ON T H E P U L S E O F T H E C I T Y ’ S BU S I NE S S C OMMUN I T Y
Local experts reveal the innovations set to shape the year ahead
04 NEWS & EVENTS
News and events, including details on Cambridge Network’s Recruitment Day. 08 TECH TRENDS TO WATCH IN 2020 A trio of experts from Cambridge’s tech consultancies make their predictions.
The network of world-leading technology consultancies in the Cambridge Cluster has long proved a honeypot to companies across the globe looking for the very best in product design and development. Since as far back as the 1960s and the formation of Cambridge Consultants, these firms have been quietly going about their work as the intimidatingly large brains behind technological innovations for the biggest players in business – so who better to ask to predict the tech trends that will dominate the year ahead? Over on page 8, experts from the city’s leading consultancies forecast the technology that will be shaping our lives in the year to come, spanning everything from 5G to GM crops. Perhaps you’ve started the new year with a resolve to get ahead in your career? The most sure-fire way to do this is by honing your talents or acquiring a new set of skills – but with the world of work transforming at a dizzying speed, knowing exactly which skills you need to future-proof and progress in your career becomes trickier. Over on page 34, we take a look at the impressive breadth of training and development courses on offer in the city and get expert insight on what skills are worth sharpening to ensure you don’t get left behind professionally. Inside this issue, we also catch up with Simprints, an ambitious Cambridge start-up creating identification solutions to help deliver medical aid in developing countries. As well as an amazing concept with the potential to transform the way we fight global poverty, not to mention an impressive roll call of achievements under its belt already, the company also sounds like a pretty fun place to work, as we discover in our Doing Good & Doing Well feature on page 26. This issue also sees the final instalment of our Invest in the Cambridge Ecosystem series, seeing us delve into the world of bonds and cutting through the jargon to offer some easy-to-understand advice for making some cash from the Cambridge Cluster (page 22). I hope you enjoy the issue and keep an eye out for number 6, hitting stands in March.
17 THE SPACE TO INVENT
TTP looks at creating a working environment ripe for innovation.
19 INNOVATION & IP IN 2020
Parminder Lally from Appleyard Lees looks at what’s to come for the Cambridge Cluster.
21 PITCH PERFECT
Local start-ups give us their pitch. This issue, it’s Opsian.
22 INVEST IN THE ECOSYSTEM
Anna Lawlor shows you how to get a slice of the booming Cambridge economy.
26 DOING GOOD & DOING WELL
The Cambridge social ventures making an impact. Up this issue: Simprints.
30 TECH BYTES
The latest news from the fizzing Cambridge Cluster. 34 FUTURE-PROOF YOUR CAREER Experts advise on upskilling yourself to weather workplace evolutions. 40 SPACE EXPLORATION We explore business spaces in the area,
from co-working hubs to conference venues.
44 START-UP SUCCESS IN 2020
Legal firm Harper James shares tips for small businesses launching this year.
NICOLA FOLEY EDITOR IN CHIEF
46 ECO REVOLUTION
We find out the story behind planet-friendly Cambridge business Full Circle.
EDITORIAL EDITOR IN CHIEF Nicola Foley 01223 499459 email@example.com CHIEF SUB EDITOR Beth Fletcher SENIOR SUB EDITOR Siobhan Godwood SUB EDITOR Felicity Evans JUNIOR SUB EDITOR Elisha Young
CONTRIBUTORS Matthew Gooding, Charlotte Griffiths, Parminder Lally, Anna Lawlor, Charlotte Phillips, Sam Hyde
52 STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE
We speak to the people behind three of Cambridge’s hottest new restaurants.
54 OUT OF OFFICE
ADVERTISING GROUP AD MANAGER Sam Scott-Smith 01223 499457 firstname.lastname@example.org AD SALES MANAGER Ed Grundy 01223 499463 email@example.com
DESIGN & PRODUCTION DESIGN DIRECTOR Andy Jennings DESIGN MANAGER Alan Gray EDITORIAL DESIGN Emily Lancaster, Man-Wai Wong AD PRODUCTION Man-Wai Wong firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to spend that precious annual leave. This issue, we’re at The Swan, Lavenham.
58 OUT & ABOUT
MANAGING DIRECTORS Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck 01223 499450
Top events and cultural happenings around the city to look out for.
