Fuelling the next unicorn spinout

Turning university ideas into billion-dollar companies is the focus of Adam Workman’s newly-formed OUI Investments and New Ventures team.

Written by Adam Workman, Head of Investments and New Ventures, OUI

There has been much debate in the University (and beyond!) on the subject of unicorns and how to create them.

While there are many schools of thought, the main problem with unicorns is — much like their mythical inspiration — they are notoriously hard to spot.

Rather than wasting time and energy running around trying to catch unicorns, our team at OUI Investments and New Ventures is focused on building an ecosystem that supports all our spinout companies, from the small lean enterprises through to the billion dollar unicorn.

Our new team of five professionals brings OUI’s funding together with the former Spinout Equity Management, giving us greater operational oversight of how OUI manages the University’s equity stakes and the financial support we can offer
our innovation community. Combined with our investment funds, we have greater investment firepower, allowing us to get more deals done, build even stronger links with the investment community, and deliver greater levels of corporate engagement.

We’re seeing a consistent supply of capital funnelled into our spinouts. Since 2011, our spinouts have raised a collective £1.9bn, with £428m of that in the past year.

You could look at that hockey-stick curve and say, “well that’s just Nanopore”. But, with regards to DNA sequencing pioneer Oxford Nanopore, while the company increased its value to £1.5bn this year, it only added £100m to the external fundraising total. While other established spinouts such as Adaptimmune and Oxitec also added substantial sums to this figure, a large chunk is made up from our younger spinouts hitting their Series A rounds. We expect that figure to grow as those same companies raise Series B rounds over the coming months.

Oxford Sciences Innovation continues to be a major catalyst for this growth, enabling us to create more companies with more resources than Oxford has been historically capable of. OSI also continues to be a beacon to other investors, which include our own University of Oxford Innovation Fund, drawing them into the Oxford Boom.

Meanwhile, the value of the spinout equity portfolio has more than doubled in recent years, rising from £68.2m in 2015 to £155.1m today.

What all this means is that our spinouts have never been more valuable, nor have they been better resourced.

This piece appeared originally in OUI’s 2018 Annual Review, which you can read here: http://annualreview.innovation.ox.ac.uk/

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