The Big Ones
There is a lot happening in Cambridge, England. The university might have passed its 800th anniversary earlier in this century but the basics of its operating model to bring the smartest people in the world together to solve its hardest challenges remains intact.
The latest advances include the launch and first cohort for Deeptech Labs (DTL), a new post-seed accelerator aimed at deep technology startups, Honeywell’s quantum computing division’s merger and up to $300m investment in Cambridge Quantum Computing and the potential acquisition of local tech champion Arm by US-based artificial intelligence (AI) chip maker Nvidia following the blow-out flotation of cybersecurity champion Darktrace.
DTL is backed by Arm and the University of Cambridge as well as venture capital firm Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC, the “unicorn factory” at the heart of the city), its chairman Ewan Kirk (founder of hedge fund Cantab Capital Partners), and local industrial conglomerate Marshall’s corporate angel fund, Martlet Capital.
Its inaugural cohort that runs to a demo day on 18 June it has made investments in five machine learning and data science companies: AutoFill, BKwai, Circuit Mind, Contilio and Mindtech.
Zara Riahi, CEO and co-founder of Contilio, said “We are building the world’s first 3D AI analytics platform used by global construction companies and asset owners. To accelerate the next phase of our growth, we were looking for a scaling partner that understood deeptech and had access to the best advisers, deeptech investors, and global operators. The people who have been in the trenches. We are delighted to have found an amazing one in Deeptech Labs.”
These startups receive £350,000 (about $500,000) and a structured three-month development programme, including mentors from Arm, CSR, Imagination Technologies, Analysis, Active Hotels, Arieso, Blinkx, Cloudamize, Focal Point, Riverlane and Ubisense. Its second cohort will start in September and include a delegation of investors from the GCV Symposium being held on 3-4 November.
Miles Kirby, CEO of DTL, who has also been inventor and holder of more than 30 patents and former founder of Allianz-backed AV8 Ventures as well as European managing director of Qualcomm Ventures, said: “This ambitious, new 13-week seed to series A programme is designed to enable deeptech startups to leverage the best minds in this space.”
Andrew Williamson, the managing partner at CIC, added: “Cambridge is one of the best places in the world to build a deeptech business, with access to best-in-class talents, exceptional intellectual property, and experienced entrepreneurs and investors. Deeptech Labs enables a new generation of entrepreneurs to access this ecosystem. As a cofounder, CIC has been delighted to support Miles and his team in shaping the vision. This is a very high quality first cohort and we look forward to working with them in the future and supporting their growth.”
Adam Bastin, vice-president of corporate development at Arm, said: “From Arm’s earliest days in a barn just outside the city, to its position as a global technology leader headquartered here today, Cambridge has remained a critical hub of talent, creativity and innovation. In co-founding Deeptech Labs, we are pleased to support the next generation of game-changing technology companies by helping them to access the world-class Cambridge technology ecosystem.”
Tim Haines, managing partner of Abingworth, a biotech venture-capital firm, in the latest Economist said we were in “the golden age of diagnostics”.
What that really seems to mean it is faster and easier than ever before for groups such as Roche and Merck to test and design treatments using genetics and epigenetics. This is leading to more personalised care rather than blockbuster drugs applicable to the masses.
The model works if the insights derived and results delivered can be more profitable, which likely means targeting rich people’s problems and delivering their longevity escape velocity where their life expectancy increases by more than a year for each year they live.
Severin Schwan, Roche’s seventh CEO in 125 years, in an interview with the Economist talked about the “insights” business as a third pillar for Roche—as big, if not bigger, than diagnostics and pharma.
Beyond the social inequality and impact on social services, it also opens up healthcare to consumer-facing technology companies.
As the Economist noted, Roche’s insights business was effectively formed through its acquisitions of Foundation Medicine, a gene-sequencing company that can identify cancers from DNA in blood samples, and Flatiron Health, a specialist in cancer-related health records that generates data on patients from the real world, supplementing clinical trials. Roche valued Flatiron at $2.15bn in its 2018 purchase and closed out the purchaseof the remaining minority shares in Foundation the same year at a $5.3bn valuation.
