The startup process at Imperial
Every Imperial startup is unique, and the journeys of founders will differ depending on a wide range of factors: the industry they are working in, the funding available to them, the partners they can draw on.
The Startup Team has proven experience in creating, building and exiting businesses based on Imperial research. They can support your entrepreneurial journey whatever route your startup takes.
Though every company journey is different, with specific and exact needs depending on technology and markets, we believe there is a process common to all university startups which, if followed, will provide a new company with the best chance for success.
The Startup Team’s services are provided to Imperial academics who start companies based on IP developed at Imperial and select the Jointly Driven route under Founders Choice.
The startup process at Imperial
Building a startup with Imperial’s Startup Team
Building a startup is a major undertaking. As the originator of the research around which the company is based, it is likely you’ll play a major role in the startup, as well as being an initial shareholder.
The Startup Team can support you during the pre-formation stage. We will provide a range of advice and practical support, as well as helping you bring in expert mentors.
During the pre-formation stage, much essential work is undertaken, which will give your startup a solid foundation for success.
Working with the Industry Partnerships and Commercialisation (IPC) and Startup Teams, you will:
- With your faculty IPC team:
- Identify and secure your intellectual property. IP is a key asset and without it there may be no company worth forming.
- Complete IP Due Diligence to make certain exactly who owns the IP - this is essential information that investors and management will want to be comfortable with.
- Develop a forward-looking IP strategy.
- With the Startup team:
- Assess potential customers and the market for your startup and identify the key value proposition. Great technology isn't enough - you need customers.
- Develop a financial model and business plan
- Develop an executive summary and investment pitch to help you access funding in the future
Creating the startup
Setting up a basic company structure online is easy. The complicated bit is setting it up to ensure the company:
- has access to the required IP (including any licences from Imperial and other universities)
- has the right employment relationships
- is structured in a way that is appropriate for future investors
- doesn't create any tax obligations for academics
- ensures everyone is fairly incentivised for future work (through share options and vesting)
We have a standard process in place to make this as smooth as possible. Depending on the route you select under Founders Choice, we will also help to set up the company with its own independent legal and financial advisors, insurers, a brand identity and website, bank account and provide training to help with founder responsibilities.
Developing novel technologies is expensive and it can take time for products and services to find customers.
You will therefore need to find funding for your startup. The good news is that there are many sources for this funding, and the Startup Team can help you access it.
Potential funding sources
- Your customers: depending on the field, some startups can be very quick to market and grow organically from funds raised by selling their product or service
- Grants and Translational Funds
- Proof of Concept funding
- Friends & Family
- Angel investors: and 'Super Angels': wealthy individuals, often 'self-made' who are interested in technology and want to support new companies
- Crowdfunding: services that simplify raising relatively large amounts of money from large numbers of investors/customers. Can be either donation/reward based or investment-based.
- Venture Capital (VC): risk-taking investors who expect a significant return, often within a fixed time period
- Patient Capital: similar to VC investors, but willing to allow technology businesses to develop over a longer time period.
The Startup Team has proven experience helping Imperial startups gain access to funding from a wide range of sources, including an extensive early-stage investor network from which potential investment can be sourced.
Growing your Imperial startup
Once your startup is established, initial funds have been raised, and technology development or early trials are underway, your company will enter the growth phase.
Growth is very difficult to navigate. Even if your IP is locked down, you've hired a stellar team, you have money in the bank and plans on the table, without great care and diligence your startup could fail at this point.
Depending on the level of support you select under Founders Choice, the Startup team will provide a range of support during this difficult stage of company development.
The growth phase:
- Building your team
Typically a growth phase team will include a CEO, non-executive chariman, Head of R&D, Commercial Manager, Scientific Advisory Board, Investors and Independent non-executives.
The Startup Team can help you find key staff by providing access to its networks and introductions to mentors and experts.
- Finding space - office and laboratory
Growing businesses need space to support their development. Imperial offers incubation services at the Imperial White City Incubator, which has laboratory and office space for growing technology businesses.
Beyond that, we can provide introductions to an extensive network of science parks and providers of incubation, acceleration and grow-on space in London and elsewhere.
- Raising further investment rounds
Often an initial funding round will not be sufficient to achieve profitability. The Startup Team can assist startup founders in accessing further investment funding, as well as providing advice on valuation, dilution and other pressing issues.
Exiting your business - through acquisition or trade sale
When you launch a startup company, your main focus is likely to be on developing and perfecting the technology and getting it to market. You may not consider the need to exit from the business in the future.
However, by thinking and planning ahead, you’re much more likely to be prepared when you do exit, whether that’s in 18 months or 10 years down the road. In addition, if you plan to take on outside investors, they will expect you to be able to clearly spell out your path to an eventual exit, the milestones you need to hit, over what timeframe, and your anticipated valuation at exit. They’ll also expect you to produce data points to back these up.
It's important to remember that investors aren't just giving you money - they expect a return, and exiting the business is one of the best ways to produce one.
The Startup Team has proven experience in working with Imperial startups to achieve successful exits which generate returns to investors, founders and the College.