Investing in the Future

eNews |

Lucius Cary OBE (OD 1960) has a degree in Engineering and Economics from Oxford University, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and went on to be an Engineering Apprentice at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell. Lucius wanted to start a business, and with less than zero pounds to contribute, and his student loan in tow, he chose to open a restaurant due to the small amount of money required to get it going. Lucius raised money from investors and discovered first-hand just how hard it is. However, in 1972, Lucius opened his first restaurant, Cary’s, in Bristol. From cooking to waiting tables, Lucius did it all, and by 1978 there were three restaurants and 50 employees.

Following the success of his restaurant chain, and the difficulties experienced in raising money for his own business, Lucius started Venture Capital Report, with the aim to try to make it easier for people like him, trying to raise money to found businesses. Through his work with Venture Capital Report, he discovered scientists seeking money to start a business found it almost impossible to raise any capital at all, and so in 1983 he founded his third business, Oxford Technology Management (OTM), and hasn’t looked back. In 2003, Lucius was awarded an OBE for services to business.

Now, with over 30 years’ specialised experience in science and engineering start-ups near Oxford, Lucius and OTM has invested in over 150 innovative companies. He spoke to us about the journey his career has taken, investing in technology start-ups today, and the brilliant scientists he meets along the way …

After attending the Dragon, Eton, and Oxford, you went on to achieve an MBA from Harvard Business School. What was the most important lesson you learned through your formal education?

You operate a one-hour drive rule for your investments. Why? What are the reasons for OTM solely investing in start-up technology companies in and around Oxford?

Assuming you’re not just looking for businesses started by, and employing, our ODs (namely a recent investment in ‘Oxwash’), what do you look for when investing in a start-up technology company?

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your role?

Investing in technology start-ups is one of the highest risks of all forms of investment. On a scale of 1-10, how much risk is too much risk?

After 37 years running OTM, and over 2,000 innovative propositions each year, do you remain actively involved in the selection process, and if so, where do you find the time?

Is there an investment of which you are most proud of, and why?

Do you think your father’s workshop might call to you when, and if, you do decide to retire?

What is the best piece of advice to follow when starting a business?

What piece of advice would you give to a Dragon today?