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29 November, 2018 - 12:55 By Tony Quested

Marshall pleased with progress of investment arm

Apart from a few notable exceptions, the globally acclaimed Cambridge science & technology cluster has not exactly been a hotbed of corporate venturing over the years.

Superchip architect Arm has helped reshape that particular landscape by supporting exciting technology and social enterprise plays while the Marshall of Cambridge Group – the city’s largest industrial employer – picked up the gauntlet in April 2011 with the launch of Martlet.

Martlet is the group’s investment arm and provides early stage, patient capital for B2B deep technology companies.

Peter Cowley, Martlet’s investment director, tells Business Weekly: “The whole team – myself, Robert Marshall, Tom Hall and Sir Michael Marshall – are very pleased with the progress of what was an experiment in 2011. Of course, only time will tell how successful we have been.”

Taking stock of the first seven and a half years, Martlet would be considered a great success by any yardstick – in terms of numbers and volume of investments as well as its success to failure ratio.

Its total investment since inception in April 2011 has now exceeded £6 million further buoyed by a vibrant last 12 months.

In the last 12 months Martlet has had just one failure, which Cowley believes reflects good management and availability of cash, and no exits: “That isn’t a problem as most companies in the portfolio have continued to grow,” Cowley adds.

In the period covered by this feature – November 1, 2017 to current day, Martlet has made a further 20 investments totalling £1.7 million of which six have been new and 14 follow-on.

There have been four large investments – two in the Cambridge area and two in London.  

One high profile investee business was Arachnys, which provides know your customer (KYC), anti-money laundering and enterprise due diligence solutions; Martlet contributed to a $10 million Series A round led by QED.

Cowley says: “We have increased the total amount invested by a small amount and done one more deal than the previous period; that, in turn, is up on the previous period.

“Five of the new deals were in Cambridge and one elsewhere. The proportion utilising Cambridge University IP is three – or 50 per cent – which is higher than in previous years.  

“One example reported in Business Weekly was PervasID which raised £1.6m to progress its Radio Frequency Identification technology based on Cambridge University IP.

“Looking at the broader picture of university IP sectors we have supported, investments have included battery technology, RFID and micro-sensing, as well as personalised medicine, 3D underwater mapping and expert advice in life sciences.”

Martlet proved sufficiently successful to persuade the investment team to introduce the Marquity follow-on vehicle which Cowley says is “progressing well – now with seven companies that have had seed funding through Martlet and progressed to larger funding from Marshall. None have failed and we expect at least one positive exit in the next 12 months.”

martlet-angel.com

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