“There’s a lot of great technology out there,” says Miles Kirby.
We don’t hear so much these days about British tech companies perishing in what is known as the Valley of Death, a funding wasteland that lies somewhere between very early seed funding and later rounds of funding. That’s partly because the funding ecosystem in both the UK and Europe has improved significantly over the past five or ten years.
But while investment in the UK tech sector continues to increase year on year – even given the Covid pandemic – good or even cutting-edge technology may not be enough to secure Series A funding or beyond. Investors want to see tactics, strategies, and business plans that have the potential to scale. For many founders, the right business plan can prove to be just as challenging as developing and testing their technologies.
This may particularly apply in the areas of the innovation economy, which are not only technology-capable, but technology-oriented. An entrepreneur planning to start a marketplace might well start with the business plan first, and then buy or develop the software for it. In contrast, a software engineer (perhaps a PhD student) could begin laboratory research on AI. and / or machine learning and then started developing a commercial plan. So the balance of skills is subtle or significantly different. A large part of the know-how is on the software side.
All of that brings us back to Miles Kirby. He is CEO of Deeptech Labs, a Cambridge-based accelerator. Backed by ARM, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Martlet Capital and the University of Cambridge, the company aims to help young companies in the industry prepare for Series A investments. “We’re bringing them from seed to Serie A,” says Kirby.
It would be wrong to claim that the startups of the first cohort offer technologies in search of a use case. In fact, all companies have identified or / or secured customers and offer industry-specific solutions.
For example, Autofill applies AI. to vehicle test reports. BKwai and Contilio direct their solutions to the construction industry. Circuit Mind offers an intelligent platform to support the creation of printed circuit boards. So these are companies that have a clear focus on their respective markets and were selected on this basis.
To learn something
So what does Deeptech Labs offer besides investing £ 350,000 in each participant?
Kirby says the Accelerator was looking for “great entrepreneurs” who still realize they have something to learn. “Some CEOs feel they already know all the answers – that’s fine – but they are likely not eligible for the program,” he says.
As Kirby explains, members of the cohort will have access to expertise and insights from technology leaders who have already grown their businesses. “And we’re going to look at the big problems companies face,” he adds. “IP, manage data, scale up.”
The 13-week program is essentially divided into three sections. In the first three weeks, the focus is on strategic topics. “What should the company look like? How do you stand out? What should Serie A look like? And what are the metrics and milestones? ”Says Kirby.
In the middle area, Accelerator focuses on business models and market launch. In the last few weeks, companies have been coached in the areas of operational excellence, data management and intellectual property issues. ”All of this, of course, leads to the demo day.
Deeptech Labs went public with the first cohort. With this in mind, I ask Kirby what the program has done so far for participating companies. “What we see is a maturity of thinking in terms of long-term strategies. The entrepreneurs have a clearer idea of what they want to do. ”This in turn prepared them better for Serie A.
With a view to the future, it is planned to give each cohort a slightly different topic. The first focused on AI. and machine learning. Next time – in addition to A.I. and M.L. there will be a Greentech element. “Other cohorts may be more hardware-centric,” adds Kirby.
With active support from Cambridge Innovation Capital, Martlet Investments, ARM and Cambridge University itself, Kirby hopes the accelerator will become a powerful component in the UK deep-tech ecosystem. “We hope these companies can scale,” he says.