Campus Capital : Who we are, what we’ve done and what’s to come.
In the beginning:
For those of you who don’t know the Campus Capital founding story, in late 2016 Samantha Deakin Hill and I were sat in a Sheffield coffee shop talking Startups. At the time I was the founder of Otus Labs, a (wait for it) consumer profiling company that used AI (there it is :)… although we actually did! I promise.) to work out the interests and beliefs of consumers within a few seconds of their first engagement (think an ethical Cambridge Analytica). Samantha was supporting and mentoring high growth potential student and graduate start-ups from the University of Sheffield after previously running a number of digital service companies.
Unsurprisingly it wasn’t long until our conversation turned to investment, or really the lack of it within the Sheffield City region and the north of England in general. I had previously raised multiple rounds into different companies, but this was predominately from Angel investors I had a connection with and only a few years previously I nearly lost Otus Labs to what in hindsight was probably the most poorly executed VC raise ever (but that’s a whole different story). Also around the same time a number of our mutual friends were either going through a very painful raise process or were now trying to figure out how to solve the problems created by taking the wrong source of capital.
To cut a long story short, all this led Samantha and I to feel compelled to build a solution to this that not only provided a credible localised source of early stage investment for growth potential start-ups, but also build a vehicle that improved the knowledge of how venture capital actually works. Campus Capital was born, initially as a student VC program and fund for the University of Sheffield, but quickly expanded to the University of Manchester once we learnt our first lesson – You can’t justifiably and profitably build a fund just for one small city.
Mission: To further the access and understanding of venture capital for both early stage growth businesses and potential VCs of the future, from all backgrounds, in all locations.
So three years on from those initial conversations, surely we’ve nailed that mission, just come back from the company beach house and are already looking forward to the annual VC ski trip?
Unfortunately not. Well not just yet at least. From day one most people who met with us just assumed that we had everything nailed. I mean we are investors after all! But the reality is we are a start-up too… a start-up with a 4 sided “market place” with one of those sides being universities who have famously long sales cycles and unreliable budgets while another sits squarely within a highly regulated sector (Hint: Not VC-able). All this has meant we’ve had a number of setbacks along the way and still have a lot to do to make sure we have the impact we started out to achieve.
In my humble opinion, the fact we’re also a start-up is the reason why I believe Campus Capital is the best VC for all early stage start-ups. Not only have our team been there and done it, but we’re going through start-up pains as we speak! Just like most businesses that pitch us, we’re looking to disrupt and change the status quo not just fund it and we fully understand what that takes.
That said we have had many accomplishments over the last few years including working with five major UK university partners to deliver our unique experiential VC programme to over 100 students, some of whom have credited Campus Capital as the reason they got their dream job or in some cases a significant change in their career path. Alongside this, Campus Capital has also received pitches from hundreds of founders at various stages of their start-up journey, all of which received not only a reply but also valuable and often much needed feedback from a VCs perspective. This has sometimes been ignored, but more often than not saved founder’s time and allowed them to either stop pushing on the closed door of VC or pivot their business model to fit. I also know of one case where the founder took our feedback, re-assessed the opportunity and has decided that the company he was actually building wasn’t the right fit for him!
If I’m honest though, there’s still a long way to go on the investment side. We need to be more decisive and back founders even earlier with conviction, while also enhancing our investment process to make sure we stay true to our belief that no founder’s time should be wasted. But above all else we need to make sure founders and other investors see the benefit of having Campus Capital on the Cap Table to make sure we don’t lose the great deals, which unfortunately has happened a number of times to date.
What the future holds:
In short, a lot. We’re self-aware enough to know that we are a long way from our vision, but we have a clear line of sight of it and over the next few months we have a number changes and major announcements planned which will allow us to deliver on this.
You may have already noticed that you are reading this blog post on our new Academy platform. This is our move towards a way for all students and founders from across the UK to gain access to our knowledge bank of e-learning resources, deep dive masterclasses and general insights. It’s also a fully fledged community hub allowing all our users to build up their network, share their knowledge and get feedback on their ideas. The academy is now open to the public so please feel free to sign up, network and start our free e-learning courses.
Alongside this, we’re also pleased to announce the expansion of our team. Recently we brought on the highly experienced Giles Moore, who has previously raised VC from Point Nine Capital, as our COO and Kelwyn Looi, previously Special Projects at Pearson, as Head of Programme. Alongside these changes @samantha has recently come back after maternity leave as the Director of Education and is focused on making Campus Capital the number one destination for growth business and venture capital education.
There’s a lot more to announce, but all in good time. All I really want to do at this stage is to thank everyone who has supported us along the way, all the students who have taken part and embraced our student VC programme and the hundreds of founders who have come to pitch us. You all keep us driven forward and your belief keeps us eager to deliver on our mission.