Backing the future – restructuring Octopus Ventures
26 October 2018
Luke Hakes explains why Octopus Ventures has restructured its operations and created a new internal architecture.
Octopus Ventures has a new internal architecture, designed to discover and attract the next generation of pioneering entrepreneurs better than ever before. Three ‘pods’, named the Future of Money, the Future of Industry and the Future of Health, define and refine the focus and expertise of the team’s operation.
Over the last ten years, Octopus Ventures, like many other VCs, has been defined by three things: the money we have available to invest, the deals we’ve done to date and our reputation as people.
Striking a balance
Historically, we’ve aimed for diversity, striking the balance between generalist and specialist. This has been reflected in the entrepreneurs we’ve backed and the people we’ve brought into the team. From property (Zoopla) to fintech (Calastone), online retail (depop) to femtech (Elvie), our deals have defined us as a generalist with specialist expertise.
Likewise, our team ranges in background experience from hard science to law, from gaming to rare-breed pig farming. I myself am chairman of UMI3, the University of Manchester’s Innovation Company.
Adapting to our environment
In the recent past, it was relatively difficult to declare a specialism in robotics or healthtech, because there simply weren’t a sufficient number of those kinds of companies out there to make that viable.
This is beginning to change. Today a particular VC fund might specialise in hardware, financial services, blockchain or artificial intelligence (AI).
So, like any good start-up, we are adapting to our environment.
We’re ready to coalesce our diversity into three specific areas: money, industry and health. This new pod structure doesn’t just sharpen our focus, it fires up a predictive intent. The pods’ titles: Future of Money, Future of Industry and Future of Health, reflect this.
A declaration of intent
These titles define our focus and point us in a particular direction. The Future of Health, for example, builds on our previous investments in digital health, computational drug discovery and novel pharma-centric marketplaces.
The Future of Money expands our existing interest in the blockchain, explores novel consumer-centric finance and insurance products, and aims to find entrepreneurs who want to change the face of money globally.
Finally, The Future of Industry addresses the bleeding edge developments happening in intelligent robotics, AI and advanced materials, among others.
The ‘who’ has always been as important as the ‘what’
We want to be looking in the right places, at the right depth, with sufficient expertise and reach to discover pioneering entrepreneurs earlier. This process is also one of attraction and by clearly communicating our intention, we hope to draw in the flow as well as actively seek it. The ‘Future of…’ pod titles steer our focus to pioneering operations with world-changing potential.
There is a caveat: this is about specialising, not restricting. Our first love is still outstanding entrepreneurs and we’ll not be afraid to flex our structure to include them.
The pods give us a focus of attention, expertise, ambition and reputation, but ultimately the best pioneering entrepreneur is what gets us up in the morning. The ‘who’ has always been as important as the ‘what’.
Things are going to change. We know that. Exactly how, we can’t be so sure. But we can point our attention in the right direction and be ready to achieve our main goal: to discover the very best, pioneering entrepreneurs out there and contribute to their world-changing success.