Leeds Illuminate, led by Leeds Equity exec Susan Cates, unveils $500m Fund I

Leeds Illuminate appears to expand the strategy of Leeds Equity, a control investor in mid-market companies in education, training, information services and other knowledge sectors.

Leeds Illuminate, recently launched as an affiliate of Leeds Equity Partners, is in the market with a debut growth-equity offering.

The private equity firm this week filed Form D fundraising documents for Leeds Illuminate I and a parallel vehicle, indicating a $500 million target. No placement agent is identified.

Leeds Illuminate was founded last year by managing partner Susan Cates and partner Elizabeth Chou, according to its website.

Cates, who joined Leeds Equity in 2019, has worked in education operations and investment for more than 20 years, including as COO of 2U, an education tech business. She was also a founding member of ThinkEquity Partners and led its education banking vertical.

Chou also joined two years ago. She was formerly a general partner at New Markets Venture Partners, where she invested in K12, higher education and training opportunities. Before, she was a senior associate with Gladstone Companies.

Similar to Leeds Equity, Leeds Illuminate invests in companies operating in education (early childhood, K12 and post-secondary) and workforce development sectors, but with a minority growth-equity focus. It will partner with management teams in late-stage and mature businesses, typically with revenue of $10 million or greater.

Leeds Illuminate has already made three investments, possibly capitalized by third-party investors on a deal-by-deal basis. It secured $100 million through incremental fundraising over 2020-21, Buyouts data show.

The firm’s investments include Eruditus, a provider of professional education in collaboration with universities. Leeds Illuminate in 2020 led a $113 million financing with Prosus Ventures. Other investors included Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Sequoia India and Ved Capital. Leeds Illuminate in the same year led a $20 million financing of Mursion, a virtual-reality training platform for emotional intelligence.

Leeds Illuminate, which has offices in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and New York, appears to expand the strategy of Leeds Equity. The 28-year-old parent firm emphasizes control investing in mid-market companies in education, training, information services and other knowledge sectors.

Leeds Equity this year raised $1.2 billion for a seventh flagship fund, according to Buyouts data. That puts the vehicle ahead of a $1 billion target and shy of an informal $1.3 billion hard-cap, disclosed by Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds.

Leeds Illuminate declined to comment on this story.