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ISSUE 01 I 5
The latest developments in the world of Cambridge business, innovation, start-ups and networking
Cleantech Venture Day
A pitching and investment day for innovative, climate-positive companies, Cleantech Venture Day 2020 is taking place from 11 to 12 February in London. Hosted by Cambridge Cleantech, the event has been running since 2017 and this year attracted applications from 108 companies across Europe. Among the 24 companies shortlisted to pitch at this year’s event are Oxwash, a new eco laundry and dry cleaning start-up based in Oxford which takes an innovative, sustainable approach to solving your laundry, textile and garment care by minimising waste and detrimental environmental impact where possible. Cambridge-based FocalSun is also seeking to drum up interest with its first lightweight solar rooftop technology, while another Cambridge firm, Flit, will be looking to further commercialise its lightweight e-bikes following a successful launch last year. Also flying the flag for Cambridge
is the team from Zedify, the zero- emissions courier service that now has branches in Norfolk and London – and delivers Cambridge Catalyst magazine! “In the process of paring down the entries, we were delighted with the quality all these investment-ready and innovative companies,” says Martin Garratt, CEO of Cambridge Cleantech. “Everything from wearable technology to zero-carbon accommodation, smart meters, hydropower and solar power will now be presented on 11 and 12 February in London; a wonderful commercial opportunity for investors.” cleantechday.com
Everything fromwearable technology to zero-carbon accommodation, smart meters, hydropower and solar power will be presented"
Hoping to start a new career this new year? Make your way to Cambridge Network’s recruitment evening on 25 February, where you can speak to a range of companies about their current vacancies and take part in workshops. Taking place from 6pm to 9pm at the Eddington Postdoc Centre, the event begins with a talk from the sponsor, followed by a relaxed evening of networking. There will be around ten to 15 exhibition stands in the main room, plus there will be recruitment experts on hand to offer CV tips and interview technique advice. cambridgenetwork.co.uk Cambridge Network Recruitment Fair
HOW TO RUN A SUCCESSFUL CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN
Looking to grow your company’s equity through crowdfunding? Check out Allia Future Business Centre’s ‘How to run a successful crowdfunding campaign’ workshop on 26 February. Led by experts from the popular platform Crowdcube, this free session will look at the power of communities to drive investment, how to create and manage a successful raise and
more. You’ll be in safe hands with the Crowdcube team, who’ve helped almost 900 companies successfully raise a total of £690 million, attracting more than 750,000 registered investors to the site. Businesses that have raised with Crowdcube include Monzo, BrewDog, Pod Point, Freetrade, Pip & Nut, Mindful Chef, Mr & Mrs Smith and Grind.
GATHER: CAMBRIDGE FOR THE 2020 S
Station area co-working hub WeWork is the setting for the first event from Gather: a business-networking community geared towards bringing together professionals from a variety of industries within the Cambridge Cluster. Taking place on 21 January from 5.30pm to 8pm, the event features a panel discussion focused
on how the Cambridge scene is changing for both established brands and start-ups, and how the city and its cluster can continue to evolve and remain relevant for the next decade and beyond. Cold beers and cakes are promised, and the event is free to attend, but booking is required. gatheraround.co
LOVE CAMBRIDGE GIFT CARD FOR YOUR BUSINESS Offering a more cost-effective option than cash bonuses to
Looking to reward your employees or thank clients? The Love Cambridge gift card could be the answer. An initiative from Cambridge BID, the card can be topped up online from £10 to £500, which can be spent at more than 200 outlets across Cambridge. For business owners, it is a simple, tangible way to demonstrate their connection to the local community, and an easy way to send a visible message of support for the local high street, which will be noticed by the audiences that matter most to each business. More personal than generic national gift vouchers, there’s a real feel-good factor for recipients, too, who are spoilt for choice when deciding where to redeem their card. From restaurants to hairdressers, attractions and retailers, the huge range of participating businesses means there is something for every recipient to get excited about.
incentivise staff, the gift card is also an ideal choice for long service awards. It can help to nurture work-life balance, by encouraging employees to invest in quality time with friends and family. “When businesses buy the Love Cambridge gift card, they help to support the local high street and contribute to the future prosperity of our city,” explains Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID. “More than that, the gift card provides employees and stakeholders with an extremely positive experience, thanks to the numerous and diverse options for redemption right on their doorstep.” Buy online at love-cambridgegiftcard.com or from the Visitor Information Centre at The Guildhall. To discuss how to use the gift card within your business, email helen.hames@ cambridgebid.co.uk or call 01223 903300.
