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A look back at some of the most significant VCT investments in 2023

by | Feb 8, 2024

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As we make our way through February, and closer to the end of the tax year, let’s take a look back at some VCT investments in companies which were completed in 2023, along with insights into their economic and social benefits.

Malcolm Ferguson, Fund Manager of Octopus Titan VCT, said:

“We invested in HelloSelf in early 2023 where we led a £15 million funding round. HelloSelf is a digital, personalised psychological therapy and coaching platform focused on improving long-term clinically recognised and subjective mental health outcomes. However, we first met with founder and CEO Charlie Wells in March 2020, the week before the first Covid lockdown started.

 
 

“Charlie started the business in 2018 after he ripped the artery to his visual cortex and fell into a coma. Charlie underwent five brain surgeries and after this he had to learn to rebuild every aspect of his daily life. The neuro-recovery team that he worked with made him focus on one per cent gains and how to measure those gains.

“Learning from that experience, Charlie built HelloSelf to enable every single person to be the best version of themselves, by focusing on the one per cent, one day at a time. Charlie is a unique individual, and he and his leadership team are a key part of why we invested.

“We were delighted to be able to lead their most recent funding round, having watched the company deliver on all the things it had set out to do back in March 2020. We have joined the board of the company, where we work closely with Charlie and his team. It’s fairly typical for us to be communicating with our founders on a weekly basis or whenever needed.

 

“Our investment is helping the company to double down in the UK, its core market, as well as helping it explore international opportunities. The economic and social benefits of HelloSelf are important as it has the potential to alleviate pressure on emergency care and mental health services, both of which are increasingly strained.”

David Hall, Partner and Executive Chairman of YFM Private Equity, said:

“We invested £6 million in DrDoctor in February 2023, alongside some of the early seed investors. DrDoctor is designed to do two things – firstly, make access to the health service for bookings, appointments and administration easier, faster and better and secondly, by making this more efficient it provides the opportunity to put more resource into frontline healthcare. We’ve helped develop the strategy by adding an experienced chair who has seen and been over many of the bumps in the road, and not unusually some additional senior resource in the finance team.

 

“The funding, as is so often the case, was to principally support further investment in the product and engineering teams. This is very typical at the stage we invest where customers typically expand and always find new things that they’d like to add. Our investments give the businesses the resource to do this quickly and in time we’d hope to expand the sales and support functions as the customer base grows. DrDoctor has a massive opportunity to grow and increase employment. The average investment for our VCTs is around seven years and growth of the economic benefits often accelerates towards the end of that period.”

Peter Dines, Managing Director of Mercia Ventures, said:

“We invested £5 million in Camena Bioscience because of Camena’s gSynth technology which has the potential to revolutionise DNA synthesis, offering unmatched speed and accuracy. Beyond funding, Mercia Ventures offers Camena comprehensive support, encompassing strategic advice, operational expertise and connections to industry partners and an extensive non-executive network. Mercia’s role includes mentoring by our growth partners in technology scaling, marketing and commercialisation. This integrated approach aims to boost Camena’s technological progress and market presence.

 

“Our support is accelerating Camena’s R&D, scaling its technology and shortening product development timelines. The company benefits from being part of the UK’s vibrant biotech ecosystem. It’s based in Cambridge and as part of this investment we worked with the founders to appoint an experienced female chair of the board. The development and commercialisation of its gSynth technology are expected to create high-skilled positions in the biotechnology sector, enhancing the local knowledge economy.”

Trevor Hope, CIO, VCTs at Gresham House, said:

“We recently invested £8.5 million in Ozone API, an open finance API platform founded by the team that led the development of and authored the UK open banking standard. Open finance enables greater access to financial data for consumers and other financial institutions, and countries around the world are rapidly moving towards this approach.

 

“Ozone API has already built a customer base across Europe, the Middle East and North and South America and our investment will accelerate this global expansion. It will also support the growth of the company’s team, creating further high-skilled jobs in the UK’s booming fintech sector.

“Ozone API has many of the attributes we look for in early-stage businesses – it already has an industry recognised world-class product on the market and it is led by a founding team with a deep understanding of its sector.”


Ewan MacKinnon, Partner, Maven Capital Partners, said:

 

“In September Maven VCTs invested £2 million into Laverock Therapeutics, a really interesting drug discovery business, as part of a £13.5 million funding round. Laverock is using the platform, which combines gene editing with gene silencing, to develop the most appropriate, adaptable solutions for advanced therapies. It’s being used for Type 1 diabetes and for treating solid tumours.

“A key factor that underpinned Maven’s investment decision was the quality of the management team, particularly David Venables (CEO) and John Brown (Chair). In 2015 Alexandra Lindsay, the investment director leading Maven’s investment into Laverock, led her former fund’s investment into Synpromics, David and John’s previous venture, which delivered excellent returns to investors. The strength of the investor syndicate provided Maven with additional comfort.

“This included Calculus Capital, Mercia and Eli Lilly, the world’s largest pharma company by market value, which undertook rigorous scientific due diligence on Laverock prior to investing.”

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