Ben Carter, Chief Investment Officer, Life Sciences at Deepbridge, took time out of a busy week to talk to our Editor-in-Chief Peter Wilson about the role of an investment manager and deal flow, networks and industry expertise that underpins the success of the Deepbridge Life Sciences EIS wallet.
Like our readers, we are always curious about the day-to-day roles and responsibilities of investment managers. So our editor made a point of asking Ben what his role at Deepbridge entails. Ben remarked that he is often asked about this and, for him, he can sum it up in three key points. The first is to seek out high-quality offers, carefully considering start-ups that need investment. The second part is to ensure that these companies follow Deepbridge’s strict due diligence process. The third aspect is to support these companies after the investment and this can take the form of sitting on the board of a company where Ben has experience in this market. Ben explained that within Deepbridge they have a huge network of expertise and that ensuring the right person is backing the business after the investment is key is key.
Opportunities created through networks
deep bridge, explained Ben, has highly specialized and experienced investment teams in life sciences, technology and renewable energy. Ben’s role is within the life sciences investment team and, as they are widely respected as specialists in the sector, they are fortunate that their reputation precedes them and people actively seek them out. . Highlighting that access to capital for good quality start-ups is available, Ben adds that it is equally important that Deepbridge allows businesses to grow, to go faster and for this they offer hands-on support. . The team sees between 500 and 700 opportunities a year, a lot and yet they are extremely selective and only invest in about five to ten new companies each year. Contact opportunities and networks are created through industry events and team members are often invited to present at life science events as keynote speakers to discuss funding horizons UK. deep bridge provides mentorship through these industry events, as industry and sector thought leaders and attendees often take the opportunity to reach out and speak. Their expertise is also recognized by regular invitations to serve on award juries in the life sciences and member communities. These relationships are valuable as reputable industry organizations have already screened companies seeking investments that do not fit Deepbridge’s mandate or the mandate of another institutional investor. Equally important is the reputation of individual Deepbridge team members. Ben noted that, for example, his colleague Savvas was a former investment banker and the nation’s first life sciences analyst. Their advisory network is extensive with an investment committee that it describes as “made up of the great and the good in the life science community.” LinkedIn also provides an important access point of contact for those looking for an introduction to the Deepbridge teams.
The team at deep bridge are also keen to ensure that opportunities are created for their businesses in their area of expertise. They believe that investment opportunities should be shared as their investee companies grow, progress and achieve their goals. It also removes some of the risk involved and they are happy to share that with their syndicates and investment partners. By working with a number of other generalist and life science venture capital firms and institutional investors in their network, if a company is doing well and looking to raise additional capital, they will share those opportunities. It also provides reciprocity as investment opportunities in other well-performing companies open up to Deepbridge teams.
The importance of world-class university research and development
When we talk about access and creating opportunity, Ben is keen to remind us how lucky we are in the UK to have a world-class academic research and development sector that creates incubators, accelerators and spin-off universities. UK universities, particularly those working in the life sciences, biomedical sciences and technology, have state-of-the-art facilities and staff with an international reputation for excellence . Deepbridge has worked with numerous university spin-outs across the UK, with start-ups from the universities of Aberdeen, Imperial College, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Cambridge all backed by investment. Research facilities, along with clinicians and professors mean that Deepbridge focuses on industry specialists and leaders in their fields and are the domain experts with the essential intellectual property and patents necessary for science and to technology.
Within the Deepbridge Wallet are companies that are already making a big and meaningful impact. As an example, Ben talks about MyNurva, which is in their digital health space. MyNurva is a video-based mental health platform developed by a clinician and an expert in the field. Given the issues that have arisen over the past two years with COVID, this seems relevant and timely. The company laid out a plan, Ben explained, several years ago in terms of developing the technology and its potential reach in multiple vertical markets and they’re doing well, with the pandemic helping to drive demand. Supporting need-based technology is important and another Deepbridge company is VidiVet, a veterinary telehealth company now with a consumer website and showing signs of business growth. The teams are also active in medical technologies and Deepbridge made a seed-stage investment and then made several rounds of investments in a spin-out university from Imperial College London, now trading as Pathfinder Medical. Pathfinder has just raised an additional eight and a half million pounds from VCs to support their additional clinical work to complete a pivotal trial in patients to gain pre-market regulatory approval in key markets around the world .
Another key investment for deep bridge was at Zilico, a spin-out from the University of Sheffield, which developed a diagnostic system for the real-time detection of cervical cancer cells. The company now sells the product to 12 trusts in the UK and one of the keys to their growth over the next two years is that they get FDA approval for the US market, which is undoubtedly their largest addressable market. Alongside Zilico, other companies are involved in diagnostics like FlouretIQ, identifying bacterial pathogens in 15 minutes instead of two to three days, which is the current gold standard. Deepbridge also owns Elasmogen, a spin-off from the University of Aberdeen, which is developing a technology called SoloMERs, a stable format for the specific and systemic delivery of antibody drugs. All of these companies are developing or have developed innovative processes and technologies and the future looks bright for them.
Why due diligence is essential
After talking about opportunities, access and successes, we move on to talk about what Ben sees as absolutely fundamental to the deep bridge mandate, and for him, it is their due diligence. With a very strict mandate in terms of how and what they look for in a start-up company or any company they invest in, the team seeks highly skilled, experienced and innovative teams. Ben adds that even if you have a great idea, unless the team is great, you can never successfully execute the idea or bring it to market. Deepbridge tries to ensure that any technology or science it invests in is disruptive in nature, which may disrupt an existing market or create a new market. Their goal is to make sure it’s innovative and has a clear USP. Equally, if not more important, it must be distinguished from competitors in the life sciences market, and it almost certainly must be accompanied by defensible intellectual property. It’s essential. deep bridge, adds Ben, almost never backs a company that doesn’t own some form of intellectual property. Multiple verticals are ideal due to the unpredictable nature of start-ups. If there are multiple markets, if something goes wrong, such as markets taking longer to penetrate than expected, the ability to pivot to other markets is essential. Along with this, Ben adds that they need to be scalable and companies can show signs of significant growth and ultimately deliver good returns to investors.
About Ben Carter
Ben Carter Investment Manager – Life Sciences
Ben is an Investment Manager within the Life Sciences team at Deepbridge. Prior to this role, Ben served as Managing Director of Touchpoint Service and Chief Commercial Officer of Telmenow, the healthcare equipment-focused e-commerce platform. Ben was also a Commercial Director at Now Healthcare Group, a leading telemedicine provider with its Dr Now app.
With a BA (Hons) in Management, Ben’s other corporate experience includes working as a Commercial Manager with Possum, a market leader in the supply, installation and support of many types of electronic assistive technology.