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31 March, 2011 - 23:00 By News Desk

Cambridge corporate giant launches new angel investment fund for start-ups

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Marshall of Cambridge has re-entered the world of corporate venturing by launching a new angel vehicle to kick-start early-stage companies in Greater Cambridge and East Anglia.

It’s back to the future for Cambridge’s largest industrial employer, whose funding support more than a decade ago helped Abcam, the Cambridge antibodies Amazon, conquer VC apathy and secure crucial start-up funding.

Marshall has launched Martlet, a corporate angel initiative which is designed to build and expand on investment successes by the company 12 years ago and fire a fresh spurt of growth for the regional economy.

It is inviting young companies and entrepreneurs to put their ideas forward in a bid to accelerate commercial opportunities.

The company has appointed Peter Cowley, a seasoned mentor/angel investor to head up Martlet as investment director. Each year, Martlet will invest in several early-stage companies with high growth potential, as co-investees with other angels and seed funds.

Investments will be made primarily in companies within Greater Cambridge and East Anglia at an early stage, with sums of £25,000 to £100,000 being injected in each selected opportunity.

Martlet will not be concentrating on specific market sectors but will invest in a variety of entrepreneurial people and teams with an idea, an identified market, a recognised monetisation opportunity and excellent growth potential.

Robert Marshall, chief operating officer of Marshall, said: “We are very excited to be able to support some of the many excellent local start-ups.   We are very pleased that Peter Cowley will head up the new division.

“We anticipate contributing further to the growth of the UK economy.”

Cowley said: “I have been involved in my own Cambridge-based start-up companies and mentoring/investing in start-ups for many years. My connections within the angel community will provide excellent potential deal leads and we are keen to hear from other entrepreneurs that are looking for investment.”

Martlet has already identified several investment opportunities and welcomes new introductions from local entrepreneurs who are seeking early stage funding. For more information, www.martlet.org.uk or email peter cowley at: peter.cowley [at] martlet.org.uk

Sir Michael Marshall, chairman and CEO of the Marshall Group of companies, spearheaded a series of investments by the company many years ago but as the companies within the group expanded globally, this became peripheral to  the core activities.

The board felt the time was ripe to re-enter the arena to ensure Cambridge and its environs maintained its edge in innovation.

The latest move helps to underpin an exciting future. But also, it resonates with the company’s “pay it forward’ culture. And it gives a financial hand to companies that wasn’t available to the founder of the Marshall Group over a century ago.

Marshall of Cambridge was founded in 1909 with scant capital as a chauffeur drive company in Cambridge; it moved into the retail motor business in 1910 and entered the aviation business in 1929.

With all its growth funded by ploughed-back profits, the Marshall Group remains a privately owned family business with a turnover of around £1bn per annum.

The group of companies is chaired by the third generation of the Marshall family and employs members of the fourth generation. The group currently employs just over 4,500 people working in the fields of aerospace engineering; design and manufacture of specialist vehicle applications, military mobility shelters and hospital surgical units; motor vehicle sales and after sales support; refrigerated transport sales and support; and property ownership and management.

Peter Cowley has a Cambridge University degree in Engineering and Computing Science. He lived in Bavaria for five years and owns technology and construction businesses.

He has personally been investing in high growth start-ups for many years and is a board member of the Cambridge Angels. He has run the Computing Laboratory Ring mentoring scheme for eight years and is chair of the ideaSpace supporter group. He has been treasurer and chair of several charities in the advice, healthcare and education sectors.

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