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26 April, 2021 - 10:50 By Tony Quested

Cambridge Enterprise board chair proves an inspirational champion of University innovation

US President Theodore Roosevelt said that the best executive was the one who had sense enough to pick good people to do what he wanted done and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they did it. 

Ajay Chowdhury, board chair of Cambridge Enterprise – the University’s commercialisation arm – is helping to ensure that the best technology nurtured within the globally-respected seat of academia finds a ready springboard for global expansion.

Chowdhury has 25 years of experience with start-up ventures, building disruptive, new digital businesses in a wide range of industries. He has particular expertise in mobile, e-commerce, digital media, data analytics, digital retail and government as well as strong functional expertise in sales, strategy development, product development and fund raising.

Chowdhury is Partner and Managing Director in the London office of BCG Digital Ventures. Prior to joining BCG, he was CEO of Seatwave, a European online ticketing marketplace that was sold to Ticketmaster. Before joining Seatwave he was CEO of ComQi, a global omni-channel retail technology company that was sold to AU Optronics.

Chowdhury was a founding partner of IDG Ventures Europe, a $100 million European venture capital fund. He also served as chairman of Shazam, a $1 billion mobile audio recognition company and invested in and served on the board of Lionhead, a games developer sold to Microsoft.

Selected as one of the Asian Power 100 – the 100 most influential and powerful Asians in the UK – Chowdhury has also been recognised with the 2015 Dealmaker of the Year award from M&A Magazine, Top 100 Asian tech stars and selected as one of 2016’s Sunday Times top 100 BAME business leaders in the UK.

With accolades to burn, Chowdhury doesn’t have any points to prove: So when he praises the enterprise emanating from Cambridge University and the way it is being effectively commercialised, it is informative to listen.
He said: “Cambridge Enterprise has had a fantastic input over the last decade in terms of creating innovation in life sciences and technology.

“It is absolutely remarkable that CE has conveyed such an impact in terms of enterprise across the world. That includes raising millions through the ventures it directly supports and generating many more millions through successful enterprises across an impressive range of science and technology arenas.

“It is wonderful to see the impact of Cambridge University innovation over the years, from Solexa and its impact on genome sequencing globally to the enterprise spinning out of companies such as Bicycle Therapeutics based on the work of Nobel Prize winner Sir Greg Winter.”

Chowdhury said CE had been extremely successful in getting the message across to student entrepreneurs and Dons that they had a ready ear for potential commercial opportunities.

“We believe we have successfully conveyed the message that we are not only on the doorstep but also better placed and equipped to help commercialise innovation emanating from the University.

“We have made it clear that we should be the preferred first port of call to help commercialise University IP and that the inventors don’t have to go elsewhere to help commercialise their innovation.”

Chowdhury says Cambridge University has its finger on the pulse of an impressively broad range of science & technology that can be commercialised to global benefit.

He believes Cambridge companies won’t always have to sell out to big bucks bidders from the US to achieve global greatness so exhorts major players in the cluster to work closely together to build a sustainable ecosystem within the Cambridge Cluster.

This will prompt entrepreneurs to stand strong behind their technology innovation and “take a bigger bet the next time a global growth opportunity calls.”

• This is the first in a series of articles highlighting leading executives who are taking Cambridge Enterprise to fresh heights. 

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