The room was packed, the ventures pitched..
On September 25th, the Oxford Foundry hosted its first ever Demo Day, an event that displayed the talent, potential, and dedication of the nine University of Oxford start-ups who have been participating in the Foundry’s OXFO L.E.V8 accelerator programme.
The event, which was opened by Oxford's Vice Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, included a fast-paced, high energy pitching session, where each team on the accelerator delivered their five minute pitch to a room full of high-profile guests from the world of venture capital and entrepreneurial endeavour, including Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone, and CEO of the UK Business Angels Association, Jenny Tooth. The L.E.V8 Demo Day was the culmination of six months of intensive learning, business building, and personal development for this first cohort of venture teams to participate in the accelerator programme. Part talent showcase, and part graduation ceremony, it marked the end of their time on the L.E.V8 programme, and provided the teams with a golden opportunity to showcase their ventures, and to connect with potential investors and industry influencers.
For the past six months, each of the L.E.V8 teams has been provided with a package of support worth around £60k in value, including: a tailored learning programme focusing on purposeful leadership and business skills; dedicated office space in central Oxford; and professional legal and financial support. They have also had direct access to a wide array of top-flight experts and mentors such as Pete Flint (Founder and former CEO of Trulia/ Managing Partner of NFX), and Phil Libin, (co-Founder of Evernote and AI Lab All Turtles), to guide and advise them as they’ve developed and grown. The results have been astonishing: the teams have all increased in size by an average of 1-2 team members, grown their client base significantly – some by up to 300% - and have already managed to raise funding totalling over £1.2m.
"With OXFO, Oxford now has its own centre of entrepreneurial gravity"
“I pinch myself when I think about how far we’ve come in just under a year,” said Foundry Director Ana Bakshi as she welcomed guests to the event.
“The nine ventures you will see pitching here tonight all have one common thread: Purpose. They truly care, and they truly want to leave a positive global footprint on the world through their work and their big ideas. And that sense of purpose is something that runs through everything that we do and deliver here at the Foundry too.”
Vice Chancellor Louise Richardson commented: “The speed with which the Foundry has captured the imagination across the University speaks to the strong appetite there is here for entrepreneurial learning. Through its events and programmes, which have already engaged more than 1200 students in the first 10 months, the Foundry is helping us realise our goals as articulated in our current strategic plan, focused on contributing to social and economic impact, both locally and globally.”
“It’s wonderful that with OXFO, Oxford has now established its own centre of entrepreneurial gravity,” added Biz Stone, Twitter’s co-founder and Foundry advisory board member. “I’ve been coming to Oxford for years as a Silicon Valley speaker and a contributor to the ecosystem here, but with OXFO, Oxford now has a centre of innovation that is going to be self-reinforcing, and that will only get stronger and stronger. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Following the nine pitches, the guests enjoyed food and drink from independent Oxford-based companies including Pizza Pilgrims, Handlebar Café and Y&R Sushi, with complimentary cocktails and music from Sandy's Piano Bar. Guests also had the opportunity to connect with the start-ups in a venture marketplace setting, where they were able to try out a prototype wearable device for post-surgery rehabilitation from venture Oxford Digital Healthcare, and a giant inflatable diagnostics 'pod', from Pod Health.
The Oxford Foundry is the University's new entrepreneurship centre, and is an initiative led by Said Business School, with a founding donation from Reid Hoffman, Oxford alumnus and founder of LinkedIn. It was opened in October 2017 by Apple CEO Tim Cook.
In her annual oration to the University, Vice Chancellor Louise Richardson recently held up the Oxford Foundry as a strong exemplar for One Oxford, stating:
"The Foundry project was completed quickly, and shows what can be done: In early summer the building was a nightclub, by October Apple CEO Tim Cook was speaking at the launch. This must have set a record for the university. It was possible because SBS had a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve, a vision that benefited both the School and all departments, and built alliances of support across the collegiate university."