Meet the investor: Tom Bradley, Oxford Capital

From the firm that has invested in big exits such as Oxitec, Bradley talks honesty, taking risks and forming lasting relationships with entrepreneurs

Firm: Oxford Capital
Name: Tom Bradley, partner and head of ventures

Where are you based?

London.

What kind of investor are you?

We are venture capital investors seeking to invest in the best early-stage technology businesses across the UK. We usually invest in seed and series A funding rounds, generally in the range of £1m to £5m.

What kind of deals do you finance?

We are looking to invest in areas where we have clear domain expertise and where we believe the UK can produce world class companies. Where these two areas meet, we are best placed to both evaluate and to assist companies.

What kind of person do you invest in?

We aim to back strong management teams but of course everyone says that. Successful entrepreneurs come in all sorts of moulds, but we have a consistent set of characteristics that we seek. Characteristics such as honesty, bravery, work ethic and open mindedness are all important to us. When we invest we commit to work with our companies for as long as it takes. We find these characteristics are the foundation of the meaningful long-lasting relationships we need in order to navigate to success.

How do you source prospects?

We have a broad programme of origination activity that brings us well over a thousand prospects each year.

The three most valuable parts of this activity are:

  • Our network: our relationships with people we know and trust brings us strong deal flow and positions us best to win competitive deals.
  • Our thematic activity: our proprietary research combined with deep domain expertise gives us an edge in originating deals in target sectors.
  • Our content production: the content we write on areas of interest helps to give us authority and leads directly to press and deal flow opportunities.

What is your ideal investment?

At the very early stage we focus on three characteristics: team, product and market attractiveness. We pride ourselves on using our market understanding to be able to identify leading indicators of growth. When we have these characteristics and we can identify these indicators we are prepared to take risks.

What are your USPs?

  • We are entrepreneur-friendly investors who are not afraid of risk. Our track record clearly shows that we are comfortable in backing ambitious entrepreneurs trying to do difficult things.
  • Our structured approach to risk aims to maximise our chances of long-run success.
  • We have one of the most experienced teams of early stage investors in the UK market and bring to bear our accumulated networks and expertise from the venture capital, corporate venturing, private equity and operating roles that the team have held with top-tier organisations.
  • In current areas of interest such as electric vehicles, digital marketplaces and e-commerce, we have long track records and a high level of expertise.
  • We are supportive investors who believe in long-term relationships.

What are the hot sectors?

We are very excited about the future of mobility and transportation at the moment.

Three things a company should be able to offer an investor?

  1. The ability to simplify the complex
  2. A collaborative approach
  3. The commitment to do whatever it takes

What is the cardinal sin when looking for investment?

Over-claiming or lying. You would not believe how many people claim to have been one of the founders of this or that successful business. My advice is to play it straight as it is a small industry and people will check!

What continuing involvement do you like in an investment?

We adapt our approach to what each company needs. Some founders and some phases of a business will want or need some heavy lifting. Much of the time the best we can do is stay out of the way until we can be useful.

Usually we will commit to taking a seat on the board so we can try to make our networks and expertise valuable to the company. We back entrepreneurs because we believe they are uniquely placed to build their businesses. We add our perspective but try not to hold them back.

What has been your best performing investment to date?

We have a number of exciting companies in the Oxford Capital portfolio and have been fortunate to be associated with others in the past. Oxitec was a particularly pleasing story because we got involved very early in something that people did not believe was possible and saw it through to a very successful exit.

The Oxford Capital team have been involved with some big successes in the past across the technology space, having been investors in successful exits such as LOVEFiLM (acquired by Amazon), Iridigm (acquired by Qualcomm) and A123 Systems ($1bn+ Nasdaq IPO). The team has also invested in some of the fastest growing private tech companies such as Performance Horizon, eve Sleep, Hometogo and Formula.e.

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