The UK government now holds stakes in over 150 start-ups

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak takes part in a national “clap for carers” to show thanks for the work of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) workers and frontline medical staff around the country as they battle with the coronavirus pandemic, on the steps of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on April 16, 2020 in London.

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The U.K. government now holds stakes in 158 start-ups after a series of taxpayer-funded loans converted into equity, the state-owned British Business Bank announced Tuesday.  

Gig ticketing app Dice FM, craft soft drink brand Gunna and DIY computer kit provider Kano are among the firms that the government owns shares in.  

The Future Fund was launched by U.K. Finance Minister Rishi Sunak in April last year as part of an effort to support British businesses that had been crippled by Covid-19 lockdowns. The rescue package was expanded last June to include firms based overseas. Start-ups were able to apply between May 2020 and Jan. 2021.

The British Business Bank, which administers the so-called Future Fund program, said it has issued 1,190 companies convertible loans worth £1.14 billion ($1.58 billion).

Convertible loans become equity stakes in a start-up’s next funding round — the theory being that this enables the government to make a return on the investment later down the line.

At Aug. 31, 158 of the loans had converted into equity shares, indicating that the firms have raised further private sector capital through an equity funding round.

Of the 158 loans that have converted into equity, 90 are for London-based companies, while just four are for firms in Wales.

Ken Cooper, managing director of venture solutions at British Business Bank, said in a statement: “The Future Fund was created to increase the flow of capital to innovative companies at the height of the pandemic, while ensuring long-term value for the U.K. taxpayer.”

“As a shareholder in so many promising businesses, the Future Fund is well positioned to support, and benefit from their continued growth,” Cooper added.

However, not everyone thinks taxpayer funding should have been used to help struggling start-ups.

Robin Klein, co-founder of venture firm LocalGlobe, said last year that the Future Fund “risks misdirecting much-needed capital to the wrong part of the economy.”