The Changing Face of UK VC 2020: Uzma Choudry, early stage investor at Octopus Ventures

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I think there's been stats carried out by Harvard Business School, that show that ethnically, more diverse teams produce success rates and IPOs. I think, educationally diverse partnerships produce 11.5 percent higher rates of success with acquisitions and IPOs. So it is really important from the outcome level as well as the more moral grounds.

HW: So what sort of changes do you hope to see going forward in the future, and how is Octopus Ventures going to help towards that change?

UC:I think probably focus more at seeing that diversity at the decision making level and at the partnership level. Most VCs that you'll see, most of them will have male partnerships. So actually seeing more diversity, not only in the form of gender, but also in the form of educational background, ethnicity, sexual orientation in all these different forms, seeing diversity at the partnership level, because I feel that when you do look at the partnerships across most VCs, it's quite staggeringly sort of male, white and you know, a certain demographic.

I mean saying that, in our ventures team, although we're an all-male partnership, we have decision-making power further down. The partners alone don't make investment decisions, so the decisions are made on a consensus basis so I think when it comes to the decision making team, there is that diversity within our team for people that are making investment decisions, that's probably something that really comes to or strikes me as an improvement that I'd like to see over the next five to six years is actually seeing more diversity at the at the top level, but also, seeing more diversity at the investment decision making level.

Even now, I think the number of women to men in VC is something like 30 to 70 [percent]. Whereas when you look at the London workforce, it's more like 45 percent women. So really bringing that up as well, at that level and ethnic minority so we're seeing more people from different ethnic backgrounds in VC because I think that's where I was really shocked to learn that that's such a disparity. I think gender is one that stands out, I was really shocked at the ethnic minority within VCs which is even lower.

HW: I think it is definitely something that when people do speak of diversity and inclusion, gender does tend to be the first thing that comes to mind.

UC:Yeah, and I guess it's because VC is all about networks and they bring with them their networks. That's how you can get more investments into startups and ventures that are led by people from various different ethnic backgrounds. So I think that is one way where you can really, really easily address this issue, is having that ethnic diversity within your team because that opens up a whole network of people who can come up and ask for investment and VC is a lot about your thesis and what excites you.

What you find in common, and I guess being a scientist, I get excited by science, so I spend a lot of time with my scientists. Equally, I think having that diversity is really important in the team because you can then ensure that you're not missing out any sort of outliers or any other areas where you can find extremely, extremely great businesses.

I think within academia, historically and now, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial are known to be for deep tech universities, churning out some of the best companies, but we're seeing that actually spread out as well with the likes of Unit DX in Bristol, having had an exit to Novo Nordisk of £800 million. That's not an Oxbridge university.

[We're] seeing GraphCore out of Oxbridge, but some of the other quantum companies such as PsiQ, which has recently raised a large amount in the US. Furthermore, in Scotland and Manchester, seeing that innovation coming from all various different pockets of the UK rather than just Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial, which have historically been brilliant at churning out some of the best companies that we've seen.

So that also really excites me seeing that critical intellectual markets actually spread out and seeing entrepreneurship being spread across various other parts of the UK as well UK universities. And so I'm really excited to see how all of these other tech transfer offices and innovation offices across other various parts of the UK can really get up to speed on that and start churning in a similar way to what Oxford, Cambridge or Imperial are churning in terms of innovation and in terms of great technologies.

Read next: The changing face of UK venture capital 2020

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