Both University of Oxford DPhil candidates, they work as campus analysts for REMUS Capital, a VC firm with offices in Boston, San Francisco, and London
How did you first get involved with REMUS?
Jessica: I was initially contacted by Marc Felske, who is an investment associate at REMUS, and we had an initial chat about VC and my interests. As I was very interested and keen to learn and gather first-hand experience, I applied for the Campus Analyst role. The application included a 1-page investment memo on a start-up from the Oxford ecosystem and this was followed up by a second chat with Marc. After a probationary period, I joined REMUS as a Campus Analyst.
David: I know Jessica as we are both part of Exeter College and I had a chat about how I would like to explore and learn more about VC. Earlier this year she told me about the Campus Analyst program at REMUS and that they were recruiting. So I gave it a shot and submitted my application.
What does your role as a Campus Analyst entail?
D: The program starts with the principles of VC and the various aspects of company assessment, industry and market analysis and training on the tools and frameworks that are used. After the initial training, Campus Analysts get involved with meeting founders and the diligence process within the fund.
J: Additionally, we try to attend demo days or similar events to network and get to know start-ups. Within REMUS, every Campus Analyst is encouraged to find their own niche which aligns with their interests and the fund's interests. The goal is to become the expert on the team for a specific space. In my case my focus is on digital health, as well as legal tech.
How do you balance this role with your DPhil?
D: I continue to work on my DPhil as usual but have to take a cut on the time spent on societies. Efficient time management allows me to take care of all these activities.
J: The role requires a substantial commitment in order to get the best possible learning experience as well as to have the most impact. The ability to communicate well with the team are critical to ensure a quick turnaround after screening and initial meetings with start-ups.
How do you navigate the Oxford start-up ecosystem?
J: The most important aspect in early investing is building a network and speaking to people at events and demo days. This is complemented by using databases, however we focus on building relationships and growing our network personally. I try to get involved with events at the Oxford Foundry as well as keeping track of the different incubator/accelerator programs in the area.
D: Starting during the Covid-19 pandemic asked for a different approach. I would have expected to attend many demo days, networking events, talks and presentations. Now, if they're not virtual, a lot of these events do not take place at all. I think there is surprisingly a lot going on but the organisers of these events and us at REMUS are still learning on how to make the most of our situation.
What are you looking for when analysing a start-up for prospective investment?
J: From the perspective of REMUS, it is very important to identify teams with great ideas, passion, and ideally with insider knowledge that gives them a competitive edge. As a VC, you have to understand if and when a company can scale and which company is most likely to have a successful exit, such as an IPO or M&A transaction. Moreover, it is important to understand the market dynamics and whether the timing is right for certain products and offerings.
D: Given the investment thesis of REMUS we look mainly for B2B startups with strong vertical market potential, a strong founder team with a scalable idea. It’s important to find alignment with the founders in terms of the greater vision, matching ambition in terms of how big of a company they want to build. Ultimately you’re looking not only for great ideas that have the potential to become the next big thing but for great people as well. We’ll be working closely with them for a long time!
Most interesting recent start-up in Oxford...
J: Argonaut Therapeutics. They are a biotech startup which is focussed on developing epigenetic therapies. Generally, the biotech space is outside the scope of REMUS, however they are approaching a very rapidly developing field and it will be interesting to see how they develop as they are currently under the radar.
D: Oxbotica. They were the first to deploy a self-driving vehicle onto a public UK road!
What is your one piece of advice for those interested in a VC career?
J: It is essential to have extensive knowledge in a specific area within which you know the market, the companies, and current developments. Developing your own thesis will help you showcase your value added to the fund in an interview and increase your chances of being able to join.
D: There is a range of things one can do: participating in societies like OXVC; reading up on industries you are interested in; listening to podcasts; and following newsletters. There are more and more programs like ours, and having specific knowledge will allow you to use it on behalf of a VC.
I’m founding a world problem solving think tank. I’ll invite these people…
J: Isabelle Kocher, Bill Gates, Christine Lagarde
D: Scott Galloway, Steve Wozniak, Roger Penrose