INVENTING THE FUTURE WORKSHOP The popular #ImpactWednesday monthly sessions run by Impact Women’s Network (IWN), resume on 5 February with a workshop by Dr Bettina von Stamm, director of awards program for Katerva, a global NGO whose mission it is to identify, evaluate and accelerate sustainable disruptive innovation. Taking place at The Bradfield Centre, the theme is ‘inventing the future: attitudes & turning ideas into action’, and addresses the challenges in achieving sustainable development goals, what needs to shift in our thinking and acting, and how to lead the way in effecting change. IWN co-founder Faye Holland says: “We are delighted to be kickstarting the new decade with this relevant workshop. Each and every one of our sessions this month is linked to the 17 sustainable development goals to transform our world, as set by the United Nations.” Impact Women’s Network is a network of female professionals united in raising the public visibility of impactful women and instigating greater change together, beyond individuals and individual Cambridge – challenging the status quo, breaking glass ceilings, flying off glass cliffs and tackling other issues of relevance. Follow @ImpactWN on Twitter. organisations. The group meets regularly at various locations in
EnterpriseWomen: Centre Stage
Female entrepreneurs are invited to join an interactive workshop at Judge Business School designed to help participants communicate with authority, authenticity and impact. Led by guest facilitators Bridgid Nzekwu, director of media training at PA Media Group, and Dr Judita Vivas, physical theatre artist, director and actress, the session explores media and theatre techniques to boost confidence and
enhance presence, whatever stage you’re on. From crafting key messages to responding effectively to an audience and unblocking inhibitions, it promises to be a valuable workshop for anyone who needs to enhance their presentation or pitching skills. The workshop takes place on 22 February and includes a networking break, nibbles and refreshments. insight.jbs.cam.ac.uk
Cambridge’s tech consultancies lead the way when it comes to developing new products and processes. Matthew Gooding spoke to a trio of experts to discover which innovations everyone will be talking about in the year ahead
to revolutionise enterprise communications, while the podcasting boom will continue, with the industry set to be worth £20m in the UK and £1.1bn globally by the end of the year. 2020 could also be the year electric bikes really make their mark, and Deloitte predicts that over the next three years 130 million of the vehicles will be sold around the world, driven by lower costs and advances in battery technology. Given the volume of bikes already on the roads around the city, it’s doubtful we’ll notice much of a change here. Making predictions is always a tricky business, but if we are to see such advances across a broad range of technology areas, it’s likely Cambridge’s myriad tech consultancies will be behind the most exciting innovations. While much of their work goes on under the radar, the consultancies’ teams of scientists and engineers collaborate with some of the biggest names in business, developing new technologies and improving products and processes.
s a new decade dawns, the pace of technology change shows no signs
It's likely Cambridge's myriad tech consultancies will be behind the most exciting innovations"
of slowing down. Where the 2010s saw the growth of voice-activated technology, virtual reality and a new wave of artificial intelligence excitement, the 2020s are poised to give us dramatic advances in food, medicine and mobility. “The last ten years have delivered multiple, mainstream shifts, from smartphones to subscription video on demand; from cloud computing to biometric authentication; from near-perpetual connectivity to ever broader, deeper data trails,” says Deloitte’s Paul Lee, co-author of the firm’s recently released report on trends in UK technology, media and communications. “The next ten years are likely to be equally disruptive, with some of the most significant technology advances in our lifetimes having their foundations in 2020.” Among Deloitte’s predictions for the year are that 5G is ready
Cambridge’s unique network of tech consultancies has its roots in the original ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ which began in the 1960s, when Tim Eiloart and David Southward, a duo of Cambridge University graduates, founded Cambridge Consultants to “put the brains of Cambridge University at disposal of the problems of British industry”. Many other consultancies have since sprung up, serving different sectors and bringing different areas of expertise to the table. But what do they expect to be working on in the next 12 months and beyond? We spoke to three experts to find out what they think is in store in 2020.
TTP The millions of New Year diets and fitness regimes being undertaken earnestly around the world this month cannot mask the fact that we’re all getting older. In 2015, over-60s on the planet numbered some 901 million, a figure which, by 2050, is expected to have soared to 2.1 billion. With that in mind, Sam Hyde, managing director of TTP, believes the conundrum of the ageing population is going to occupy plenty of scientists as we move into 2020 and beyond. “Healthcare is one of our three key sectors, and the challenge around ageing population for a while, the global increase in life expectancy driven largely by better treatments for cardiovascular diseases; the mortality rate for these conditions has halved in the last decade, and other improvements followed as other disease areas came to the fore. “The new frontier is to ensure that other disease areas can have the same level of attention and benefit from the same effect, and key to this will be genetics. Not only does this allow us to go in and subtly fix things, it can also help give us a better understanding of the process of ageing. It’s a really interesting area, especially with the isn’t going away,” he says. “People have been talking about the ageing
emergence of new methods such as long read length sequencing.” TTP is working on a number of genetics projects, as well as using its expertise in other areas of life science, such as diagnostic testing. The company has been working on a project which would allow flu testing to take place remotely, away from the clinic, to try and ensure that patients who are infectious don’t have to visit their GP. Sam has been with TTP for 22 years, and joined from Ionica, the Cambridge firm that famously developed a wireless phone network which briefly looked set to revolutionise the sector before its abrupt demise in 1999. He maintains a professional interest in the telecoms sector, and says: “TTP has been involved in GSM, 3G and now 5G, which we’ll hear a lot more about in the next year. There’s an interesting challenge coming there around the opportunity for satellite-driven networks, and their convergence with traditional cell-tower terrestrial networks. Lots of people are playing around in space now because it’s getting easier and cheaper to get satellites up in the sky.” Alongside healthcare and telecoms, Melbourn-based TTP is also active in the industrial and consumer spaces. The company is one of the best-known names
