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Sure Valley Ventures expands to Leeds and Manchester in regional push

Fresh from raising a £95m fund to invest in software startups located across all of the UK, Sure Valley Ventures is now putting its people where its money is.

The venture capital firm this week announced that it’s established teams in Manchester and Leeds, hiring two principals in each of the northern cities.

Mel Ellyard, who previously worked with the British Business Bank, has been appointed Sure Valley Ventures principal in Leeds. She brings more than 25 years’ experience to the role, including executive positions at startups and investment firms.

“The North of England is home to a significant and growing number of tech innovation which has previously been overlooked by venture capital firms and I am delighted to be working with Sure Valley, which recognises the exciting opportunities in this region and the importance of rebalancing the flow of capital to include underserved areas,” said Ellyard.

Mel Ellyard, Sure Valley Ventures
Mel Ellyard, principal in Leeds, Sure Valley Ventures


Meanwhile, George Mensah has taken the role of principal in Manchester, joining from AFC Investors where he was investment manager.

“Manchester is increasingly becoming a hub for exciting, disruptive and high-growth tech businesses,” said Mensah. “Despite this, these talented founders are underserved by VC investors so I can’t wait bring new opportunities to Sure Valley Ventures in the coming months. My core focus will be on identifying the best founders within AI/ML, immersive technologies, Web3, gaming, esports, IoT, cybersecurity and infosec.”

Established in 2017, Sure Valley Capital was created by former tech founders to focus on the UK and Ireland tech market. In addition to providing capital, the VC firm operates a platform to create tailored programmes to mentor and assist the founders that it invests in.

Sure Valley Ventures’ regional focus

Sure Valley Ventures, or SVV, has a presence in London, Cambridge and Dublin. Back in March, the VC firm exclusively shared with UKTN the launch of its £95m fund, set up to invest in early-stage British software startups operating in areas such as the metaverse, AI and cybersecurity.

Barry Downes, co-founder and managing partner of Sure Valley Ventures, hinted at the time that the firm would be putting people into more locations across the UK throughout the year.

“I think what you probably will see is… other people in other hubs across the UK as we build up the fund over the next year,” he told UKTN.

While London continues to dominate the UK tech industry for investment and the number of tech startups, regional tech hubs such as Manchester, Leeds, Cambridge and Cardiff have been growing in stature.

George Mensah Sure Valley Ventures
George Mensah, principal in Manchester, Sure Valley Ventures


Investors are increasingly looking beyond the capital in search of their next bet, an approach that SVV is embracing.

Downes is bullish on the metaverse, and sees the nascent sector “emerging out of the creative industries”. That is part of the reasoning why SVV has expanded in Manchester and Leeds, with the two cities known for their thriving creative industries.

The VC’s latest hires follow the recent promotion of Isabelle O’Keeffe as its first female partner and head of origination.

O’Keeffe told UKTN that SVV had operated with a distributed work model pre-pandemic, in which people were based remotely across the country.

During the pandemic, deal flows switched to virtual meetings but since restrictions have lifted she has realised there’s “no substitute” for having investors located in the ecosystem.

“Having that investor presence does really show that there’s an actual interest, that [founders] have someone they can talk to… that’s definitely been a deliberate approach by us,” O’Keeffe said.