On-campus VCs and the future of talent-spotting

A new venture capital firm is the first in the UK to build ‘on campus’ investment funds in partnership with leading universities.

Discovering talent on campus isn’t new, but a dedicated venture fund for these start-ups has yet to be launched in the UK. Until now, with Sheffield-based VC firm, Campus Capital.

Some of the consumer and enterprise technologies to have shaped our decade were founded on campus, from Stanford-based data visualisation firm Tableau, to Harvard’s own Facebook.

According to serial entrepreneur Michael Howe, American venture capitalists spotted this investment opportunity early on, spawning on-campus venture funds dedicated to finding and honing talent coming out of universities all over the country.

“Many tech companies including Facebook and Snapchat were founded on campus and universities are at the forefront of research and development, so it makes sense to have funds based on campus,” Howe explained. Following the considerable success of on-campus venture funds in the US, Howe and Samantha Deakin Hill have launched a £2 million campus fund, Campus Capital to get this model up and running in the UK. So far, Campus Capital has signed up the University of Sheffield as a partner, and is in talks with other northern universities.

Campus Capital’s focus is on early-stage tech companies, from university spin-outs to alumni businesses. It aims to provide attractive, tax-efficient returns for investors, while building up student entrepreneurs and their fledgling businesses. Students will be given the opportunity to act as venture capitalists by participating alongside investment professionals in the management of the portfolio.

“Many students are passionate about business and enterprise and in tune with new technology, so are well placed to spot emerging trends and scout for potential investments. By giving them a deeper insight into the world of venture capital, we are nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs and investors,” Howe added.

Howe is the founder of Sheffield-based artificial intelligence firm Otus Labs, while Deakin Hill previously ran a digital agency and now supports tech start-ups at the University of Sheffield. It has the backing of Tech North, whose former head Claire Braithwaite is among the advisory board members, along with Rupert Wingate-Saul of AXM Venture Capital.

The Campus Capital fund is to be managed by an FCA authorised manager working with the firm, and investors stand to benefit from SEIS and EIS tax relief. The fund has already received initial commitments from alumni and private investors.


Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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