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Five investors to know in Bristol and Bath’s tech scene

Bristol and Bath investors

Bristol and Bath are thriving tech hubs, producing local success stories including Graphcore and Open Bionics and attracting capital from investors with dedicated strategies in the two South West cities.

Given the region’s strength in commercialising academic research, it’s no surprise that the Bristol region received the most Innovate UK grant funding in 2022 compared to other regions. But beyond grant funding, some stakeholders say early-stage equity investment is more limited.

They particularly highlight a shortage of angel and pre-seed funding in the region to support startups and university spinouts before they are ready to approach larger venture capital investors. 

The region has undergone significant growth over the last few years, but local tech businesses report that access to funding often still relies on proximity to London. Nonetheless, a number of new investors have set up in the region, while established players have been expanding their deal flow in the region.

Here are five investors active in Bristol and Bath you should know.

QantX 

The South West-focused investment firm was founded by Devon-based Richard Haycock and Richard Olver following their respective careers in global businesses like Oracle, BAE Systems and BP. 

It began life as a group of six angel investors and launched its first £10m venture fund in 2021 with plans for a second £100m fund to launch in 2024. 

The investment strategy particularly focuses on “impactful innovations” in sustainability, healthcare and data between the pre-seed to Series A stage. It has invested in a number of spinouts from the University of Exeter, and EnsiliTech which spun out of the University of Bath and is headquartered in Bristol. Qantx operates out of various hubs in the South West, including Engine Shed in Bristol. 

Maven Capital Partners 

Maven’s Bristol office opened in 2016 and invests in technology-led small companies across the South West and Wales. Recent investments include provider of healthcare sterilisation barrier products Westfield Medical, based near Bath, and apprenticeship software-as-service Bud Systems, based in Bristol. 

In 2023 it was contracted to manage a new £38bn equity fund – Maven Equity Finance Fund – to support South West startups as part of the British Business Bank’s £200m South West Investment Fund (SWIF) which includes loans, and debt finance. 

Luke Matthews, Bristol partner, told UKTN that the team aims to support local, growing companies in any sector with cheques from about £150,000 up to £5m. 

He explained that as the manager for the equity side of the SWIF fund locally, the firm has a unique, dedicated pot of capital for the region and a team in place to support companies after investment. He highlighted the unique position the firm is in by having the scale and resources of a leading national investor but with a demonstrable local focus. 

Matthews said: “Bristol and Bath are unique cities which, we believe, provide an ideal environment for early-stage companies. There is a huge amount of support and advice available that helps the ecosystem here punch far about its weight, and we are delighted to play a part.  

“Technology and innovation have always been obvious strengths of the region, from software through industrial engineering to aerospace, and we see that only continuing. As ever though, the region maintains its entrepreneurial, somewhat independent culture and we see lots of young companies seeking to use these traditional strengths to address modern-day concerns, such as sustainability and human welfare.”  

Mercia 

In 2022 UK asset manager Mercia opened a Bristol office with a team of four investors after supplying capital to the region for a decade. 

In total, it manages £800m in venture funds and the Bristol team invests between £500,000 to £5m for a first cheque, focusing on seed to Series B. 

Regional investments include Bristol-based water recycling company I-Phyc , Cheltenham-based operations management software provider Enate, Exeter-based data service provider Distil.ai and Cloud8, a Bristol-based HR technology business. 

The Bristol team have an investor-in-residence partnership with incubator SETSquared Bristol. In 2022 investor Adam Watts told techSpark: “We were attracted here because we buy into the scale of the opportunity that exists in Bristol and the wider South West. The British Business Bank recently released its 2022 Small Business Equity Tracker, which noted that Bristol and Bath represent the fifth largest startup and tech cluster in the UK, behind only London, Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester by yearly investment value. Although there are other funders in the region, we think the South West remains underserved relative to the size of that market.” 

Science Creates Ventures 

Deep tech specialist Science Creates Ventures (SCVC) is the investment arm of incubator and support service Science Creates, based in Bristol 

It operates as a lead investor in early-stage deep tech startups from pre-seed through to Series A, with a focus on advanced technologies like biotech and quantum technologies. Its first £13.7m seed fund backed 12 companies, and it announced the first close of a £80m fund in 2023. 

Science Creates and its venture arm was founded by Dr Harry Destecroix and Jon Craton, both formerly deep tech founders. The investment firm formally partnered with the University of Bristol in 2023; already around half of its existing venture investments are University of Bristol spinouts. 

They include medical engineering company Scarlet Therapeutics and cell therapy startup CytoSeek. Other portfolio companies include green tech Kelpi, robotics startup Open Bionics and quantum gravity sensor startup Delta g. SCVC received £15m from British Business Investment’s Regional Angels Programme in late 2022. 

Bristol and Bath Regional Capital 

Bristol and Bath Regional Capital (BBRC) is a leader in impact investment with a focus on the South West of England and £20m of assets under management. Its £10m City Funds invests in edtech, green tech, transport, health tech and social care to deliver both returns for investors and strong social, economic and environmental outcomes for local communities. Typical cheque sizes are between £50,000 and £1m over seven-year terms. It has deployed £8m and is open for applications. 

The firm has made 20 investments into local businesses. Its £400,000 investment into Albion Technologies enabled the battery energy storage system provider to set up a Bristol-based manufacturing facility which will create 90 new jobs over five years. 

It invested in digital experience marketplace Yuup to grow its presence in Bristol, with 26% of the startup’s hosts now from underrepresented communities in Bristol. 

BBRC has also invested in health and wellbeing support service AutonoMe, and Service Robotics which provides remote technology to tackle the care crisis. 

Ed Rowberry, chief executive of BBRC, said: “Bristol and Bath are enterprising cities with a wealth of creativity and talent and many people successfully running businesses. There is huge opportunity and potential for startups in our region. However, at the same time, there is significant inequality and unequal distribution of wealth, with some communities and individuals experiencing greater social issues, including around poverty, health, transport connectivity and housing. Even in relatively prosperous areas, there can be pockets that reveal significant levels of disparity in terms of social and financial investment.  

“We know that purposeful businesses can help solve some of our region’s biggest problems so that everyone can thrive. Our ambition is to create a more diverse and inclusive economy by removing the barriers to funding and support that some businesses and social enterprises face. We work with them to help them grow and deliver sustainable impact in their communities through the provision of affordable finance, business support and connection with local partners.”

These investors were first profiled in UKTN’s regional report on Bristol and Bath