Isabel Fox, General Partner at Outsized Ventures | Q and A
What were your biggest learnings as Partner at SURFnCode,Board Member at Hadean,Co Founder of Luminous Ventures and Mentor at Entrepreneur First?
I think the biggest takeaway throughout my tech career is that this sector (no matter whether you are a founder or VC) is not easy. For me, it’s all about the quality of the founder — rather than the idea — to increase the odds of outlier success (or big bang failure).
What inspired you to become a VC and was there a ‘lightbulb moment’?
I was angel investing in San Francisco 2008–2012 and just got hooked.
I was then inspired by Founders Fund’s Manifesto when it came out….taking venture back to its roots by investing in smart people solving difficult problems that had a science and engineering challenge. This was totally new for me. I then started following LUX Capital and again was blown away by their thesis and vision of the future. And the big stand out to me was that many of the VCs in deep-tech weren’t PhDs and didn’t approach the space like academics and had a playbook to vast scale.
When I looked at Europe, the quality of R&D and growing pool of talent in the space meant massive future potential. I knew this was where I wanted to dedicate my time.
Since then, it’s become a personal mission to help the deep-tech ecosystem mature and build $bn businesses here in the UK. Joining Innovate UK Council and being a fellow at CDL Oxford is all part of it.
In the current economic climate do investors in Health and Life sciences need a different playbook for the challenges ahead?
In the tech bio space where we operate, there is still investor appetite thankfully. I think like every companies during this challenging period…staying lean, finding product market fit and driving revenue is key.
‘’In Europe, only eight per cent of investors have worked in a fast growing tech company… We are decades behind the US. Founders have a brain configured for what life for entrepreneurs is like.There are too many investors asking why legal costs are higher this quarter than last quarter.That (sort of thing) doesn’t make or break a company — but ex founders can zoom in on the things that matter..’ (Taavet Hinrinkus,Wired Magazine Nov/Dec 2022)
Are we entering a different period, where ex Founders are recognised as key investors in the start up scene?
The ecosystem has been maturing for the past 10 years and we now have amazingly successful founders returning as mentors, VCs and LPs in funds helping the ecosystem grow and develop. The VC landscape in deep-tech is changing quickly.
‘Swiss private equity firm Partners Group has begun talks with developers as it seeks to make it’s debut in UK’s burgeoning life sciences sector’ (Estates Gazette 26.11.22)
Are the UK Government, developers and Landlord’s late to the party in creating a robust environment at scale, capable of supporting the Life Sciences sector?
Since 2021 and the publication by the Government of the Life Sciences vision it has been clear how important the sector is to future growth. There’s still plenty more that can be done and improved — more later stage funding, increased lab space availability and attracting global talent with easy visa options — but we are seeing public and private sector moving quickly to find solutions.