Most recently, I’ve written about our energy investments and how they’re having a real impact in the fight against climate change. But across Octopus Group, we invest in other markets too, including real estate and small businesses. The common theme is that we aim to invest in a way that can change the world for the better.
Small businesses – and the entrepreneurs who create them – are vital to the UK economy. Not all entrepreneurs are alike, however.In our Octopus Ventures business, we focus on those we call ‘pioneers’. We use that term very deliberately to describe that subset of entrepreneurs (already a rare breed) who are truly breaking new ground.
Today, I want to talk about some exciting changes happening in our Octopus Ventures business – changes that will better equip us to promote the pioneering energies of these entrepreneurs.
Backing businesses to change the world
The early-stage companies on which we focus are those that are reimagining the future – companies with the potential to transform the way that whole industries operate.
These are the companies likely to have the biggest positive impact. And they also have the potential for explosive growth – so that they’re benefiting our investors at the same time as they’re changing the world.
Already, we have backed more than 100 pioneering companies. There’s Big Health, for example, which is working to improve mental health by offering cognitive behavioural therapy online. Then there’s femtech specialist Elvie, which brings an enlightened approach to women’s health products. OLIO, meanwhile, is addressing the crucial issue of food waste through an app that allows people to share their surplus food.
But our role is about much more than just signing cheques to back businesses like these. We nurture their development and expose them to people, organisations and networks that can help them along their journey. Some of our portfolio companies have gone on to join forces with the world’s largest businesses, including Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter.
We’re always looking to improve our capabilities – which is why we’ve made the recent changes to the Octopus Ventures team.
New healthtech team
The first of these is the recruitment of a new healthtech team. Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of healthcare technology has never been clearer. We have all become acutely aware of how much we rely on our public health systems to support our needs. And there’s clearly a huge opportunity to improve healthcare systems across Europe and the emerging markets – to the benefit of all.
That’s why we have boosted our healthtech expertise with the recruitment of a new team from TenX Health. This three-strong team enhances our capabilities at a time when we’re proposing to launch a new institutional healthtech fund.
The new team consists of Joe Stringer, Dr Pooja Sikka and Shamik Parekh. They bring with them a wealth of experience and a deep and broad network in digital healthcare. Joe and Pooja were formerly founding members of EY Ventures, where they led the health and social-care portfolio.
The team will manage the proposed new fund, which is targeting raising £100 million to invest in early-stage healthtech businesses. This fund aims to accelerate the adoption of healthtech in global health systems and to bring healthtech directly to consumers who need better access to healthcare. Octopus Group will be cornerstoning the fund, bringing its strong track record and experience to the table.
Enhanced leadership for greater impact
The recruitment of the TenX team and the launch of the healthtech fund are two major steps forward in Octopus’s journey towards achieving a greater positive impact on the world.
To accelerate that journey, we’re also enhancing our leadership. That’s why we’ve announced the appointment of Emma Davies as Co-CEO of Octopus Ventures. Emma brings more than 20 years’ experience as an investor and portfolio manager. Most recently, she was a Partner at Marylebone Partners. She was also Chief Investment Officer at Big Society Capital and has held senior positions at The Wellcome Trust and Perry Capital.
Emma will work alongside the current CEO, Alliott Cole. Her focus will be on product, operations and corporate development, allowing Alliott to focus on managing the investment strategy and the growing portfolio.
The appointments of Emma and the TenX team follow nine new hires in October 2020. Together, these have doubled the strength of the Octopus Ventures team. That’s an indication of the growth opportunity that we see in the pioneering businesses we back.
To make a difference in the world around us and leave a legacy of which we can be proud, we know that we need to support companies that can have a positive impact on the environment and society. With Emma and the TenX team in place, I’m confident that we’re better equipped than ever to do just that.
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