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      Pioneering Healthcare Innovation relies on Regional Collaboration

      Q&A with Jason Mellad, CEO and Co-Founder, Start Codon

      17 Feb 2022 Jason Mellad, CEO and Co-Founder, Start Codon

      1. What does an accelerator do, and how does Start Codon fit into the innovation ecosystem within the Oxford-Cambridge Arc?

      Unlike traditional accelerators, Start Codon is a venture builder that provides the firm foundation that businesses need to propel them along their growth journey. We are one step on a continuum between academic research, business formation and the start-up stage, accelerators driving the next phase of growth, and finally the maturation of a business into the SME stage with close links to venture capital and angel investors. One of the principal benefits of the Arc is that it includes all the elements a start-up needs at any stage of their business development journey, and we exist to facilitate and make each stage of as smooth as possible. 

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      2. What sort of resources does Start Codon have to support life sciences and healthcare startups?

      We offer a variety of resources, all designed to target areas where start-ups have the most need. This includes our own capital to ensure a flow of money at the crucial cash-strapped seed stage, but fundamentally the mentoring time of the Start Codon team and our resident subject matter experts. Our people have fundraised and struck deals within the health technology and life sciences sector before, and crucially they understand the context and needs of research-led start-ups. 

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      3. In your experience, what are the key needs and constraints for start-ups and spinouts?

      In the early days, the team is disproportionately important. We have worked with many start-ups with deep tech and academic backgrounds, where they have already had years of university funding and multiple scholarly publications, but what they really need a commercially savvy team to help things get off the ground. Even if they have less robust technology or a less brilliant product on paper, a stronger team is the most important aspect to drive sustainable and lasting success. Dynamic and capable teams really help to minimise risk in an asset for investors and for ourselves.

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      4. What do you think the benefits are for a new start-up or spin-out in partnering with an accelerator like Start Codon?

      There are plenty of start-ups out there who decided to go it alone and were successful, but proportionally they are quite rare. Being part of a community increases the chance of success, as does a tried-and-tested pathway for growth. It’s key to understand that not all programmes are created equal, but research from Beauhurst in 2018 found that companies that use accelerators raise 44% more money than those that don’t, and are also 75% more valuable. 

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      5. How do your partners, like Cancer Research, benefit from this approach to nurturing and cultivating start-ups?

      I think previously there was a distinction between return-on-investment or ROI investing and impact investing that has largely broken down, and investors are increasingly viewing them as one and the same. No more so than in healthcare and the life sciences, we no longer see an either-or between impact and return, as enterprises and ideas with life-changing products and amazing potential are also increasingly highly profitable. 

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      6. What makes the Oxford-Cambridge Arc an attractive place for accelerators to operate? What is it that draws investment into the region?

      The deal flow in the Arc is outstanding, and the supporting resources even more so. The close spatial dynamics of the Arc enable researchers and entrepreneurs to interact with their peers and a high concentration of likeminded individuals. This allows for a cross-pollination of ideas between sectors and industries – battery technology feeding into aerospace or motorsport, or sensor production providing local authorities with smart city technology – which is one of the Arc’s major selling points. 

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      7. What does the future of life sciences and healthcare look like?

      I’m particularly passionate that the innovations produced by businesses in the Arc are deployed to help British patients. Too often companies from the UK or internationally utilise NHS resources and goodwill to discover new drugs and develop diagnostic tests, but that technology isn’t deployed locally for years and the UK doesn’t reap the full benefits. If the residents of the Arc are going to be convinced of tis potential, innovation has to spill over into local communities. We need to make sure the Arc leads the way in innovation, but also in deployment and access, to help the population of the Arc and of the UK – improving healthcare outcomes and ensuring the NHS benefits from the research it supports. 

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