Oxford Technology EIS/SEIS Fund
This is perhaps the epitome of high-risk high-reward investing. The Oxford Technology Combined EIS/SEIS fund attempts to match academic technology developments with the more hard-nosed world of private equity. It’s a notoriously hard sector to crack. Patent risk, personnel problems and the danger of technology being usurped are inherent concerns, as is the risk of the investee company failing. Oxford Technology has three decades of experience in this area.
The fund is looking for businesses with the potential to deliver 10x to 20x return on investment. This is not guaranteed in any way: it’s the potential that is important. Not all will deliver, but the few that are successful have the potential to be lucrative.
- Experienced early-stage manager with a long-standing network of Oxford contacts
- Technology-focused EIS/SEIS hybrid fund
- Access to innovative and disruptive businesses
- 5 to 10 investee companies expected to be held
- Minimum investment £15,000
- Very experienced investors only – will need to become an elective professional client of Oxford Technology
Lucius Cary has been investing in technology start-ups for more than 35 years and aims to invest in every deal personally. His co-manager Andrea Mica has been working in technology based businesses since 1992. Both have excellent academic credentials and a track record of adding substantial capital value to investee businesses. They are key in sourcing, evaluating, supporting and ultimately exiting investee companies. Oxford Technology is closely tied to the Oxford network of university alumni, staff and associates.
The Oxford Technology EIS/SEIS Fund is a hybrid offer that invests predominantly in technology start-ups in the Oxford area. The fund has been running since 2012.
Investment in the fund is deployed over a three-year period. Oxford Technology intend to split the investment into three equal parts. The first will mostly be invested under SEIS in year one with the balance invested in EIS in years two and three - note tax relief can only be obtained once funds are invested and investors might receive income tax relief of somewhere between 30-50%. Remember, tax rules change and benefits depend on circumstances.
Even by EIS standards, the Oxford Technology fund is a longer-term investment with an expected timeframe of 5-12 years. This seems to be prudent given the nature of the investments Oxford Technology will make. It is theoretically possible to achieve earlier exits from technology companies but the majority will take longer.
The staged funding process means investors will be able to follow their initial SEIS investment with subsequent EIS rounds as the investment is deployed over three years. Investee companies will have greater capital to grow and investors will end up with larger stakes in companies that do well.
This is unashamedly a high-risk high-reward offer. Lucius Cary argues it is better to have companies with the potential to deliver a 10x-20x return rather than lots of businesses offering up to 10% returns. Mr Cary has personally invested into the fund on the same terms as investors.
In general, the investee companies need to be within one hour's drive of Oxford. Despite the limitation, Oxford Technology sees around 2,000 investment propositions per year. Of those, 100 or so are possible investments. From those, the team will select 5 or 6 for initial investment.
In Mr Cary’s experience, whilst the scientists or academics behind the innovation may be brilliant, they are largely inexperienced in operating a business. The one-hour drive rule ensures Mr Cary and his team can be actively involved. They believe it is far more beneficial to have short meetings as little or as often as the management require rather than formal quarterly or monthly meetings.
Examples of holdings in the portfolio
As at 30 June 2019, the fund has invested £6.33 million into 39 companies.
The companies listed below are examples from previous iterations of the fund and may not be included in future portfolios.
Combat Medical develops and manufactures devices for the treatment of bladder cancers. It significantly improves patient outcomes and reduces recurrence. The cancer is common and has a high recurrence rate of up to 80% within 5 years.
The business has developed an innovative way to deliver chemotherapy treatment. Traditionally, chemotherapy is delivered via a catheter at room temperature. It has been shown to be effective but due to the impermeable wall of the bladder the chemotherapy does not reach the root of the cancer. The distribution of the drug is also hard to control which leads to the possibility of recurrence.
Combat Medical has devised a system which warms the chemotherapy fluid and delivers it at a constant set temperature of 43 degrees centigrade. It does so via an innovative and patented aluminium heat exchanger. The chemotherapy is recirculated up to four times a minute around the bladder for an hour. This active delivery optimises the distribution of the treatment around the bladder and improves the penetration of the bladder.
The treatment is less painful and less expensive than surgery which is the current standard of care. The hope is that the Combat treatment will become the global standard of care. Each treatment uses a disposable piece of equipment which brings revenue to Combat.
A total of 38,500 kits have now been distributed into the market and the company has also secured trials with two large Chinese hospitals.
Oxford Technology has invested just under £500,000 into Combat Medical since 2013.
A drug development company, Connexin aims to identify new drug targets for the prevention of glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a degenerative eye condition where the optic nerve becomes damaged. The main symptom is vision loss which can progress to severe visual impairment without treatment. Currently, there are several drug options available that slow the disease progression but none which prevent further vision loss.
Connexin has selected several new drug candidates which they hope will protect retinal cells and therefore preserve vision in glaucoma patients. Research is currently underway and the company hopes to begin filing patents within the next 24 months.
Oxford Technology invested £66,000 into the company in April 2019.
As is to be expected, not all investments work out. Message Missile is one such example. Oxford Technology invested £41,000. On paper, it is a compelling idea, the brainchild of a teenager. Businesses could send text messages to customers based on their location. So, if a store had a surplus of an item they could run a flash sale – for instance hot croissants half price in the next ten minutes - and alert only those customers who were within 200 metres via text message. Tesco were interested in the business. However, the founder went to University and campus life proved too much of a draw for him to commit fully. Some progress was made in his second year but ultimately the company was closed.
Risks – important
Alongside all the usual risks of investing in smaller companies – illiquidity, risk of investment loss and a greater chance of failure – the risks are greater in this offer. Technology companies are prone to high failure rates and it is difficult to back them. The value of the business can often hinge on the success of a single product or idea. Moreover, this is not a deeply resourced team and there is key man risk with Lucius Cary and Andrea Mica.
This EIS fund invests in early-stage businesses which are more likely to fail than larger ones. So you should expect a number of failures in the portfolio, or even be prepared for all companies to fail.
Investors should only invest money they can afford to lose. The value of tax relief will depend on the circumstances of the individual investor and tax rules could change in future.
Charges and savings
A summary of the main charges and savings is shown below. Some of these will be payable by the investor, whilst others by the investee companies. The investment may have additional charges and expenses: please see the provider documents, including the Key Information Document, for more details
|Full initial charge||1%|
|Wealth Club initial saving||—|
|Net initial charge through Wealth Club||1%||Annual management charge||2%*|
|Performance fee||20%||Investee company charges|
|Annual management charge||—|
More detail on the charges
Oxford Technology is an experienced early-stage manager. It is well placed to exploit opportunities in and around the Oxford area. For investors looking for a technology growth fund with all the risks – and potential gains – this brings, we think Oxford Technology is a worthy candidate for consideration for a longer term investment. Please note, in order to invest, you need to apply to become an Elective Professional Client of Oxford Technology.
Wealth Club aims to make it easier for experienced investors to find information on – and apply for – tax-efficient investments. You should base your investment decision on the provider's documents and ensure you have read and fully understand them before investing. This review is a marketing communication. It is not advice or a personal or research recommendation to buy the investment mentioned. It does not satisfy legal requirements promoting investment research independence and is thus not subject to prohibitions on dealing ahead of its dissemination.
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