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About Northstar Ventures
Northstar Ventures is a regional venture capital business located in Newcastle upon Tyne. For 15 years we have managed early stage technology funds supporting entrepreneurs in the North East of England. During that period we have invested in hundreds of start-up and scaleup businesses and been a major player in the local innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Our investment interests are broad and reflect the experience and expertise of our diverse team. Whilst much of our investment activity is focussed on disruptive digital technologies across multiple industry verticals we also have particular skills and experience in healthcare, biotech, cleantech and materials. Although we are regionally focused, we are nationally connected and have a large network within the UK venture capital industry and business angel community.
We are members of the British Venture Capital Association and the UK Business Angels Association. Co-investment is core to our investment thesis and we always look to work alongside other value-add investors wherever possible.
In May 2018 we launched our latest fund, the £27m North East Innovation Fund. This fund is part of the North East Fund and is backed by the North East of England European Regional Development Fund programme, the European Investment Bank and from returns on previous North East based, publicly supported investment funds. The fund invests from pre-Seed to Series A and is seeking to support regional companies with experienced and ambitious management teams developing disruptive technologies and/or business models with the ambition of rapidly growing big businesses. In addition to the direct experience of our investment team which is brought to our portfolio companies, we also have a wide network of advisors and non-executive directors to call upon. We routinely introduce our network to portfolio companies and see this as a key value add alongside our investment finance. We have many examples where experienced individuals have been introduced to investees, have joined the board and been instrumental in supporting the executive leadership team in many aspects of growing their business. As we have been operational within the North East for 15 years we have a particularly good network locally including many service providers and intermediaries. Our local network also includes the many companies that we have supported over the years and we always encourage portfolio companies to interact, learn from each other and share best practice.
We are HubSpot and AWS Activate partners and our portfolio can enjoy the benefits and discounts that these offer. We pride ourselves in our professional but informal and founder friendly approach. We understand that choosing an investor is an extremely important decision and we aim to be a supportive and pragmatic partner for entrepreneurs.
Our interest in immersive technologies
As technology investors we are of course interested in the potentially disruptive impact of immersive technologies. We believe that factors such as:
- the continuing reduction in processing cost
- massive availability of compute power (both in the cloud and at the edge)
- ongoing hardware platform cost reductions and
- the inexorable rise in big data and artificial intelligence
are creating the conditions required for acceleration in innovation and adoption of immersive technologies. We are excited by the potential for these technologies to radically transform experiences and enable new products, services and business models in all market verticals including education, entertainment, retail, construction, healthcare and travel.
More specifically, our interest in this sector has grown recently by what we see as a growing cluster of activity in the North East area and the opening of PROTO: The Emerging Technology Centre. PROTO is part of the Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley network, and is home to the North East Tees Valley Immersive Lab which includes state of the art hardware and software facilities for R&D in AR, VR and MR, providing cost effective access to SMEs along with office space creating a hub for immersive technology businesses. The North East is home to one of the largest clusters of immersive technology businesses in Europe and the community is vibrant. VRTGO Labs has been established for several years and is Europe’s first collaborative, industry-led immersive technology network. Early April saw the latest annual immersive technology conference (XRTGO 2019) at the Baltic Art Gallery in Gateshead. Established in 2014, this conference is a high quality, curated immersive technology conference and exhibition and a key date in the North East technology calendar. We firmly believe that the North East will produce leading examples of emerging immersive technology companies and we expect exciting investment opportunities to emerge. Our key interest will be in software platforms and production tools which allow for rapid and scalable growth of immersive technology based products, content and businesses. We are aware of over 35 local businesses in this sector and expect this number to increase rapidly. We have already invested in several companies in this space including Zerolight (a leading North East technology business), Skignz, TryLife, Whispering Gibbon and Flo Culture.
The value we can add to your company beyond capital
At Northstar Ventures we understand that the provision of capital is extremely important but that companies often look for additional value from their investors. There are a number of ways that we deliver added value to our investees. Firstly, our core investment team has over 80 years of collective investment experience. Every investor at Northstar has experience of supporting multiple early stage technology businesses and has a wide experience and knowledge of the typical challenges that such companies face. Every Northstar investee forms a close relationship with the particular investor who recommended an investment into the company and that investor will typically take a board observer position with the company. This investor will be the first point of contact with Northstar but will act as a conduit to the wider investment team and ensure that the collective experience of the team is at the disposal of the company.
In addition to the experience and knowledge of the investment team, Northstar has a wide network of advisors and non-executive directors whom we routinely introduce to our investees. There are many examples where we have introduced experienced individuals to an investee to supplement the skills and capabilities of management teams either for short term support or for longer engagements such as board appointments. We strongly believe that the strength of the senior leadership team is a key factor in the success of rapidly growing early stage technology businesses and supporting our investees with our talent network is a key value add that we bring. We also have a very strong network of intermediary and professional services organisations that we bring to our investees. We often introduce investees to providers such as marketing agencies, recruiters, lawyers, corporate finance and other financial services, depending on needs. In the North East particularly we have excellent networks with local innovation ecosystem including local universities, technology parks and catapults. These connections can often be extremely valuable to our investees as they look for specific technical or market expertise. Finally, whilst we are rooted in the North East ecosystem our core strategy of co-investment means we are very well networked throughout the UK venture capital and angel investment community. As such we are well placed to connect investees with relevant follow on investors or syndicate partners and we work with all of our investees to ensure that they are best prepared to raise further rounds of finance, with our support and participation.
Much of our experience is in supporting digital technology businesses and this does include a number of immersive technology businesses, e.g. Zerolight, Skignz and Flo Culture. As the sector develops in the region we will ensure that our investees are connected with the local cluster and have access to the facilities at PROTO and beyond. Leveraging our relationship with PROTO and these facilities, alongside investment and grant, will help investees to scale and grow rapidly.