Private Equity in year five for £10m, since when Paddy has been actively involved in start-ups, including co-founding and leading Mission Ventures, a team of food entrepreneurs who help to build better challenger brands. They recently partnered with Warburtons to form Batch Ventures, a vehicle to back exciting brands in baked goods.

Mike Penrose

Advisor and Investment Committee

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Mike chairs the Investment Committee for the Vala Sustainable Growth EIS. He set up the Sustainability Group to make sustainability and social purpose a core part of how businesses and investors plan for the future. He was previously Executive Director of UNICEF UK, CEO of Action Contre Le Faim in Paris, Chair of Soccer Aid, and Global Humanitarian Director at Save the Children. He has worked as a commercial consultant for numerous financial institutions and businesses, helping them achieve their social, sustainability and ESG investment objectives. Mike has also sat on the ESG advisory committee of FTSE Russell, advised numerous family offices, businesses, investment funds and social entrepreneurs on how to implement programmes that achieve both social impact and financial returns, and he is a retained advisor to a number of high profile boards and businesses.

John Swingewood

Investment Committee

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John has valuable experience of starting, growing and exiting companies in the technology and media sectors. He was previously Chairman of CentralNic, a domain name registry service that floated on the Alternative Investment Market. He was also founder of DITG and chief executive of Emizon, both of which achieved exits through successful trade sales. Earlier in his career, John held senior roles at BT and BSkyB, where he helped to develop the companies' early internet business strategies.

Boyd Carson

Investment Committee

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Boyd is the Managing Partner of Sapphire Capital Partners, the Investment Manager for British Ventures EIS and Sustainable Growth EIS. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and a former director of PwC in New York. Sapphire Capital specialises in the SEIS and EIS sectors, managing multiple funds and has helped more than 300 companies with the process of qualifying for tax reliefs. The firm has won multiple industry accolades, including the EIS Association’s award for Best SEIS Fund Manager.

Peter Bachmann


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Peter is a successful angel investor and entrepreneur with a mission driven approach to achieve sustainability. Over nearly two decades of public and private equity investment experience, he has invested into over 160 real asset and technology companies with a capital value of circa £5bn. Peter most recently lead the investment and exit of the £135m Environmental Capital Fund (ECF) for SEP, Europe’s most successful VC firm. Prior to ECF, was co-founder of renewables developer EIDC and a partner of the private equity fund SMIF (now Semperian).