We are re-defining seed stage healthcare investing

Start Codon is a venture capital investor and venture builder based in Cambridge, England. We support aspiring entrepreneurs to spin out and/or help in the development and commercialisation of their disruptive innovations. In doing so, we aim to help them craft their vision into thriving companies that improve people’s lives and address unmet needs.

We invest a minimum of £250,000 into each of our portfolio companies. In addition, all of our portfolio companies and their founders are enrolled into our unique and innovative venture building programme. Through this, we provide a combination of access to a dedicated and experienced team, mentors who are leaders in their field, and an extensive network of investors, pharma and biotech partners, commercial partners and collaborators and facilities.

Why Start Codon?

The ‘start codon’ is a sequence of three letters in the genetic code that initiates the translation of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) into proteins that regulate cell identity and function.

Similarly, we aim to help founders translate more innovations into commercial and clinical successes that revolutionise the healthcare industry.

Our Vision

We launched in 2020 as a new model of investor and venture builder that uses the unique and deep resources of the Cambridge Cluster and beyond to identify and support entrepreneurs with the aim to help craft their vision into thriving companies. In doing so, we help to address the early stage 'equity gap' that many start ups have to face and overcome. Through doing so, we fast track the development and commercialisation of innovation with the aim to improve people’s lives and address unmet needs.

We’re the only life science and healthcare venture builder to provide a combination of seed funding, world-class business support services, and access to facilities, mentoring, a dedicated team and a network of industry leading contacts in VC, pharma and biotech.

Our aim is to create companies across the UK that are built to succeed globally. Over the next 5 years, we plan to invest in and support up to 48 start-ups.

Why does Cambridge matter?

Cambridge is the beating heart of the UK and Europe's science and healthcare ecosystem. In addition, Cambridge benefits from excellent transportation links and a vibrant entrepreneurial community.

Cambridge is/has (stats courtesy of Cambridge Ahead (correct as at website publish date)):

  • 3rd Most successful University Innovation Ecosystem in the world
  • 627+ Life science/healthcare companies
  • £7bn Total annual turnover of life science/healthcare companies
  • 22,700+ Employees of life science/healthcare companies
  • 4,395+ Knowledge-intensive companies > 62,800 highly skilled employees
  • £17bn+ Total annual turnover of knowledge-intensive firms

FAQs

  • What are the key terms related to your investment and the programme?

    We are often the first, or one of the first, investors into our portfolio companies and as such effectively operate as co-founders.

    Our approach therefore is to align our investment terms with the interests of our incredible founders and their companies. Therefore, we invest a minimum of £250,000 of cash into each of our portfolio companies to ensure that they have a meaningful amount of cash at the outset. We also have the ability to follow our investment in certain instances.

    Our initial £250,000 is invested through a "Simple Agreement for Future Equity" (SAFE). A SAFE is a convertible instrument that doesn't value our portfolio companies at the outset and instead converts into shares upon a future fundraising round. Unlike convertible notes that are used by other investors, SAFEs are not debt; we have no right to force portfolio companies to repay our investment and nor do we charge interest on the amount provided. In addition and unlike most investors who commonly apply a 'flat rate' discount to their convertibles (which encourages them to drive down the valuation of companies on future investment rounds) our SAFE contains a £2m 'valuation cap', meaning that we only get a discount on the next round of financing if the pre-money valuation of our portfolio company exceeds 2m; if the pre-money valuation is not more than £2m, we do not benefit from a discount. Therefore, our success is mirrored by the success of our companies - we won't try to drive down future valuations for our own benefit and we will work hand in hand with our companies and their founders to ensure that they get the best pre-money valuation possible for their stage of investment and investment needs moving forward.

    In addition to the SAFE, we also take 8% of the fully diluted share capital of our companies (for which we pay nominal value) in part-consideration of companies enrolling in our unique and innovative venture building programme.

    As part of our venture building programme, our portfolio companies and their founders have access to: our full time, experienced management team; our deep and expansive network of industry partners and mentors; and the ability to access preferential and/or discounted rates with our market-leading commercial partners. Our venture building programme is designed to de-risk your company in all areas so that you can represent a high value and well-rounded investment proposition for investors and are an attractive strategic partner within the healthcare and life sciences industries.

    You will also have several opportunities to pitch at various events and to the press to help you raise your profile within investor communities and at an industry level. You may also get the opportunity to present at our innovation showcases, to which we invite VCs, angels, corporate venturers and selected biotech and pharma partners.

  • Is there a deadline to apply to join you?

    There is no formal deadline and we accept applications to join us all year round. We search for the best founders and companies 24/7, 365 days a year. If you have an innovative technology and a great team, please do apply to join through the 'Contact us' section of our website.

  • We’ve already been working on our start-up for a while. Is Start Codon right for us?

    Yes, we're always on the lookout for seed and early stage companies that we can help and invest in, either alone or with our and other strategic partners as part of a larger syndicated round. However, please note that if you have already had several rounds of dilutive financing you may be too late in your company's evolution for us to invest in you.

  • We don’t have a doctorate or PhD scientist on our team, can we still apply?

    Yes. All entrepreneurs are welcome to apply to join us.

  • Do you invest in companies wherever they are based?

    No. We only invest in companies incorporated in England and Wales. If you are a founder of a company that does not satisfy that criteria, then we can only invest in you if you set up an English parent company. We are happy to discuss on a case by case basis, so do get in contact.

  • We’re developing a product solution that will require significantly more investment for commercialisation. Does it still make sense to apply?

    Definitely. Our programme is intended to help portfolio companies to design and complete the key proof of concept experiments and/or milestones needed to secure their next significant round of financing. We also actively encourage syndication opportunities and will work with all our portfolio companies to pursue and help them obtain grants, paid partnerships and other sources of non-dilutive funding.

  • Do you only fund life science and healthcare start-ups?

    We only invest in companies whose primary business revolves around the healthcare and/or life sciences sectors. We focus on disruptive platform technologies with therapeutics, diagnostics, medtech and/or digital health applications. We encourage entrepreneurs with innovative healthcare solutions developed outside of the traditional life sciences and healthcare arena to apply to join us.

  • Can a single person apply for funding?

    Yes, albeit two (or more) person teams are preferred. Regardless, we will work closely with you to help you build your people strategy and recruit the right team members, board members, advisers and consultants to assist you in progressing your business and securing further dilutive and non-dilutive financing.

Do you want to join us, work with us or be involved with our portfolio?

Contact us Contact us