REMUS Capital: on the hunt for research-driven startups

| Hannah Skingle

Foreign investment in the UK has been steadily increasing since our records began in 2011. This is testament to the strength of our high-growth ecosystem, which has helped to develop world class startups with pioneering technologies. Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, international interest in UK companies has prevailed, and there’s no better example of this than the announcement of a new UK-focussed fund from Boston-based REMUS Capital

Born out of MIT, REMUS is an early stage VC fund that has already made a handful of investments into Cambridge and its surrounding area. The firm is now expanding its foreign operations through a new London office meant to expand its operations in the UK. 

We sat down with Investment Associate, Marc Felske, who leads the fund’s efforts in the UK, to learn more about REMUS and its plans for the future.

Hi Marc! This is an exciting time for REMUS. How would you describe the fund and the opportunities it’s looking for.

REMUS has highly entrepreneurial DNA. We were founded by Krishna Gupta out of his MIT dorm back in 2008, and since then have been investing and helping build companies that are transforming sleepy industries. 

We focus on seed, Series A, and early Series B opportunities, and cover a range of industries; from healthcare, through to agriculture, construction, insurance, and real estate, just to name a few. We have a special interest in vertical technology and research-driven companies at the intersection of humans and machines, which tend to be spinouts from top institutions such as MIT, Harvard, Cambridge, and Imperial, among other great universities.

REMUS has traditionally been focussed on funding US-based companies, so what’s drawn your attention to the UK?

Given the historic MIT-Cambridge relationship, we’ve always been familiar with the quality of innovation in the UK. We’re particularly interested in the UK’s impressive talent pool filled with exceptional technical founders and engineers, as well as Europe’s strong growth trajectory, reasonable cost base, and relative political neutrality compared to other powerhouses such as the US and China.

It’s an interesting time to set up a new fund, especially one that’s focussed on foreign companies. Why is now a good time for REMUS to take the leap?

Very interesting times indeed — in the midst of a pandemic. The fund was started during the Great Recession in 2008 and we were called crazy back then.

We have a long term perspective and a young yet experienced team. This makes us confident that we can sail through choppy waters. Given the critical mass of resilient companies in the UK and Europe, we decided that  now is a good time to commit to this side of the pond by having a full-time presence in London. Having worked with and invested in  UK companies for a number of years added to that conviction.

And what brought those companies to your attention?

We have strong networks across universities in Cambridge, Oxford, and London, which has given us early access to some of the most exciting research-driven technical companies to come out of the university ecosystems. That includes PetaGene, Stem Sugar, Flexciton, and Cambridge Cancer Genomics. This week, we’re thrilled to have announced a new investment into Spotta, a company revolutionizing the prevention and management of insect pests.

It’s unusual for foreign investors to back early stage startups. Why is this a focus for REMUS?

We back European founders at the earliest stage, with the intent of becoming a committed long-term partner investing over multiple rounds much as we do in the US. The earlier we invest, the bigger our impact in shaping the trajectory of the company. The Cambridge-Cambridge transatlantic corridor is a competitive advantage for us, and means that we can help the most ambitious UK entrepreneurs build a global business out of a very young startup.

US funds are already the most active foreign investors into private UK companies. How do you anticipate flows of investment from the US into UK companies to change in the near future?

There is a general trend of more American funds looking at the UK or Europe, but few have committed to having offices there, and it is challenging for the West Coast firms to play an active role given the distance and time difference. 

We’re interested to see whether other funds will begin to expand their horizons and invest at earlier stages in foreign deals – and what that might mean for company-building around the world.

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