Corporates Hearst, Microsoft, Walmart and Altria are LPs in the fund, which has already invested in nine diverse companies.

Alice Vilma, co-head and co-portfolio manager for Morgan Stanley Next Level Fund
Alice Vilma, co-head and co-portfolio manager for Morgan Stanley Next Level Fund.
Image courtesy of Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley Investment Management (MSIM), a subsidiary of US investment bank Morgan Stanley, has reached its $50m target for its Next Level Fund, featuring corporate limited partners.

Media group Hearst, software provider Microsoft, retailer Walmart and tobacco producer Altria committed to the fund, as did venture capital firm Ten Figures Ventures and private equity group Phalanx Impact Partners.

The fund targets early-stage consumer and retail, financial technology, healthcare, consumer products as well as media and entertainment startups whose founding team includes underrepresented members. Portfolio companies will receive access to corporate LPs’ resources and networks in addition to funding.

The Next Level Fund forms part of Morgan Stanley Investment Management’s alternative investment business, drawing experiences from Morgan Stanley’s five-month startup accelerator scheme, Morgan Stanley Inclusive Ventures Lab, and HearstLab, a women-focused fund run by Hearst.

A quarter of the fund’s capital has already been allocated to nine companies including HourWork, a gig worker recruiting and retention platform, and Bodily, a pregnancy information and product provider. Real estate software provider Cohesion, cloud security technology developer Oak9 and educational content creation platform Encantos also received funding.

The portfolio is filled out by diversity-oriented human resources tool provider PowerToFly, enterprise data automation platform NvisionX, furniture resale marketplace AptDeco and TomoCredit, which runs a credit building service.

Alice Vilma, co-head and co-portfolio manager for Morgan Stanley Next Level Fund, said: “There is an immense opportunity to provide overlooked entrepreneurs with much-needed capital and resources to help them succeed.

“With the support of our corporate partners, we are committed to driving a more equitable funding landscape for promising startups.”

Edison Fu

Edison Fu is a reporter and Asia liaison at Global Corporate Venturing.