Bristol entrepreneur who exited for $800M doubles-down on the city with deep-tech incubator and VC fund

Harry Destecroix co-founded Ziylo while studying for his PhD at the University of Bristol. Ziylo, a university spin-out company, developed a synthetic molecule allowing glucose to bind with the bloodstream more effectively. Four years later, and by then a Phd, Destecroix sold the company to Danish firm Novo Nordisk, one of the biggest manufacturers of diabetes medicines, which had realized it could use Ziylo’s molecule to develop a new type of insulin to help diabetics. He walked away with an estimated $800m.

Destecroix is now embarking on a project, “Science Creates”, to repeat the exercise of creating deep-tech, science-based startups, and it will once more be based out of Bristol.

To foster this deep tech ecosystem it will offer a specialized incubator space able to house Wet Labs, a £15 million investment fund and a network of strategic partners to nurture science and engineering start-ups and spin-outs.

The Science Creates hub, in partnership with the University of Bristol and located in the heart of the city, is aspiring to become a sort of ‘West Coast’ for England, and the similarities, at least with an earlier version of Silicon Valley, are striking.

The Bay Area of old was cheaper than the East Coast of the US, had a cornerstone university, access to capital, and plenty of talent. Bristol has all that and for capital, it can access London, less than 90 minutes by train. But what it’s lacked until now is a greater level of “clustering” and startup-focused organization, which is clearly what Destecroix is planning to fix.

In a statement for the launch, he explained: “Where a discovery is made has a huge bearing on whether it’s successfully commercialized. While founding my own start-up, Ziylo, I became aware of just how many discoveries failed to emerge from the lab in Bristol alone. No matter the quality of the research and discovery, the right ecosystem is fundamental if we are going to challenge the global 90% failure rate of science start-ups, and create many more successful ventures.”

Science Creates is be grown out of the original incubator, Unit DX, that Destecroix set up in collaboration with the University of Bristol in 2017 to commercialize companies like his own.

The Science Creates team

The Science Creates team

The ‘Science Creates ecosystem’ will comprise of:

Science Creates Incubators: Unit DX houses 37 scientific and engineering companies working on healthtech, the environment and quality of life. The opening of a second incubator, Unit DY, close to Bristol Temple Meads train station, will mean it can support 100 companies and an estimated 450 jobs. The Science Creates’ physical footprint across the two units will reach 45,000 sq ft.

Science Creates Ventures: This £15 million EIS venture capital fund is backed by the Bristol-based entrepreneurs behind some of the South-West’s biggest deep tech exits.

Science Creates Network: This will be a portfolio of strategic partners, mentors and advisors tailored to the needs of science and engineering start-ups.

Destecroix is keen that the startups nurtured there will have more than “Wi-Fi and strong coffee” but also well-equipped lab space as well as sector-specific business support.

He’s betting that Bristol, with its long history of academic and industrial research, world-class research base around the University of Bristol, will be able to overcome the traditional challenges towards the commercialization of deep tech and science-based startups.

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of Bristol, commented: “We are delighted to support the vision and help Science Creates to build a thriving deep tech ecosystem in our home city. Great scientists don’t always know how to be great entrepreneurs, but we’ve seen the impact specialist support can have in helping them access the finance, networks, skills, and investment opportunities they need. Working with Science Creates, we aim to support even more ground-breaking discoveries to progress outside the university walls, and thrive as successful commercial ventures that change our world for the better.”

Ventures in Unit DX so far include:
– Imophoron (a vaccine tech start-up that is reinventing how vaccines are made and work – currently working on a COVID vaccine)
– Cytoseek (a discovery-stage biotech working on cell therapy cancer treatment)
– Anaphite (graphine-based science for next gen battery technology).

In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Destecroix went on to say: “After my startup exited I just got really interested in this idea that, where discovery is actually founded has a huge bearing on whether something is actually commercialized or not. The pandemic has really taught us there is a hell of a lot more – especially in the life sciences, and environmental sciences – that has still yet to be discovered. Vaccines are based on very old technology and take a while to develop.”

“Through this whole journey, I started trying to understand it from an economic perspective. How do we get more startups to emerge? To lower those barriers? I think first of all there’s a cultural problem, especially with academically-focused universities whereby entrepreneurship a dirty word. I had to go against many of my colleagues in the early days to spin out, then obviously universities own all the IP. And so you’ve got to go through the tech transfer office etc and depending on what university you are at, whether it’s Imperial, Cambridge or Oxford, they’re all different. So, and I put the reason why there were no deep terch startups in Bristol down to the fact that there was no incubator space, and not enough investment.”

“I’ve now made about 14 angel investments. Bristol has now catapulted from 20th in the league tables for life sciences to six in the country in the last three years and this is largely due to the activities that we’ve been helping to encourage. So we’ve helped streamline licensing processes for the university, and I’ve helped cornerstone a lot of these deals which has resulted in a wave of these technology startups coming in.”

“I thought, now’s the time to professionalize this and launch a respectable Bristol-based venture capital firm that specializes in deep technologies.”

#advisors, #articles, #bristol, #business, #cambridge, #cancer-treatment, #deep-tech, #east-coast, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #london, #oxford, #private-equity, #start-up, #start-ups, #startup-company, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #venture-capital, #west-coast, #wi-fi

0

Cuckoo Internet closes Seed funding to disrupt UK broadband market

Cuckoo Internet is a new UK start-up that aims to disrupt the UK broadband market. It has now raised £425,000 in seed funding, which includes funding from a new Silicon Valley fund operator fund led by Bart Macdonald (Sapling Founder). Other investors include the founders of Betterment, Second Home and energy challenger Bulb. The key to its strategy is that it has no servers of its own, meaning it can scale faster than traditional providers.

The anecdotal evidence is that the pandemic-led lockdown in many countries has revealed that your home broadband is almost certainly not fast enough for modern use. This has become especially obvious in the UK, where TV interviews with key figures are often interrupted by terrible buffering. Indeed, regulator Ofcom says 40% of people in the UK are paying more for terrible broadband merely because they are loyal customers. Complaints about broadband and mobile are almost 40% higher than every other sector in the UK economy, according to research from the Institute of Customer Service. At the same time younger workers, who usually rent so move home regularly, do not have broadband because of the long contracts and high exit fees.

Traditional ISPs are not set up for this new world. BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk between them own more than 90% of the broadband market. The biggest independent challengers to them today are Shell Energy, the Post Office and Vodafone. No companies are incentivized to break the pattern of long contracts, high exit fees, and hidden loyalty taxes. But when you switch between most suppliers the only thing that normally changes is your router and the software you interact with. So there is now an opportunity to disrupt this space.

Cuckoo has one deal and a one-month rolling contract; simple pricing, no loyalty tax, no hidden charges. It says it also offers the fastest speed available on the network.

The startup was inspired when Cofounder Alexander Fitzgerald had to take on BT to get his father’s internet to work properly and for the right price. “The broadband market is broken. Customers struggle with complex deals, high prices, and bad service. There has to be a better way. Unlike the current providers, we will be transparent, with clear pricing, simple contracts, and good customer service,” he said.

Fitzgerald previously helped Bulb grow to 1.5 million customers as a consultant and while working with Bulb he saw there was something missing in broadband. The Bulb founders gave him advice on his first-ever pitch deck. He then quit his job in October 2019 and founded Cuckoo.

#broadband, #bt, #cofounder, #energy, #europe, #national-broadband-plan, #post-office, #start-up, #talktalk, #tc, #telecommunications, #united-kingdom, #virgin-media, #vodafone

0