Global investors turning to universities for start ups

Written by Kate Beresford


In the first Demo Day of its kind, three of the UK’s leading universities, 15 of their extraordinary ventures, over 100 UK and international investors and hundreds of people from the universities’ communities gathered to pitch, listen to and invest in world changing concepts.


Start-ups handpicked from King’s20 Accelerator, Imperial’s Venture Catalyst Challenge and UCL’s Hatchery, covering a diverse range of industries including healthcare, education, fashion and technologies including machine learning, AI and robotics, were pitched to investors with the aim of sparking further investment and support.


The new generation of university innovators are motivated by change, solving problems and sustainability in all contexts with ideas which are fundamentally about positively challenging systems, and delivering change and impact.


Inspirational technology entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Starling Bank, a UK mobile-only bank, Anne Boden MBE, opened the event. In 2018, she received an MBE for services to financial technology and was named in Forbes as one of Europe’s ‘Top 50 Women working in Tech’. She said: “The wonderful thing about this event is it brings together people to inspire each other, to listen to each other’s pitches, to see and experience the possible.


“Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs are very ‘samey’. They’re actually 30-year-old guys with beards and I want to inspire those of us who are not 30-year-old guys with beards to actually take up the challenge and become an entrepreneur.”


London Demo Day was a unique collaboration between King’s, Imperial College London and UCL (University College London) to showcase the best early-stage and high potential entrepreneurs to the vibrant network of global investors keen to bring new innovation to London. The 15 investment-ready ventures pitching included: Panakeia Technologies, building the universal one-step engine for precision cancer diagnosis; Polipo, delivering flushable sanitary pads that are 100% biodegradable; and Musemio, a personalised virtual reality educational platform that brings culture to life for kids.


Julie Devonshire OBE, Director of King’s Entrepreneurship Institute, said: “I couldn’t be more proud of our ventures, they were outstanding. Their pitches were polished, compelling and entertaining and I truly do not think you would find better anywhere in the world. The diversity amongst the entrepreneurs and their ideas was immense.


“We had so many prestigious investors in the room who work on a global scale and half of these had never engaged with any of our universities before. This just shows us all how important universities are now in the entrepreneurial space.”


Frank Tong, Managing Partner at QBN Capital, a newly formed VC fund focusing on companies with technologies who want to expand their business to Asia, attended London Demo Day as an international investor. He said: “UK universities produce many great tech entrepreneurs and start-ups every year. Events like the London Demo Day is great for investors like us to connect with universities, and a one-stop-shop for sourcing innovative ideas and businesses.”