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      Backing Founders from Seed Stage and Beyond

      Nine part Q&A with David Mott, Founder Partner, Oxford Capital

      17 Feb 2022 David Mott, Founder Partner, Oxford Capital

      1. What is Oxford Capital’s mission?

      Oxford Capital was established in 1999 as an alternative investment manager, passionate about investing in early stage technology companies across multiple sectors. Over the years, we’ve invested half a billion pounds into over a hundred companies. Our investors are people who want to generate returns, but are also interested in the impact of technology, and in backing UK enterprises.

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      2. What is the Oxford Capital Co-Investor Circle?

      One service we offer to private investors is the Co-Investor Circle, a group of angel investors who give us the firepower to invest into individual companies in special situations and enable us to bring more capital into our portfolio companies. 

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      3. Which sectors is Oxford Capital investing in, and how does Oxford Capital back founder-entrepreneurs?

      We invest in technology sectors in which the UK is considered a world leader. This includes sectors such as fintech, through the presence of the City of London and the huge proportion of our national economy taken up by financial services. The UK also leads in artificial intelligence and machine learning, especially in the Arc, with Oxford and Cambridge representing deep centres of excellence for computer science and machine learning research.

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      4. What makes the Oxford-Cambridge Arc such an attractive place to invest in? 

      This is a very simple answer: outside of London, the Arc has created more unicorns than any other region. This is not only because of the Arc’s incredibly successful universities, it’s also where the value has been created for investors. Oxford and Cambridge are probably the top destinations for UK and international venture capital looking to invest outside of London. Foreign investors might land in London, and then head to Oxford and Cambridge. The Arc is incredibly important as a magnet for foreign investment. 

      5. What are the key challenges for start-ups and spinouts in the Arc when securing investment?

      They’re the same challenges that all start-ups face: securing capital, finding talent, and potential customers. Housing and transport links may represent small challenges, but in the world of start-ups, particularly digital start-ups, the challenges are the same as everywhere else. We ultimately need more talent, more capital, more entrepreneurs in the Arc, but we also need more start-ups, because that means more successes over the long-term. We need to make the Arc as an environment even more favourable as a place to start a business.

      6. What challenges remain?

      There is definitely a strong theme that outside of London, investors prefer to invest in other European tech clusters (such as Paris, Berlin or Stockholm), than to invest regionally in the UK. This is a very real challenge. The answer to this is more depth within the cluster and to increase its relative attractiveness. Oxford and Cambridge are perhaps too well-known for being deep tech clusters, and not well-known enough for being digital clusters, they need to do more to position themselves as rivalling leading European tech clusters.

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      7. How does Oxford Capital benefit from locating itself near the Arc universities? 

      Oxford is in our name and DNA! The wonderful thing about Oxford is its thousand-year-old brand, which has great global penetration and is very powerful – it’s a truly international brand.

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      8. Oxford Capital invests in a range of enterprises from AI to life science technology: what do you think the most inspiring enterprise you’ve worked with?

      I always hate to choose my favourite child within the portfolio, we have a very diverse range of investments and some really fantastic companies. To pick out some examples, Latent Logic, which grew out of the Department of Computer Science at Oxford, develops AI software for the mobility market to train the algorithms for self-driving cars. This had already had trials with the world’s biggest companies in the self-driving car market, and one of them very quickly acquired the company (Waymo – Google’s self-driving business), providing not only a very good return for our investors but also a very good example of what international investment can do when targeted in the Arc.

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      9. What would be your recommendations for the future of the Arc? 

      Things have really shifted since we set up Oxford Capital. Academics are far more interested in becoming involved in start-ups based on their research, and attitudes have really changed. It’s increasingly acceptable, and desirable, for academics to be associated with spinouts and new companies associated with their research. All of this makes it much easier to talk to academics about businesses, and there’s an increasing understanding around the whole concept of building shareholder value.

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