People have been talking about the ageing population for a while, the global increase in life expectancy driven largely by better treatments for cardiovascular diseases; the mortality rate for these conditions has halved in the last decade"
in the Cambridge Cluster, and Sam says its blend of researchers and technologists is key to its success. He says: “We have a bunch of scientists and engineers doing what they love, who are passionate about technology and how it can create value. “Our role is to mix these people together. We’re not a massive firm with layers and layers of management, and I think this is one of the areas where Cambridge and the consultancies excel – we’ve got a great pool of people and we don’t over-manage them, we just try and create the perfect environment for collaboration.” ttp.com
Though the UK recycles over 65% of its packaging, millions of tonnes of discarded waste still disappears into landfill each year"
42 TECHNOLOGY “Three or four years ago, if you went to a food and beverage conference everyone was talking about sugars,” says Adrian Swinburne of 42 Technology. “But for the last couple of years the hot topic has been sustainability.” This is of course no surprise; the sustainability issue has hit every area of business squarely in the face in recent years, and is a particularly big headache for the food industry, which carries a potentially troublesome burden – packaging. Though the UK recycles over 65% of its packaging, millions of tonnes of discarded waste still disappears into landfill each year. Adrian, who looks after the consumer sector at design and engineering consultancy 42 Technology, says companies are increasingly looking for novel ways to mitigate their packaging problem. “Sustainability is a major theme across all of 42 Technology’s consumer sector clients, particularly sustainability of packaging,” Adrian says. “We’re already working with clients on more sustainable packaging solutions, either through using different materials or switching from mixed to single material packaging. Often it’s just about making things simpler for recycling purposes. If you have got to take lots of bits out and wash them out before they can be recycled, that’s a barrier for the consumer and a challenge for producers. We’re helping our clients to address that challenge. “We’re seeing more and more clients looking at the replacement of anything made of moulded plastic with recyclable materials,” he continues. “Printed, flexible electronics are also becoming more commonly available and are getting towards
the kind of cost points that could enable smart packaging. This could have implications on ease of recycling in both a positive and negative way.” But sustainability comes in other forms too, and Adrian believes there’s also a shift happening in manufacturing processes. “Process innovation to improve manufacturing is very important to a lot of our clients in the consumer sector, because they all want to increase productivity,” he says. “New equipment comes with high capital cost, and companies are looking at how far they can push their existing assets rather than invest in new equipment, whether that is by increasing throughput for current products or by unlocking latent functionality to enable new products. “It’s my belief that 42 Technology does more in this area of manufacturing processes than many of the other consultancies. It’s not the
most glamorous part of tech, but it’s very important.” Founded in 1998 and originally focused on the design of power tools, 42 has since expanded to cover other sectors including energy and transport, as well as consumer goods. Adrian says that the company has become an expert in the art of the possible. “We’re a practical engineering company, and while we do really creative blue-sky innovation work, when we talk to customers the conversation very quickly gets grounded in what is possible, how it will work in practice, and what can be achieved at an acceptable manufacturing cost,” he says. “Businesses want to know how new ideas can be translated into real world solutions, and being practical in our approach tends to resonate with our clients.” 42technology.com
ABOVE Adrian Swinburne, Head of Consumer at 42 Technology
ISSUE 05 12
BELOW Sagentia CTO Alun James
SAGENTIA Alun James has been with Sagentia for 20 years, and no-one is more surprised by this than the man himself. “I moved to Cambridge in 2000, and never thought I’d spend the next 20 years working for one company,” he says. “But in that time I’ve spent three years working in a start-up within the group, I’ve done business development, I’ve managed profit and loss and now I have the chief technology officer role. I love that variety and it’s been a great learning experience to be put in so many different situations.” As CTO, Alun is now responsible for maintaining Sagentia’s reputation for technical excellence in areas such as agritech. He feels this sector could be key as communities around the world look to come to terms with the effects of the climate emergency. “When you look at the issue of climate change, and what’s going on in Australia and other places at the moment, agritech is going to become increasingly important,” he says. “It covers everything from how we can improve animal breeding programmes, to
genetically modified plants which have had their genes edited to make them more resistant to disease. It might not be the sexiest technology area but it’s really fascinating.” Public perception of genetically modified crops – so called ‘Frankenstein foods’ – has not always been overwhelmingly positive, but Alun says this is starting to change. He adds: “It did have a negative image, particularly in the UK and Europe, but what we’re seeing now is much more precise intervention, unlike in the past where people would just change a load of genes to see what would happen. Having worked in Cambridge for two decades, Alun believes the strength of Sagentia is partly drawn from the city’s famous and unique ecosystem. “As consultancies, whether it’s us or any of the others, we all have our niches,” he says. “At Sagentia we are really focused on the technology around science. We have a great team and having our team be able to work
across sectors is really important. We move people around, and you might be working in food and beverage one week, then move on to a completely different industry the next. Having that ability to look at different areas is where innovation comes from. “The Cambridge Cluster is also massively important, and the effect of that clustering is the way we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world. Other people try and use the model, but it’s never been replicated anywhere else in the world. We have a hotbed of innovation here, a highly talented group of people with the ability to solve a lot of the world’s problems.” sagentia.com
When you look at the issue of climate change, and what’s going on in Australia and other places at the moment, agritech is going to become increasingly important"
Dr Sam Hyde, managing director at independent technology company TTP, considers how to create an inventive work environment
lEFT The new TTP
