Short Q&A with James Mallinson, OIC Partner
Insights - 2nd December 2020
James offers an insight into his 20+ years working with technology spinout companies from the University of Oxford.
What’s your role?
I’m a partner and sit on the Investment Committee. I source and negotiate investments, oversee compliance for the firm, and sit on the boards of a number of portfolio companies.
Tell us a little about some of your career highlights.
I saw first-hand, as a board observer for eight years up to exit, and for five years prior to that, how Torsten Reil built up and sold NaturalMotion to gaming giant Zenga for $600m. Similarly, in 1998 Bent Jakobsen and James Noble founded Avidex, which was sold to Medigene in 2006, re-emerged as Adaptimmune in 2008, and successfully floated on NASDAQ in 2015. I was responsible for managing the University of Oxford’s investments in both companies as the technology developed – a great journey.
Why did you get involved with OIC?
I had been making investments with George Robinson for ten years, and with OIC since its formation, when the partners kindly asked if I was interested in joining OIC to continue building the business. I’d been looking after the University of Oxford’s portfolio of spinouts for 15 years and this was an exciting new opportunity.
What’s your favourite thing about working with spinout companies in Oxford?
We are fortunate to interact with some of the brightest and best scientists anywhere, and sharing with them and the company leadership teams the excitement of bringing their technologies to life is a real thrill.
Which OIC portfolio company excites you the most and why?
There are so many! Oxford PV is perhaps positioned to make the biggest difference to the world in the nearest time frame.
Who has been a great influence upon you and why?
One of my tutors when I was an undergraduate was the late great Brian Bellhouse, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Oxford, and founder of one of the most successful spinout companies Powderject plc. He had an amazing ability to make complex concepts understandable to the lowliest of undergraduate students!
What are the three things / key traits in a successful VC-backed company?
Strong, capable and confident leadership, a coherent plan based on great technology, solid finances.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Mozart’s Journey to Prague, a short novel by German author called Eduard Mörike, which was his only famous work. It is fictional, but gives a fascinating insight into what the mind of a genius might be like.
Who (either dead or alive) would you have for dinner and why?
Barry Blumberg, an amazing polymath, discoverer of the Hepatitis B virus and the Nobel laureate for physiology and medicine in 1976. I was fortunate enough to share a car ride from London to Oxford with him many years ago. The journey was over in a flash and I had so many more questions to ask him. I should like an opportunity to do so.
What advice would you give to someone founding a university spinout company?
Move as quickly as you can, don’t allow yourself to be frustrated by the many delays you may encounter on the way but seek ways to overcome them. Keep your goals and objectives in mind all the time.