Pitchbook places Cambridge Enterprise on top of the world
Cambridge Enterprise, the university’s commercialisation arm, is global number one for money returned on investments by leading venture firms, according to the Pitchbook monitor.
In terms of ‘cash-on-cash multiple’ CE has a DPI (distributed to paid) of 2.86x putting it number one internationally according to the new benchmark. Bringing up a double success, in terms of paper value – Total Value to Paid-In or TVPI (money returned to investors plus the fund’s unrealised investments, divided by money paid-in to the fund) – Cambridge Enterprise’s TVPI is 3.55x. That puts it at 10th place in Pitchbook’s list of big hitters.
Dr Anne Dobrée (pictured above), head of seed funds at CE, did a review of the relevant figures for Business Weekly. Stressing that these had not been officially audited, she said overall returns (gross proceeds not profit) to the university funds – which are evergreen and so recycle funds into new investments – had reached £23.47 million by July 31, 2015.
Original monies into the funds from the university, from the Government Challenge Fund Scheme in 1999, and from other philanthropic gifts, totalled £8.2m; monies invested by the funds to end July 2015 was actually £11m. Dr Dobrée said: “We’ve been really lucky in having some great companies coming out of the university.
“The successes of BlueGnome (sold to Illumina), XO1 (sold to Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc) and Lumora (sold to ERBA Diagnostics Mannheim) have all contributed to our funds success.”
Dr Dobrée added: “We don’t do a lot of bragging at Cambridge Enterprise. While we keep up the good news flow, we’re pretty modest about our achievements.
“This is partly because our roots are firmly planted in customer service, and mostly because we recognise that much of our success is due to the work of many remarkable people, not least of which the members of the university who come to us for help commercialising their brilliant ideas.
“So the Pitchbook findings are great for a number of reasons: we are a very early stage fund; we cover all technology areas (so are generalists not specialists); we are limited in the extent we can follow our investment long-term; we work off a limited resource.
“So, I bet you’re wondering how we do it. Obviously, there has to be an investable business at the core, but we don’t stress about multiples, we don’t fight for our position, we don’t block other investors from joining the party, we prefer not to do preference stacks, anti-dilution or pay-to-play – we don’t even worry that much about pre-money valuation.
“A lot of credit goes to the environment in which we sit – both from an intellectual capital point of view and from the value-add of the Cambridge Cluster.
“At the heart of our success is our approach to investment. With a mission of social and economic impact, not ROI, our focus is to get companies started and help them succeed.
“We look for good ideas, good teams and we focus our efforts on supporting the companies. The financial returns are just a natural consequence of doing that.
“We probably don’t behave much like a stereotypical venture capitalist. Maybe that’s what makes us shine.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Dr Anne Dobrée