Conception X is a venture builder that creates deep tech startups from the UK’s leading research labs and PhD programmes. We transform talented researchers into venture scientists. They launch businesses to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.
The future of both humanity and our individual lives are dependent on technology, while also being challenged by it. Conception X moves research into production, and in the process puts the most qualified technologists at the forefront of new venture leadership.
Applications for Cohort III open soon.
Conception X Finalist Demo Day Participants and Winners
We’re building an amazing community around deep tech and the future of education. It includes star academics, industry leaders, deep tech investors, mentors, and entrepreneurs, who collaborate on these startups’ journeys, including CBarclays Eagle Lab, our initial foundation partner.
On 10 October, 2019, seven finalist teams from Cohort 2, and two returning teams from our first pilot Cohort from last year presented.
- Bluezone Insurance – real-time life insurance platform
- Empathetic Media – AR behavioural learning app
- Enteromics – gut microbiome monitoring
- Hexis – health and human performance app
- In-Neutro – accelerated Alzheimer’s drug discovery platform
- Pinfold Technologies – 4D ultrasound hardware/software platform
- Rahko – quantum machine learning software development (Raised £1.3M from Balderton Capital)
- Symbiotica – institutional financial liquidity optimisation
- Turing Intelligence Technology – ML automatic optimization platform (Raised £1M+ led by IQ Capital)
Itse Onuwaje, founder of In-Neutro. Onuwaje is working on an accelerated Alzheimer’s drug discovery platform.has made huge progress toward tackling chronic neurodegenerative diseases. She started the programme with a concept, and today has an early prototype workflow for drug repurposing.
Best Pitch Award
Co-founders of Enteromics, Phoebe Heseltine and Mariam Elgabry. Mechanical engineer Heseltine and bio-hacker Elgabry met on the programme. Their new project Enteromics dives into commoditizing gut health diagnostics, opportunity described by Bill Gates as one of10 key technological innovations.
What happens now?
Rahko joined the programme in February 2018 as four quantum computing and physics researchers. Today, they have a growing team of PhDs from UCL, Oxford and other leading universities. They announced a round of funding from UK heavyweight VC Balderton. They’re working with a growing portfolio of corporate clients on defining commercial opportunities in quantum chemistry. Turnaround time from PhD research to the venture-funded enterprise was 18 months.
Turing Intelligence Technology joined as four academic researchers who hold PhDs in computer science from UCL and previous careers working in financial trading at multinational banks. They started with intelligent financial trading software, and the programme helped them develop that into an optimisation platform with applications in financial trading, as well as cloud computing and infrastructure. They’ve closed over £1M seed funding led by IQ Capital, a leading deep-tech investment funds based in Cambridge. Their Turnaround time from PhD research and prototype to the venture-funded company was under six months.
Progress Award Winner Itse Onuwaje leveraged programme prizes of £10,000 to participate in the world’s largest Alzheimer’s conference in Los Angeles, and hire a stem cell researcher to help accelerate the progress on her drug discovery model. She also is now working with UCL dementia research commercialisation units. In nine months, Onuwaje wrapped a production line around her thesis and has begun recruiting R&D collaborators and corporate mentors from some of the world’s largest pharma investors.
Pitch Award Winners Entrenomics are also leveraged programme prizes of £10,000 to move their research from concept to prototype. In six months, founders Heseltine and Elgabry combined their research into a company and moved from theses to the biomedical product roadmap.
Pinfold Technologies’ founder Tom Robbins had recruited potential co-founder from UCL PhD programmes and engaged with contract manufacturers to spec early product prototypes based on his PhD research.
Fintech companies Bluezone Insurance and Symbiotica each took a machine learning thesis project, built and validated a working MVP, and created a business model around those MVPs. The companies are currently in discussions with strategic corporate partners and customers. In each case, the founders moved from research to validated MVP in less than nine months.
Health/mental health companies Empathetic Media and Hexis each have working products and are now refining business models as they move into the market as product companies, SaaS companies, or head for early acquisitions.
Different Founders, Different Demos
Conception X Finalist Demo Day is the culmination of the nine-month primary programme of Conception X. 25 teams started the programme, and 14 made progress required to be considered for one of seven presentation spots.
Rather than simple 5-minute pitches with 4 slides, we redesigned demo day around both research founder and the earliest stage. They presented business plans with no supporting slides. Next, each founder held 10-15 minute question-and-answer sessions with an audience of mentors, programme stakeholders, and invited guests.
We supplement the talent-show pitch regime with the discussions because Conception X goes earlier than most other programmes. The founders often create world-leading research. Neither their profiles nor their propositions fit into three minutes and four slides. The outcome speaks for itself:
The ideas were superb.
I liked that there was variety in stage.
Intimate and informal, but still some rigorous questioning.
The audience rated the day as overwhelmingly positive. Investors enjoyed exposure to ideas at their germination phase and an opportunity to see founders in action. Corporate partners both saw new technologies showcased, as well as had an open forum to discuss practical steps required to move innovations into operations.
Common amongst stakeholders and guests regardless of community role was seeing different horizons of technology. Some Conception X companies address market opportunities of today, whilst others have long-burn propositions which will define their fields over the next five to ten years.
As technology continues to compound its own rate of adoption, it attacks traditional investment horizons and rule-based corporate cycles. The Conception X forum showcases new product concepts from new founders leading founders, and work in larger contexts. We help merge academic developments with corporate and consumer markets.
It Takes A Village to Build a Company
From a standing start in 2018, Conception X has built a community of almost a thousand people in London and the UK. Across both cohorts, 50 candidates started the programme, and5 teams have gone on to raise a combined in $5M pre-seed and seed investment. Teams are applying to follow-on programmes like Y Combinator and TechStars.
The London venture investment community are active supporters, both as mentors during the programme, and now as active investors as companies transition to commercialisation. Corporates are similarly engaged.
Corporate mentors enjoy working with the PhD candidates, and we already see involvement with the programme filtering back into organisations. Ideally, those organisations become customers of the new companies and their engagement with teams catalyse conversations about the future of markets and sectors.
Finally, the community is filled out by participants from the broad church of technology, and civil society itself. From academic researchers and programme administrators to infrastructure and law professionals, to MPs and government development programmes, to startups and multinational technology companies.
Beyond a simple pitch-and-fundraising exercise, Conception X demo day is a microcosm of this community coalesces not to see future technologies, but to build them.
At the finalist session, the relevance of conception X’s core mission was clear
How do we build the future of work for PhD candidates as company founders?
How do we better move new technologies from labs into markets?
How close can we get to the genesis of deep tech startups?
Join us for the future
Interest in Conception X rapidly grows from PhD students in universities across the UK. Our pilot cohort teams are already working on big problems in computer science, health, and finance. We anticipate a wider range of technologies as the programme goes, including construction, hardware, logistics, manufacturing, and robotics.
We are excited by the growing community of stakeholders from leading universities, corporates, government, and venture capital firms from the UK and around the world.