ow do you create a fertile environment for invention? This is something I spend a
headquarters are set in 22 acres of parkland to inspire new ideas and ways of working together
considerable amount of time thinking about at TTP. Invention is not to be confused with innovation. Both are vital to deliver solutions to address challenges, but invention – the art of creating something new and not just identifying improvements on something – is less talked about and harder to do. At TTP, our business creates new technologies and products that disrupt industries and change lives. We have a history of inventions, ranging from inkjet printing and communications technology to microfluidics. We thrive on inventing the future through tech. We didn’t get here by chance. We are constantly looking at how we create a space for invention. We look at what we do, how we communicate and act that restricts invention, even down to the physical space of where we work. I like the management mantra of hiring the right people and letting them run free. The right people means not just technically brilliant and at the forefront of their discipline, but curious and collaborative, with the right mindset and values. Many companies get the hiring right, but do we then over manage the perfect recruits? Freedom is a critical ingredient in any inventive business. Invention often comes in the form of the unexpected. Company rules, established processes and hierarchies often serve to reinforce the conventional wisdom and miss opportunities. Managers rarely have the best ideas or the time to think differently. Invention means enabling people, instilling the right norms of behaviour and capability
interaction with different disciplines. Open-plan offices are well established, and more effort is being spent on creating variety and interaction in the workplace. It is well understood that variety in where we work helps not just focus and productivity, but – in our experience – also stimulates invention. We are about to start building our new headquarters (pictured). A key driver in this project has been devising a space to better help us invent. The space will take the form of a single storey, open-plan building that allows teams to intermingle, with offices and labs interspersed. The last ingredient, for me, is our community. We live and work in a thriving ecosystem in Cambridge, with world-class people, established
within a team and then letting them chart their own course. And in a celebrity-obsessed world of the hero CEO, we need to take care not to overemphasise the role of an individual. Invention is rarely an individual pastime and increasingly in our complex world requires multidisciplinary teams, collaborating with shared values and goals. Financial incentives targeting individual performance can erode collaboration. At TTP, we prefer schemes that reward collective success, including employee-ownership of TTP itself. Creating the fertile environment is also about the physical space. Invention is about chance interactions; the combination of two diverse sciences; Variety and interaction in where we work helps not just focus, but stimulates invention"
companies and university departments. Encouraging collaboration between teams across our community will further help cross-fertilise ideas and spot opportunities for new inventions. To find out more about TTP’s work, visit ttp.com/invention
Parminder Lally, associate at IP firm Appleyard Lees, considers what’s to come for Cambridge’s tech scene, from artificial intelligence to artificial meat
his January, I will have been working in Cambridge’s tech sector for 100 months. During
while local AI start-ups will also continue attracting investment and acquisition interest from the global tech giants, demonstrated recently by the acquisition by Apple of Spectral Edge, an image technology company that uses machine learning to improve picture and video quality. So, we can expect an important local contribution to AI growth. I also predict that 2020 will see the number of multi-disciplinary companies grow. Just recently, we learned that AI is more accurate than doctors in diagnosing breast cancer frommammograms. Increased adoption of AI by the life science and biotech sectors is thus expected, including for drug discovery (eg Healx) or to make predictions about treatment response (eg Cambridge Cancer Genomics). I also hope to see synthetic biology and the merging of physics/engineering with the biosciences become more prevalent. Many of us wear smartwatches that collect biometric data, such as heart rate, but maybe this year we will see the launch of wearable devices that contain biosensors to
I imagine companies focused on sustainability will become more important"
this time, I have helped Cambridge- based start-ups, university spin-outs and SMEs that have developed a wide variety of technologies to protect their intellectual property (IP). Some of the technologies have been game-changing, others may have been a little ahead of their time! Many of the companies I have worked with have attracted talent and investment from all over the world, helping Cambridge retain its position as one of the most vibrant and successful tech hubs in Europe. I have learned that new tech comes in waves, following fashions in academia or consumer demands. Here are some tech and IP trends that might turn from ripple to tsunami in 2020. My first prediction will come as no surprise to most: the development of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques and the applications of AI will continue to advance at breakneck speed. The commercial importance of AI is evidenced by its increased patent protection; it was recently reported in WIPO Technology Trends 2019 that nearly half (around 170,000) of patent applications for AI- related inventions have been published since 2013. Two of the four largest AI patent filers, Microsoft and Samsung, have research teams in Cambridge,
measure, in real time, organic compounds or bacteria. Climate change poses a serious threat to the environment, so I imagine green start-ups and companies focused on sustainability will become more important this year. In the last decade, European patent applications relating to self-driving vehicles (SDVs) – considered more environmentally friendly – outstripped the baseline growth across all technologies twentyfold. Perhaps surprisingly, the top four applicants were not car companies, but multi-disciplinary companies Samsung, Intel, Qualcomm and LG. SDVs continue to attract interest, but so do companies developing new, environmentally friendly materials or improved techniques for recycling plastics. In January, many are trying to eat less meat or go vegan, either for health or environmental reasons. As the appetite for meat substitutes grows, companies developing plant-based meat substitutes or synthetic meat will attract more interest. Generally, the agritech sector will continue developing techniques to ensure yields match the demands of the burgeoning global population. I suspect we will see wider adoption of ‘smart farms’ that use IoT technologies, robots and AI for precision farming. How about you – do you agree or disagree with my tech trend predictions, or have any of your own? Tweet @CambsCatalyst to join the conversation.
