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Ben Stokes and Chris Smalling back new tech and sports-led £40m VC fund

Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes, the Durham, Northern Superchargers and England cricketer is headlining a new, £40m VC fund that is also backed by former Manchester Utd player Chris Smalling, who now plies his trade at Roma, Sky News reports.

The Players Fund launches today (Monday August 21) and also includes Jos Buttler, the England white-ball cricket star, Indian cricketer KL Rahul, footballers Serge Gnabry and Hector Bellerin, and fellow cricketer Stuart Broad among its backers.

The fund’s objective is is to bring together prominent sportspeople with a track record of investing in start-ups and seasoned venture capitalists.

The Players Fund will comprise existing athlete-founded collectives such as 4CAST, which counts Stokes, Broad and England fast-bowler Jofra Archer among its members, ForGood, which is headed by former Manchester United defender Smalling, and B-Engaged, which is led by Bellerín and Gnabry.

A US-based group headed by the former Wimbledon forward Robbie Earle, which features prominent athletes including the NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer, is also involved.

Stokes told Sky: “Since starting 4CAST we have seen huge benefits of athletes and public figures coming together in business and we strongly believe athletes investing together cannot be underestimated. By combining our resources, networks and experience, we can achieve so much more collectively than as individuals.

“The Players Fund provides a structured way for athletes to confidently step into early stage investing and to do so alongside teammates and fellow athletes.”

A number of figures from the VC industry have agreed to invest £40m into the fund, which will focus on four core areas: Technologies that power the future of human performance, media, digital communities, and smart commerce.

Rome-based Smalling has also recently announced his backing for a separate VC consultancy, ForGood, which seeks to address the world’s largest environmental challenges such as climate change.

Joining Smalling as co-founders and partners at that venture are Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, an entrepreneur, investor, activist, and advisor to businesses, governments, and nonprofits around the world, and Rebecca Wheeler, a seasoned marketing leader, and Founder of certified B-Corp creative agency Library.

ForGood will invest between £50,000 to £1m+ in capital in pre-seed to Series A businesses in the UK and globally.

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