Bridges and IVUK back Unforgettable, a pioneering platform for dementia care

16th July 2015

Bridges and IVUK back Unforgettable, a pioneering social business set up to improve the lives of those living with dementia and their carers Bridges Ventures (‘Bridges’) and Impact Ventures UK (‘IVUK’) have announced they are backing (‘Unforgettable’), a pioneering website and e-commerce platform to support those living with dementia and their carers – informed by the founder’s own […]

Bridges and IVUK back Unforgettable, a pioneering social business set up to improve the lives of those living with dementia and their carers

Bridges Ventures (‘Bridges’) and Impact Ventures UK (‘IVUK’) have announced they are backing (‘Unforgettable’), a pioneering website and e-commerce platform to support those living with dementia and their carers – informed by the founder’s own personal experience.

Bridges’ Social Sector Funds and IVUK, along with the company’s management, have committed a total of £1.5m to the new venture, which will launch officially in September.

Dementia already affects over 44m people around the world – including more than 850,000 people in the UK – and according to some predictions, could affect 135m people globally by 2050. Yet despite the scale of the problem, there is still very little awareness of how products and services can help improve quality of life of those affected by dementia and memory loss.

Unforgettable aims to become the ‘go-to’ resource for anyone affected by dementia. It will offer in-depth information about the likely changes in behaviour, cognitive function and physical abilities that sufferers can undergo at different stages of the disease. It will offer community support for those struggling to manage their care burden. And it will offer practical, product-based solutions to the daily challenges of the illness – including activities and games, mealtimes, sleeping, personal hygiene and dressing.

The company is the brainchild of founder James Ashwell, who spent seven years at home caring for his mother after she was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of 57. He found the experience so challenging – dominated by confusion, stress and loneliness – that he set himself the challenge of launching the world’s best platform for dementia-related products and support.

At the end of 2013, James approached Bridges’ Social Sector Funds team, and over the following months they worked together to develop a plan, incubate the business, and raise the capital required. The venture was originally seeded by the Bridges Charitable Trust, before receiving this funding from Bridges’ Social Sector Funds and IVUK. Both the Bridges Social Sector Funds and IVUK have been supported with investment from Big Society Capital.

James will lead the company alongside CEO David Lethbridge, who has deep expertise in scaling innovative e-commerce models.

Unforgettable’s development has benefitted from working with the Alzheimer’s Society, the largest dementia charity in the UK, as its founding charitable partner. The Alzheimer’s Society has been instrumental in supporting the company as it has geared up to launch, recognising that Unforgettable’s strategy addresses a pressing social need and is strongly aligned with the Society’s own mission.

To reflect and to safeguard the company’s explicit social purpose, Unforgettable is also setting up a charitable foundation in parallel. The Unforgettable foundation will have ‘golden share’ rights to protect Unforgettable’s social mission and ensure the business remains focused on its beneficiaries.

James Ashwell, Founder of Unforgettable, said: “Until now, the market for dementia-related products and support has been highly fragmented. It is confusing for anyone seeking help and difficult for suppliers to reach carers. Unforgettable aims to create the world’s best marketplace for dementia, by bringing together thousands of innovative and specialised products along with practical advice and services to help make every day a little bit easier. We are delighted to have received support and financial backing from Bridges and IVUK, who will help us to scale up the business in a sustainable way, without losing sight of its social mission.”

Caroline Tulloch, Investment Director, Bridges’ Social Sector Funds, said: “James came to us with an idea that could transform the day-to-day experience of those living with dementia or the consequences of dementia – and we embraced this vision right from the start, providing the strategic support and funding the business needed to take off. The scale of the problem means Unforgettable has great potential to grow and improve many thousands or even millions of lives, both in the UK and beyond. It is a great example of how entrepreneurial talent and innovation can – with support from mission-aligned investors – create businesses with the potential to be both commercially sustainable and also highly impactful.”

Raf Goovaerts, Partner, LGT Venture Philanthropy / IVUK, said: “We have known James Ashwell for a number of years and have been impressed by his entrepreneurial drive and strong motivation to create social impact and change the lives of dementia patients and their carers. Over the past 18 months, a compelling proposition has been thoroughly researched and prepared, a highly talented management team has been brought together, and excellent traction has been created with suppliers and partners to now launch the platform in September. We very much look forward to working with James, David, and Bridges to make Unforgettable a great success.”


Notes to editors

About Bridges Ventures 

Bridges Ventures LLP (“Bridges”) is a specialist fund manager focused exclusively on sustainable and impact investment. It invests in high-impact businesses, properties and social organisations that can generate superior returns for both investors and society as a whole, focusing on four key impact ‘themes’: health & wellbeing, education, sustainable living and under-served markets. It manages almost £600 million across its Sustainable Growth, Property and Social Sector funds.

Bridges manages two Social Sector Funds – the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs fund and the Bridges Social Impact Bond Fund – which provide funding and support to charities and social enterprises delivering services with high social impact.

The Bridges Charitable Trust was set up to reflect and protect Bridges’ social mission. Funded by the Bridges team, it supports philanthropic activities that cannot be funded via the commercial investment strategies employed by the Bridges funds. It is also a shareholder in Bridges Ventures, with a ‘golden share’ that gives it power of veto over any change to the company’s mission.

About IVUK

IVUK is a £36m investment fund identifying and supporting businesses with measurable positive social impact and a sustainable financial model. It is a long-term, supportive partner to the social enterprises in which it invests. IVUK targets a financial return and investment size ranges from GBP 500,000 to GBP 5 million. IVUK was launched by LGT Venture Philanthropy in association with Berenberg with a £15 million cornerstone investment from Big Society Capital.

About LGT Venture Philanthropy

Established in 2007, LGT Venture Philanthropy (LGT VP) is a global impact investor supporting organizations with outstanding social and environmental impact in Latin America, Africa, India, China, Southeast Asia and the United Kingdom. LGT VP is committed to improving the quality of life of less advantaged people through investments in education, health and sanitation, agriculture and forestry, renewable energy, and information & communications technologies. LGT VP works closely with LGT, an international Private Bank and Asset Management Group domiciled in Liechtenstein.   At December 31, 2014, LGT managed assets of CHF 128.8bn (USD 130.1bn).

About Big Society Capital

Both the Bridges’ Social Sector Funds and IVUK have been supported with investment from Big Society Capital.

Big Society Capital is a financial institution with a social mission. It set up to build the social investment market in the UK, so that charities and social enterprises can access appropriate repayable finance to enable them to grow, become more sustainable and increase their impact on society. It is doing this by building a diverse social investment market: encouraging investors to lend or invest money to achieve a social as well as a financial return.

Since it was set up as an independent organisation in 2012, Big Society Capital has committed over £165 million in investments to specialist organisations who lend to charities and social enterprises.


Legal Disclaimer

This announcement is for information purposes only and is not intended to be promotional in any respect. This announcement does not constitute an invitation or inducement to buy or sell any investments referred to in this press release or to participate in any investment activity.

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