10 of the Biggest Stakeholders in UK Tech

| Hannah Skingle

The UK tech scene is one of the best supported startup ecosystems in the world, attracting billions of pounds of venture capital through hundreds of funding rounds each quarter, and nurtured through world-class accelerators, incubators and government measures. But it’s not just specialist organisations that are helping to drive innovation. Hundreds of high-net-worth-individuals are supporting the ecosystem through angel investing, and drawing on their own expertise to mentor the next generation of tech founders. 

Here, we’ve identified the people who own shareholdings in more than 30 UK tech companies, many of whom are entrepreneurs as well as investors. We’ve excluded those who invest over 85% via crowdfunding platforms (as they’re less likely to have their own deal flow, instead relying on friends and family for the remaining 15%), as well as those who have a limited public profile.

We’ve drawn on Beauhurst data on shareholdings, accessible through our Networks feature, as well as social media and other publicly available channels, in order to build a picture of each of these entrepreneurs and business angels. These profiles are ranked by the number of shareholdings in private UK tech companies that each person currently holds, and includes details on the investor networks they’re part of, and some of the early-stage startups they’ve founded and backed.

It’s expected that the biggest stakeholders in any industry will have built up their portfolios over years of investing, informed by decades-long careers (to develop a sector specialism), large networks (in order to build deal flow) and personal wealth (in order to invest). 

As the industry starts to address the structural biases and barriers facing women and minorities, and encourages a more diverse pool of investors, we hope (and indeed optimistically expect) that we’ll see people from a broad range of backgrounds featuring on lists like these. For a list of resources supporting underrepresented founders and investors, visit our Startup Diversity Hub.

Charlie Songhurst

Charlie Songhurst studied PPE at the University of Oxford, before working at McKinsey, and later as Head of Corporate Strategy at Microsoft. He has invested in around 500 companies globally during his career and, despite being based in the US, more than a hundred of these are in the UK. 

Songhurst has a strong bias towards artificial intelligence companies, deep tech and quantum. He is currently an active shareholder in over 85 private UK tech companies, including medical messaging service accuRx, childcare service Koru Kids, and clinical diagnostics firm Bit Bio.

Songhurst was one of the first investors in Beauhurst, and is even represented in the company name, alongside chairman and co-founder Stephen Bence, and CEO and co-founder Toby Austin.

Chris Mairs

Chris Mairs is one of the most prominent angel investors in the UK. After studying computer science at the University of Cambridge, he co-founded Metaswitch Networks in 1981. The cloud-based communications company was backed by Sequoia Capital and Northgate Capital, and was acquired by Microsoft in May 2020. 

Mairs started angel investing in 2012 and has grown his portfolio to over 100 companies. He has backed over 70 tech companies in the UK, with a particular focus on semiconductors, AI and computational biology. These include Kheiron Medical Technology, FabricNano and Phoelex. Is also an advisor to, and shareholder in, Beauhurst. Notable exits include Magic Pony Technology, acquired by Twitter in 2016 for £102m, Flyt, acquired by JustEat in 2019 for £22m, and Zynstra, acquired by NCR Corporation in 2019 for £100m.

Mairs is an advisor and venture partner at Entrepreneur First, a fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering, and was awarded a CBE in 2014. 

William Frewen

William Frewen studied Modern History at the University of Oxford. He worked in the financial services industry for many years, including at J.P. Morgan, HSBC and Nomura, before becoming an active member of the UK’s startup ecosystem. He is currently Director of WFF Ventures.

To date, he has invested in over 80 UK businesses, and currently has shareholdings in over 50 private tech startups. These include eHealth messaging app Pando, data management software Push Technology, and workplace mental health app Unmind.

Will Martin

Will Martin plays an active role in the UK startup scene, as both an angel investor and deal broker. Martin graduated from Cardiff University in 2001, with a BA in Philosophy. He joined the Angel Investment Network in 2009, where he set up a brokerage division called AIN Scout, which went on to raise £22m for over 100 companies across the UK and Europe. 

It was at AIN Scout that Martin first worked with Will Brooks, before co-founding Portfolio Ventures together in 2014. Alongside investing, the fund also introduces companies to angels, family offices and venture capital funds. 

Martin currently has shareholdings in over 40 private tech companies in the UK, including market research platform Attest, credit rating fintech Credit Kudos, and food sharing app OLIO. Notable portfolio successes include PensionBee, which recently listed on the London Stock Exchange at a value of £365m, and Mindful Chef, which was acquired by Nestle in December 2020.

Richard Bednarek

Richard Bednarek is a prolific angel investor who has participated in and led a number of angel syndicates. He has backed early-stage businesses across a range of industries, from precision medicine to digital security.

Bednarek currently holds shareholdings in 40 private UK tech companies, including same-day courier service Gophr, clinical diagnostics firm Momentum, and secure messaging app novastone. Notable successes include Monica Healthcare, acquired by GE Healthcare in 2017, and Feedr, acquired by Compass Group in May 2020. 

