Octopus Ventures Raises Another £120m To Invest In UK AI Startups

The 10-year-old British VC has been quietly smashing it for a decade, investing in likes of Magic Pony, Swiftkey and voice of Alexa, Evi Technologies.

Octopus ventures has announced that it has raised a fresh tranche of funding, worth £120 million, to add to its venture fund, which is now worth £660m.

Octopus may be the most successful VC you haven’t heard of, and recently it has had a lot of success in the AI space, which is rapidly becoming a London speciality.

Evi Technologies, an Octopus investment and a natural language processing play is now powering Amazon’s Alexa, the voice activated assistant, whilst 2 other investments, Swiftkey and Magic Pony, the AI video startup that began life as an Entrepreneur First portfolio company, have been acquired by Microsoft and Twitter respectively.

According to consultancy firm Accenture, cited in the Financial Times, AI could be worth as much as £645 billion to the UK economy by 2035.

“The challenge today is pretty much every business that comes through to us is machine learning or artificial intelligence”, says Alex McPherson, Octopus Chief Exec.

Besides the companies mentioned above, London deep-tech startup DeepMind has been acquired by Google, Vocal IQ by Apple, and Geometric Intelligence, an AI lab based near Cambridge, by Uber.

But Octopus say they want to do things slightly differently; Macpherson says:

“Our whole concept is how can we help support British entrepreneurs to take their business the whole way, and not sell out to the Americans or others a bit too early.”

This will be music to the ears of the “techerati”, including Sherry Coutu MBE who published the “Scale Up” report in 2014, concerned that British companies sell out to foreign investors too early; a good example would be ARM technologies, acquired by Softbank last year for £24 billion, which some observers compared to “selling the crown jewels”.

Besides AI, Octopus has backed the likes of LoveFilm, Zoopla, and Secret Escapes, as well as startups showing strong growth potential, such as Adbrain, insur-tech play Bought by many, retail rewards site Ecrebo, Eve Mattresses and Property Partner.

Across the board, Octopus have now backed nearly seventy startups; the company says they invest from £250k, to £25 million in a first round of funding, often looking to participate in subsequent rounds.

The company say they are “proud to be known as one of the most entrepreneur friendly investors in Europe”, and that much of their pipeline of investments comes to them via referrals.

Alongside Macpherson, Octopus’ Investment Directors include, alongside Alliott Cole, Alan Wallace, Frederic Lardieg, Jo Oliver and Luke Hakes.

Now you have a few more names to send those pitch decks to, HHH’ers ; )

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