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Venture Capital: Supporting Technological Innovation

last modified May 06, 2014 11:28 AM
Career talk by Dr Stephen Capsaskis, 24 April 2014

Dr Capsaskis was a chemical engineering undergraduate and graduate student in the Department from 1979 to 1985, working on the dynamics of heterogeneous catalysis with Dr C.N. Kenney, and was awarded the Danckwerts-Pergamon Prize for 1985.

He came back to his old department to give an extremely interesting career talk on the role of venture capital in technology innovation with a highly interactive Q&A session at the end of the talk.

Stephen told of his experience working in a bank and working as Principal at 7L Capital Partners. He started off by presenting a comparison chart for Investors highlighting the differences between Private Equity (PE) and Venture Capital (VC) Commercialisation of an innovative process or product developed in a university or corporate lab can be rewarding both for the researcher and the employer but someone has to judge whether it is worth commercialising and backing with hard cash. Venture capital managers require people with expertise in the technologies in which they wish to invest. This expertise is useful both to evaluate funding proposals and support projects already funded.

He explained that what investors are looking for really is innovation, vision and entrepreneurship, factors which determine a possible technological innovation investment.

He then went on to explain the 3 stages of the Venture Capital process and added that effectively what investors are looking for is a return on their initial financial investment. He also told about the important role of ‘due diligence’ and the need for technology to be protected and protectable by appropriate patents. 

Finally he mentioned that ‘we need more engineers in the venture capital who have the stomach to spot what makes a good deal, asking the question ‘what invention or technology idea is worthwhile investing in?’