Cambridge rolls out record funds for early stage ventures
Amadeus Capital Partners in Cambridge has revealed record funding to take more early-stage businesses to global scale-up.
Co-founder Hermann Hauser also reveals that Cambridge syndicates backing university spinouts are now sitting on a larger war chest than Oxford which has traditionally ruled the roost in terms of available finance for exciting new ventures.
Dr Hauser and Sir Christopher Evans – founding father of Cambridge biotech – have also been reflecting on the dark days when the city wasn’t on any VC’s radar, in exclusive interviews with Business Weekly.
Dr Hauser declines to reveal the exact amount currently at Amadeus’ disposal “because this is information that our competition would be keen to know so we keep it confidential” but adds: “We are deploying capital at quite a clip.”
Dr Hauser added: “In terms of available investment to take more young Cambridge companies to the world stage things are absolutely brilliant. Our fund is the biggest and best ever.
“More than this, the quality of early stage hi-tech companies we are seeing around Cambridge is also better than ever before. The current situation is in such stark contrast to the scene when we started out 22 years ago.
“To start off with it was really hard to raise significant funds and gain any momentum. Now we have a number of synergistic syndicates that combine to back our young businesses and the climate has been transformed.”
Dr Hauser says a number of factors have revolutionised the funding scene but cites two in particular – availability of capital and cultural change. He says: “In those dark early days it was so difficult putting a single syndicate together. Now we are alive with them – not just Amadeus but IQ Capital, Parkwalk, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Ahren and others. We can now draw on more capital for our startups and scaleups than Oxford. Our entire funding system is now better structured.
“Also key has been cultural change in entrepreneurship in Cambridge over the last few years. Our very best people used to make a beeline straight to the City of London.
“In recent times youngsters within the university have learned that it is cool to be an entrepreneur. We are now seeing and retaining the very best performers coming out of the university with bright business ideas.
Dr Hauser added: “We have seen more and more of our best people become serial entrepreneurs and there is an appetite among us to work together to increase the power of the proposition in Cambridge.
“International funders have teamed up with our syndicates to increase our investment power even more. And as our young companies have become world leaders in their sphere of excellence so they have attracted more talent to the city from overseas and elsewhere in the UK.”
Amadeus Capital Partners does not only ‘shop local’ but has expanded its sphere of influence to back top technology tyros across the globe. The company now has a team of 30 operating across four continents. Alex van Someren is now managing partner of the Early Stage Funds at Amadeus and sits on the boards of several Amadeus portfolio companies.
A successful serial entrepreneur in his own right, Alex has a current investment focus on UK deep technology including artificial intelligence & machine learning, cloud computing/enterprise SaaS, cyber security, digital healthcare, medical technology and optical & quantum technologies.
Dr Hauser has built and broadened the Cambridge team while expanding his own sphere of influence as a global hot gospeller for entrepreneurship. He has just returned from his native Austria where he was contributing to the European Forum Alpbach which he co-founded. Dr Hauser is also predicting great things, as we recently reported, of the €multibillion European Innovation Council on which he is a leading light; the initiative is designed to propel more science & technology startups to commercial success.
Sir Chris Evans, endorses Dr Hauser’s sentiments on the funding climate in the bad old days.
He said: “For what it’s worth, 30 years ago we hardly had a single venture capitalist interested in this new emerging sector of biotech. We had no stock market (the rules hadn’t changed until I bombarded them with Celsis in Cambridge. Celsis was eventually sold for over $350 million with over a billion units of our little rapid test being sold.
“There were no London institutions who had a clue about biotech. PE groups were totally disinterested – indeed many still are today.
“Both Hermann and I have seen and helped catalyse the involvement of scores of public and private investors into highly innovative sectors. We must have raised well over £10 billion between us for everything over these years. And more has been returned from whence it came!
“Cambridge – like Oxford – has seen a huge influx of investors over the years. I think Cambridge has seen the better diversity of new overseas investors and, with the recent curtailing of the brave and bold Neil Woodford Funds, I think investment in Oxford companies may slow down as a result. Cambridge may well step up as it’s attracting plenty of interesting American and Chinese money in my view.
“With Brexit a possibility and the likely disappearance of Neil Woodford underpinning all the quality biotechs, we may see a real dip in the London biotech stock markets unless more overseas investors are brought in to fill that huge void. Over 90 per cent of the London investors backing biotechs seven years ago are no longer in the game.
“So, I have been popping to LA, Boston, New York, China and the Gulf quite a bit – watch this space. Meanwhile, it’s onwards and upwards for Cambridge.”