Feb 27, 2024 - Business

Exclusive: Financial Times launches venture arm, invests in Charter

Illustration of a hundred dollar bill printed on pink Financial Times newsprint paper with an FT logo where the US seal would be.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Financial Times has launched a new venture arm to invest in high-growth media and tech companies, executives told Axios, and FT Ventures' first investment is in Charter, a future-of-work media startup.

Why it matters: The separate investment arm lets the FT explore strategic investments in smaller, high-growth startups that wouldn't make sense for the broader FT Group.

Catch up quick: The FT Group is a subsidiary of the Japanese holding company Nikkei and includes the Financial Times, a group of specialized media and data services companies, and a few joint ventures.

  • The company has made several strategic minority investments to date, including one in the Business of Fashion. Such deals will now flow through FT Ventures.
  • Bigger deals where the FT takes a controlling stake, like its investment in biopharmaceutical media company Endpoints News, will continue to be brokered through the FT Group.

State of play: The initial £30 million being deployed through the new FT Ventures fund will come from the FT Group's balance sheet, but FT Ventures will operate independently.

  • "One of the advantages of forming FT Ventures formally is that we can also benefit from a different board," said Alexandra Calinikos, corporate development and strategy director at the FT.
  • "We are looking for high-growth and innovative companies in the global information industry and tech companies that support them," Calinikos said. That could be companies in media, data, intelligence, or technologies and tools that support those areas.

Between the lines: The FT's investment is part of a broader $1 million fundraising round that Charter will add to its $3 million seed funding, said Kevin Delaney, CEO and editor-in-chief of Charter.

  • Bloomberg Beta, a venture firm backed by Bloomberg LP that funds companies that focus on the future of work, and Precursor Ventures also participated in the new round.
  • The new round is a SAFE (simple agreement for future equity), which will allow investors to convert funding into equity when Charter eventually raises money at a certain valuation.

Zoom out: Both Delaney and Calinikos remarked in separate interviews how much the missions of the two companies are aligned.

  • "We know from our own content that there's a lot of appetite for useful and insightful information in the modern workplace space," Calinikos said. "I think we are looking at the ways that we can partner with them to help accelerate their business as well."
  • Delaney pointed to the FT's expertise in building businesses with recurring revenue that service niche, professional business audiences. Charter currently makes money selling ads, sponsorships to its events, and subscriptions to its premium data and content service, Charter Pro.

The big picture: Several established media companies are leaning into venture investing as a way to spur innovation.

  • Hearst has a separate Hearst Ventures arm that it used to invest in BuzzFeed and many other startups in media and tech. In 2021, it launched Level Up, a venture fund focused specifically on Black and Latinx-led startups.

What’s next: Calinikos said FT Ventures is currently in discussion with more companies to invest in, including a small news-focused business and some others in technology and artificial intelligence.

Editor's note: The story and headline have been corrected to note that the FT investment in Charter is part of a $1 million round with other participants, not $1 million by FT alone.

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