Both Foundation and Flatiron were backed by GV, formerly known as Google Ventures and a corporate venturing unit for US-listed Alphabet.
GV has made much of its name and returns over the past decade from a string of life sciences and healthcare deals and exits but Carole Nuechterlein, head of Roche Venture Fund at the drugs group’s headquarters in Switzerland, takes much of the credit for the handling of these deals.
Roche had been shareholder in both Flatiron and Foundation before taking control but leaving much autonomy with both groups.
This is the model Roche followed with its $47bn purchase of Genentech back in 2009. As probably the founding biotech – a then-young VC firm in Kleiner Perkins had its partner Bob Swanson close a seed deal over a beer with lead scientist Herb Boyer – Genentech listed in 1980 before eventually falling to Roche and bringing its blockbuster drugs to the Swiss group for greater distribution and up to $21bn in annual sales a decade later.
Now celebrating 20 years running Roche Ventures, Nuechterlein – a prior GCV Powerlist award winner – has seen it all before.
But never at such scale. It is actually a golden age for healthcare not just diagnostics as the century for biology is now firmly underway.
The next GCV Powerlist will be announced on 21 July thanks to partner Dentons as part of the GCV Digital Forum and my thanks to the Global Healthcare Council for its work on the latest quarterly report out next week.
Alibaba Cloud floats $1bn investment scheme
Fortune VC smiles on $858m first close
Asset manager Alantra has reached the first close at more than €80m ($97m) for its Klima Energy Transition Fund including commitments from Enagás, a Spain-based gas grid operator.
Uncle Nearest drinks to $50m investment vehicle
Coupa creates $50m corporate venturing fund
Recorded Future, a US-based threat intelligence company previously backed by corporate venturing unit REV Venture Partners over the past six years, has set up a $20m fund for early-stage startups.
Recorded Future’s Intelligence Fund will back seed and series A rounds, with its first deals including SecurityTrails and Gemini Advisory.
United Airlines, a US-based flight operator, has started its corporate venturing unit.
United Airlines Ventures will focus on sustainability concepts that support the company’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, as well as other travel-related startups.
Michael Leskinen, United’s vice-president of corporate development and investor relations, will oversee the venture unit as president and incorporate its initial investments in Archer Aviation, Clear and Fulcrum BioEnergy.
Rapyd, a UK-based payments company that earlier in the year closed a $300m round, has set up a corporate venturing unit to invest in early-stage fintech startups.
Rapyd Ventures said its first investment would be in the seed round for Gotrade, a fractional stock trading platform that enables users in over 150 countries to invest in US shares.
Didi begins IPO proceedings in the US
MissFresh to pay visit to public markets
Monday.com meets Salesforce and Zoom amid $574m IPO
Wallbox opens to $1.5bn reverse merger
1stdibs dives into $115m IPO
Ciox and Datavant converge in $7bn deal
Sinch sets out $1.3bn MessageMedia acquisition
Dave banks on $4bn reverse merger
One Medical eyes $2.1bn Iora acquisition
Marqeta gets to market in $1.2bn IPO
Dingdong Maicai bids for public markets spot
Clear makes space for initial public offering
Babylon agrees $4.2bn reverse merger
Xometry looks to assemble IPO
CVRx looks to pump $75m out of IPO
Metacon makes Helbio its own
Northvolt plugs into $2.75bn
Nubank cashes $750m in series G extension
Klarna claws in $639m
Chubby Bear gets its paws on $400m
Investors entrust Trulioo with $394m
Ledger leaps to $380m series C
Hesai gets handed $300m
ApplyBoard recruits investors for $230m round
Dingdang gets $220m funding delivery
Eightfold AI employs SoftBank for $220m series E
Scalable Capital secures $183m
Monogram Health identifies Humana for $160m round
Verbit eyes public listing amid $157m series D
LetsGetChecked executes $150m series D
Lilly helps inject $108m into Synthekine
MatchMove meets $100m funding
Embroker embraces $100m series C
EcoFlow stores $100m in series B round