Any dialog centered on the U.Okay. tech scene usually has a powerful heart of gravity across the south of the nation — to many, “the U.Okay.” and “London” might as nicely be the identical factor.
A latest Home of Commons Committee report on enterprise capital allocation pointed to “uneven ranges of VC funding” throughout the U.Okay., with the so-called “golden triangle” of London, Oxford and Cambridge attracting some 80 p.c of the nation’s whole funding. The lion’s share — round 70 p.c of the full — is poured into the Larger London area, as per Dealroom knowledge.
And that is one thing Edinburgh-based VC agency Par Fairness is looking for to handle, with a brand new £100 million fund concentrating on early-stage startups within the north.
Whereas the fabled histories of Cambridge and Oxford entice among the world’s biggest minds, and the close by capital London serving as a perennial draw for high expertise through the likes of UCL and Imperial School, the remainder of the U.Okay. isn’t precisely missing relating to educational credentials both — whether or not it’s by the so-called “crimson brick” universities of Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, and Leeds, or additional north in locations similar to Edinburgh the place greats similar to Charles Darwin and Alexander Graham Bell studied.
Throw into the combo the power to garner extra favorable phrases away from the buzzy south, and it’s straightforward to see why an investor could be tempted to put their deal with locales additional afield.
“Within the north of the U.Okay. we’ve got a mix of a wealthy manufacturing and engineering heritage coupled with educational establishments with world class R&D departments that are producing expertise and innovation, accessible at smart valuations,” Paul Munn, Par Fairness managing companion instructed TechCrunch. “In 2022, we backed a complicated supplies enterprise at one sixth of the valuation of its high-profile competitor based mostly within the ‘golden triangle,’ which raised £60 million with an inferior product. Quick-forward 18 months, and key members of workers are leaving this competitor and looking for to hitch our portfolio firm.”
The story thus far
Par Fairness’s roots will be traced again to 2008, beginning with an inaugural “innovation fund” constituting £4.8 million in angel capital. It adopted this up in 2012 with a £40 million EIS (enterprise funding scheme) fund, which is principally a tax-efficient funding initiative aimed toward high-net-worth people.
Along with this, Par Fairness has additionally been deploying capital raised through its Par Investor Community angel neighborhood, British Enterprise Funding’s (BBI) Regional Angel Program, and the Scottish Authorities’s innovation-focused funding physique Scottish Enterprise. In whole, Par Fairness has deployed some £167 million in capital up to now, incorporating 78 startups and 423 particular person transactions together with follow-on investments.
Right now’s announcement is all about Par Fairness’s first ever institutional VC fund, dubbed Par Fairness Ventures I LP, with Scottish Nationwide Funding Financial institution and BBI spearheading the majority of the fund’s capital, with further enter from the Strathclyde Pension Fund.
Whereas Par Fairness is concentrating on £100 million in whole, its first shut sits at £67 million, and will probably be aimed toward tech corporations with “high-growth potential” throughout the north of the U.Okay., notably companies with robust IP. Particularly, Par Fairness will probably be taking a look at local weather tech, industrial tech, and well being tech, with the latter class serving up a profitable exit for Par Fairness when Greatest Purchase acquired its Edinburgh-based portfolio firm Present Well being for $400 million in 2021.
Now, the funding boundaries might blur considerably as there isn’t a straight line that divides the north and south. However for the needs of its investments, Par Fairness will deal with the Midlands up, which clearly consists of Scotland and Northern Eire throughout the water. And whereas the fund will probably be managed from Par Fairness’s central Edinburgh workplace, it additionally just lately opened hubs in Leeds and Sheffield which is able to act in a help capability.
Traditionally, the South — and London specifically — have all the time been enormous attracts for budding startup founders, due for probably the most half to the provision of capital and expertise. Nonetheless, the remote-work revolution spurred by the worldwide pandemic, coupled with the macro financial setting, may very well be encouraging founders to rethink the place they name residence. And this is the reason now may very well be a superb time to double-down on investments throughout the entire of the U.Okay.
“We’ve got half of the U.Okay.’s greatest universities within the north, lots of that are ranked world class in inside their science, know-how and engineering departments,” Munn stated. “Sadly, during the last 15 years, we’ve seen a continuing drain of corporations and expertise leaving the north of the U.Okay. for London. There’s no denying the capital’s magnetic draw, nonetheless since Covid, and with the rise within the cost-of-living, we’re seeing extra graduates keep within the areas than ever earlier than.”