According to The UK Business Angels Association, which has a hub at The Bradfield Centre in Cambridge, business angels in the UK collectively invest an estimated £1.5 billion a year, which makes them the UK’s largest source of investment for startups and early-stage businesses seeking to grow.
To say that angels are helping fledgling businesses negotiate the valley of death is a gross understatement. It is hard to imagine where the startup community would be without their often divine interventions.
The Cambridge science & technology cluster has more than its fair share of seraphims, cherubims and archangels who have collectively wrapped their wings – and their wallets – around constant cohorts of hopefuls.
The Cambridge Angels group is one of the oldest such networks in the UK, having been founded in September 2001 by Robert Sansom and David Cleevely.
Robert was founding chair and David – plus John Yeomans – were subsequent high profile chairs. Peter Cowley took the role in 2016 and is also president of the European Business Angel Network. John Yeomans specialises in data businesses, notably in digital media and communications.
It is worth mentioning for context that among a great many technology achievements, Robert Sansom was also a board director of FORE. In 1999, when it employed over 2,000 people and had annual revenues of over $600 million, FORE was sold to Marconi (previously GEC plc) for $4.5 billion. Dr Sansom continued as Marconi’s chief technology officer until April 2000.
Since inception 17 years ago, Cambridge Angels have invested more than £75 million in over 80 different portfolio companies.
One recent exit was particularly spectacular as Oracle acquired John Snyder’s Grapeshot; other notable exits included 3Way Networks, AlertMe (bought by British Gas for £65m), Cambridge CMOS Sensors, Cronto, Oval Medical Technologies, Neul (acquired by Chinese giant Huawei) and Phonetic Arts, this latter acquired by Google.
Digging deeper into the portfolio, Cambridge Angels-founded companies include Abcam, a global life science tools provider; Raspberry Pi – creator of a world-leading micro computer; fabless semiconductor company CSR and other leading technology players such as Frontier, Alphamosaic (acquired by Broadcom for $120m in 2004) and Privitar.
Thanks to Robert Sansom and Peter Cowley we can reveal that the first pitch event held by Cambridge Angels was on October 1, 2001 and that there were 19 members initially with a further nine entrepreneurs waiting to join – in the wings presumably!
The first two pitches were Voxit and Force12, neither of whom have figured on our radar, but most of the other Cambridge Angels investments since most certainly have.
While the organisation is called Cambridge Angels the reach of the network, given the calibre and contacts of its entrepreneur membership, is international, which is a tremendous help to portfolio companies.
The group is highly collaborative, not just injecting crucial capital but also actively mentoring entrepreneurial teams and their ideas to ensure they achieve returns and realise their full potential.
In terms of industry focus, Cambridge Angel members invest in a wide range of startup and scale-up businesses with a particular focus on technology, internet, software, hardware, digital healthcare and life sciences.
Membership of Cambridge Angels is by invitation only. Entrepreneurs who think they can add value to the network and businesses seeking financial support and associated mentorship should visit the website: cambridgeangels.com
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: The Cambridge Angels Group co-founder David Cleevely