Sadiq Jaffer, CEO at Opsian, gives the lowdown on his start-up's service, which monitors and rapidly diagnoses performance issues for software
What’s your pitch? Opsian provides a service for
call “murder mystery” graphs. Pretty visualisations that don’t really convey useful information until there’s an actual issue and then each one is interrogated in turn to see if they’re causing the problem. We’re driven by our experience of actually building high-performance systems and believe in simple, actionable reports that are useful for proactive performance optimisation. The kind we had to painstakingly build by hand before Opsian existed. Developers and operations teams aren’t used to being able to get this level of performance data from their server environment so there’s been quite a bit of user education required. That’s involved a lot of articles, digital books and conference talks over the last couple of years around the idea of “continuous profiling”. It’s been great to see the effect of all this work in the term becoming established and potential customers approaching us for a continuous profiling solution. It’s led us to paying customers like Cisco, TransferWise and News Corp. Biggest challenges? Whilst being our biggest achievement, educating people about what’s possible when it comes to profiling is challenging. It’s taken a significant amount of What has been your biggest achievement so far?
attention and resources, and it’s still the biggest barrier to sales.
performance monitoring of software. It is very low overhead and profiler- driven, which means it can rapidly find performance issues that are invisible to existing tools. Developers and operations teams can use Opsian’s performance data to address current issues or proactively optimise performance which increases system reliability, reduces costs and improves user satisfaction. Opsian also helps organisations efficiently migrate their systems to the cloud where compute and memory resources are cost metered. How did the company start? We began the business in early 2018. I had come from a background of technology for online advertising, which involves large volumes of data and required high-performance systems to meet business requirements, while my co-founder Richard had experience doing software performance work. We both came to the conclusion that better tooling could have made a significant difference in our previous roles. What’s your role and background? My role as CEO at Opsian involves a bit of everything, as is inevitable in start-up life. Strategy, product, sales, marketing, hiring and general admin. Our CTO Richard covers the technical side of the business. My career actually started with a PhD in autonomous robotics, well before self-driving cars were cool. From there I’ve worked in a range of technology areas: machine learning, computer vision, compilers and computer games. Working for a couple of start-ups has also given me experience in product, sales and marketing roles. What makes the company unique? There’s a trend in the performance monitoring space of something we
Which individuals or companies are your biggest inspirations? Someone who has always been an inspiration is Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He took on deep-dive technical challenges in his career, overcame them and benefited people’s lives as a result. He revolutionised naval engineering and designed much of the Great Western Railway. The impact of software on the world at large today can be viewed as a new industrial revolution, and if we make a fraction of the impact that Brunel achieved in his life, then we’ll consider that a success. Where do you want the business to be in five years? I see a few big trends at play here. Software systems are only going to get more complex and, due to cloud costs and increasing availability of data, performance is going to be ever more important. Collecting performance data will eventually be commoditised but technology that can cut through that complexity and make it easier for teams to do performance work is where we see ourselves. In terms of the commercials, we would like to continue our present growth trajectory and build relationships with more companies. Find out more about Opsian at opsian.com
ABOVE Sadiq Jaffer set
up Opsian in 2018 with co-founder Richard Warburton
Collecting performance data will eventually be commoditised"
Anna Lawlor explains what bonds are, how they work and how you can use them to invest in Cambridge businesses
rom wars in France to electric car charging points in Cambridge, bonds have given investors access to innumerable investment opportunities. In the final instalment of our Invest in the Cambridge Ecosystem series, we’ll explore how bonds work, what they offer the investor and the borrower, and unveil some Cambridge-specific investment opportunities. Steady investments Investors are constantly searching for a sure-fire investment that won’t let them down. While no investment can guarantee a return, bonds – a ‘fixed income’ asset class – are generally regarded as being a lower risk investment, and an important part of an investment portfolio. Bonds are essentially an ‘IOU’; a loan made by an investor to a borrower. The amount of financial return is pre-agreed, fixed and there are terms about when that money is due to be paid back to the lender (the bondholder).
