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Space tourist takes punt on hedge fund

Date: Monday, February 2, 2009
Author: James Mackintosh, FT.com

Mark Shuttleworth, the man dubbed the “first African in space” after paying $20m (£13.7m) to become the cosmos’s second space tourist, has put $10m into a hedge fund backed by Michael Spencer, the billionaire founder of Icap, the interdealer broker.

Mr Shuttleworth made his maiden hedge fund investment on Friday with Insparo, a London fund specialising in Africa that was set up last summer.

The move comes amid record levels of withdrawals from hedge funds, with almost no wealthy investors putting new money in and even institutional investors taking a cautious approach.

“At a time when the industry’s going backwards it is nice to receive an investment from someone who knows the region [Africa] so well,” said Mohammed Hanif, Insparo co-founder.

Mr Shuttleworth, based in London but originally from South Africa, made his fortune when he sold the internet security company he founded for more than $500m just before the dotcom bubble burst.

Here Be Dragons, his investment vehicle, mainly funds venture capital in South Africa. But he also provides heavy financial support for the Ubuntu version of Linux, the free computer operating system, through a London company.

In 2002 Mr Shuttleworth went into space on a Russian Soyuz rocket.