A graduate of the University of Warwick and University of Birmingham, Bednarek now serves as board member and NED for a variety of early-stage companies. He is also a partner at Blueray Capital, providing corporate and commercial finance to UK companies.

Have you read our latest report on equity investment trends yet?

Ian Marchant

Ian Marchant studied Economics at Durham University, and has gone on to build a successful career in the energy industry. He led SSE as CEO for ten years, and is now Chairman of the Board for Thames Water. His investments are reflective of his career focus, with 29 of his portfolio companies operating in the energy and cleantech sectors. 

He currently holds shareholdings in 39 private UK companies, including Moixa, Naked Energy and Powervault. Notable exits include Upside Energy, which was acquired by Octopus Group in 2020, and Cyberhawk, which was acquired by Magnesium Capital in 2019. 

 

Jonathan Milner

Equipped with a degree in Biology from Bath University, Jonathan Milner completed his PhD in Molecular Genetics at the University of Leicester. Following a decade in academia researching the Life Sciences, Milner spotted a gap in the market and co-founded Abcam, a producer and marketer of protein research tools. This allows scientists to analyse components of living cells at a molecular level. Milner led the Cambridge-based company as CEO until 2014. 

Since then, he has been an active investor in the life sciences sector, backing over 50 companies, and now has shareholdings in over 35 private UK tech companies. This includes medical research software Healx (where he is also a NED), University of Cambridge spinout Bit Bio, and biotechnology startup LifT Biosciences. 

Milner also serves as a NED at Syndicate Room, and is Co-Founder of the Milner Therapeutics Institute, which aims to improve the development of novel therapies, particularly around cancer. 

 

Peter Cowley

Peter Cowley has had a four-decade-long career as a serial entrepreneur and angel investor in and around Cambridge, after studying Engineering and Computer Science at the University. According to his Linkedin, Cowley has started and run 14 businesses in technology, property and publishing during his career, and invested in over 75 startups. He has also acted as NED and chairman for numerous businesses, syndicates and charities, including Cambridge Angels, Vantage Power and the UKBAA.

In January 2011, he took up the role of Investment Director at Martlet Corporate Angels, the investment arm of Marshall of Cambridge. Martlet is an early-stage investor focussing on UK companies, especially in Cambridge and the South East. Cowley has participated in a number of angel groups and, as of 2014, is also an Investment Committee Member of the publicly-funded Angel CoFund. 

Cowley is no longer looking for new investment opportunities, but remains one of the biggest stakeholders in UK tech, with shareholdings in over 30 private UK tech companies. Cowley has a bias towards deep tech companies, which comes as no surprise given the maturing deep tech ecosystem in Cambridge. Current shareholdings include Paragraf, a Cambridge University spinout developing graphene-based products, space satellite developer Oxford Space Systems, and online therapy provider Ieso Digital Health. 

 

David Cleevely

David Cleevely is a telecoms and biotech expert who has founded, chaired and invested in numerous businesses over the years. He studied his undergraduate at the University of Reading, before completing his PhD in Telecommunications and Economic Development at the University of Cambridge. In 1985, he founded and became Managing Director of telecoms consultancy Analysys, which was acquired by Datatec in 2004, and later co-founded Abcam with Jonathan Milner, where he remained chairman until 2009. 

Cleevely has been an active member of Cambridge’s entrepreneurial ecosystem for over three decades, and has helped foster a more collaborative environment in the city, founding Cambridge Angels in 2001 and the Cambridge Network in 2004. He is now Chair of the Enterprise Committee at the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Cleevely currently holds shareholdings in over 30 private technology companies in the UK, including retail banking software Thought Machine, AI data aggregator CognitionX, and cellular screen technology Sphere Fluidics. Notable exits include internet of things (IoT) startup Neul, which was acquired by Huawei in 2014. 

 

John Taysom

John Taysom is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor, with a background in corporate venturing. In 1995, he founded and was Co-Chief Executive of the Reuters Greenhouse Fund, which later became its own VC fund: RVC. The fund invested in Yahoo!’s first private equity fundraising in 1995, before its IPO the following year. Taysom led RVC for 13 years, overseeing a number of investments in digital startups, including VentureSource, Forbes.com and Infoseek.

In the last decade, Taysom has been a researcher at Harvard University, Visiting Professor at UCL, and Policy Fellow at the University of Cambridge. In 2016, he co-founded Privitar, a London-based company which creates software to allow the mining of sensitive datasets, by preserving the privacy of the underlying individuals. Privitar is backed by a number of leading venture capital funds, including Accel, IQ Capital, Partech and Salesforce Ventures. In its latest funding round, in April 2020, Privitar secured £72.9m, at a pre-money valuation of £254m.

Alongside these impressive achievements, Taysom is an active angel investor in early-stage startups, and currently has shareholdings in 30 private tech businesses in the UK. His portfolio companies include adtech firm LoopMe, marketing platform Fanbytes and customer analysis company Featurespace. 

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