While no investment can guarantee a return, bonds are generally regarded as being a lower risk investment"
This means bond investors own debt linked to the entity they have lent their money to through the bond purchase. To fund his cross-Channel campaign, William of Orange used the first launch of a bond by a national government in 1694, igniting a nascent industry that would balloon to $255 trillion in size more than three centuries later. Now, bonds are issued by governments, companies and even social impact organisations all over the world as a way to quickly raise money to fund their development. When bonds are launched, an offer document states when the principal of the loan – which is the capital the investor has lent – is due to be repaid (known as the maturity date of the bond). It will also outline terms of the
90.22% The ten-year cumulative total return of investment-grade corporate debt 70.94% The ten-year cumulative total return of UK Government debt
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Anyone considering investing in bonds can gauge how ‘safe’ the borrower is by looking at its credit rating"
income payments that will be made by the borrower. Once a bond is launched, if it is listed, it can be traded on a secondary market, such as the London Stock Exchange, just like a share in a company. Usually, the larger – or ‘safer’ in the eyes of investors – the organisation is, the more likely it is considered to be able to pay the loan back, and in return the more money it will be able to borrow at a lower interest rate. Rating guide Anyone considering investing in bonds can gauge how ‘safe’ the borrower is by looking at its credit rating. These range from AAA rating – held by just a few nations, including Australia and Canada and organisations including the University of Cambridge – down to D rating. Anything below BB is considered high-yield or a ‘junk’ bond. This means sovereign bonds – for instance, those linked to highly developed countries in the G7 – are unlikely to provide a high level of return, but repayment is virtually guaranteed. However, companies that issue bonds – which are known as corporate debt –
often have to pay higher interest rates to investors, even if they have a rock-solid credit rating. This is because they are reliant on generating profits to pay bondholders back. Although the majority of corporate debt is repaid, the asset class still carries risk. Companies can miss payments to investors, as retailer House of Fraser did twice in 2018, or find themselves in a situation where they have to restructure their debt. PizzaExpress, one of the UK’s oldest dining chains, faced pressure in 2019 to restructure its debt as trading conditions on the high street lumped pressure on the company. Restructuring may include agreeing a lower interest rate repayment with bondholders.
Inflation is also the enemy of bonds.
Because bond payments are fixed, any rise in prices means the real return from bonds (the return after inflation) reduces. If a bond matures in one year, this is a short-term issue. But for an investor in a ten-year bond, rising inflation could gradually erode the bond’s real returns as the years pass by. Some issuers do, however, offer inflation-protected bonds that have variable or ‘floating’ interest rates. Investors are compensated for the risk they take with their investments. This is reflected in the price they pay. The lower the interest rate – or yield – on a bond, the more expensive it is and vice versa: with a higher interest rate (meaning the bond is viewed as more ‘risky’) the price falls. Cambridge bond opportunities The bonds on offer from Cambridge- related businesses and organisations also offer varying degrees of risk and reward. The University of Cambridge, one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions, has bonds that trade on the London Stock Exchange. This means anyone can
$19 trn The amount of money owed by companies (across eight major economies including the UK), which cannot cover bond interest payments with profits
The vast majority of bonds can be easily bought and sold on markets, such as the London Stock Exchange, just like equities"
invest in these bonds. In characteristic pioneering form, in 2018, the university issued £300m of 50-year bonds linked to the higher rate of inflation, the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which rose 1.5% in the 12 months to October. This move caught the market’s eye, garnering headlines in the Financial Times because the vast majority of inflation-linked bonds are connected to the higher Retail Prices Index (RPI), which rose 2.1% over the 12 months to October. Investors have been pressuring the UK’s Debt Management Office to launch more CPI-linked bonds since 2012, when the RPI measure lost its status as a trusted measure of inflation. Problems with how some of the data is collected are believed to exaggerate the difference between it and other measures of inflation. Double impact At the other end of the spectrum to the AAA-rated University of Cambridge, the city also offers investors the chance to support smaller organisations. Cambridge-based Allia, which provides support to start-up organisations, bought a majority stake in fixed income broker City & Continental at the start of 2019. Allia’s impact finance arm was then combined with the acquisition to create Allia C&C, which specialises in connecting social and commercial enterprises with investors. At present, eight retail charity bonds from seven organisations helped by Allia C&C are trading on the London Stock Exchange (and can be found on Retail Charity Bonds’ website: £5 m The size of the first social impact bond, launched on 18 March 2010 in the UK by the then justice secretary, Jack Straw, to finance a prisoner rehabilitation programme
retailcharitybonds.co.uk/bonds-listing). These bonds range in yield from 3.9% to 5%, with most being linked to housing associations, for example Golden Lane Housing and Hightown Housing Association. Elsewhere, bonds linked to Cambridge-based projects have also been sold via investment website Ethex, which again has an ethical skew. Electric Blue, which provides electric vehicle charging ports powered by renewable energy, raised more than £480,000 from 130 investors, enabling it to install and run 18 rapid-fire electric vehicle charging points in Cambridge for electric taxis. The bonds, which could be held in a Stocks & Shares ISA for tax-free returns, were aiming to provide annual returns of 5% to 7% to bondholders. Electric Blue’s bonds, however, are unlisted, so once bought, they generally have to be held until maturity. Capital is at risk with these types of bonds and returns are not guaranteed. The financial
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Buying bonds for your portfolio The vast majority of bonds can be easily bought and sold on markets, such as the London Stock Exchange, just like equities. This means you can ‘trade’ your bond, selling it before the maturity date to release some money sooner. Any capital gains – secured if you sell a bond for a higher price than you bought it – do not trigger capital gains tax. Investors considering buying bonds should do so through tax-efficient products, such as ISAs or Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) to avoid being taxed on any income they receive. If choosing the right bonds seems too daunting, it makes sense to invest in a bond fund that pools multiple investments into one product. Investors can choose from a range of different bond funds, from ‘strategic’ bond funds, which invest in a mix of corporate and sovereign debt, to funds that focus solely on company or country debt. Barring a company or organisation going bust, investors have a high chance of getting at least some of their money back through the scheduled payments
regulator, the FCA, says in its guidelines that investors should not invest more than 10% of their annual wealth in these types of bonds. Elsewhere, two Cambridge schools were able to install solar panels this year thanks to funds raised through bonds. Solar for Schools installed solar panels at St Laurence Catholic Primary School and St Bede’s Inter-Church School with money raised on the Ethex website. The Bury St Edmunds-based organisation has installed solar panels on 84 schools since February 2015 and is currently raising £250,000 via an Innovative Finance ISA eligible bond, targeting a 5% return to bondholders. $420 m
that bonds offer. If a company falls into liquidation, bondholders are paid before shareholders if any money is recouped from the defunct business. Anyone considering investing in bonds, or any asset class, should consider consulting a professional financial adviser before investing. Diverse options The vast array of bonds on offer – from debt of major countries to social impact organisations – means investors have plenty of ways to spread risk. Besides bonds from different borrowers, investors can select bonds from different countries, companies and organisations across the world with varying levels of risk and reward. Investing in a mixture of these alongside other asset classes – including those covered in our investment series – can be a sensible approach to building a portfolio that can produce returns through most market conditions. Anna Lawlor is the co-founder of Luminescence Communications. Additional reporting by Bradley Gerrard
The amount raised via 132 social impact bonds across 25 countries, as of July 2019
WORDS MATTHEW GOODING
Simprints is a small technology company making a big impact on the fight against poverty. Christine Kim tells us how it is using biometrics to improve healthcare
isit the Simprints office on the right day and you’ll find the team of one of Cambridge’s
about, as well as thinking about how we can innovate as a company.” When not building planes, the Simprints team spend their time building biometric systems to help tackle poverty in developing countries. “Our mission is to transform the way we fight global poverty,” Christine says. “The global development sector is going through huge change – it has been throwing billions of dollars into programmes that aren’t reaching the last mile; the people who actually need these services. “The problem is we don't have the data we need. Without it, we’re trying to fight poverty with blind spending. These programmes need to be able to verify their impact to show that they’re meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals or whatever other goals they have, and you can’t say you've reached a goal without data.” Simprints’ first device was Vero, which scans a patient’s fingerprint then connects to a mobile device via Bluetooth to bring up their medical record. Since its release in 2016, the Simprints team has been applying biometrics to other areas. It partners with health authorities and NGOs around the world, and is currently working in countries such as Ethiopia, where it is part of a consortium looking at different strategies to eradicate parasitic worms. Simprints technology is being used to identify
hottest social start-ups buried under a mountain of Lego bricks. “We have Lego days that happen every three months or so,” explains Christine Kim, the firm’s head of strategic partnerships. “For 48 hours, we don’t open emails or focus on anything work related.” Instead of their usual tasks, the team spend the time trying to come up with creative ideas around topics like how they can be more environmentally friendly and lower their footprint. “Last time, some of the guys really wanted to make a working plane, so they were building all these little planes and trying to make them fly,” she recalls. “It’s a chance to be creative and work on side projects that we’re passionate
IMAGES Simprints created a device called Vero, which uses a patient’s fingerprint to access their medical records
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