£200m VC fund on the hunt for tech talent

20 October 2016

The former boss of LoveFilm and Mothercare is on the hunt for more early-stage regional technology businesses to invest in, backed by a £200m venture capital fund.

Simon Calver is one of the three founding partners of BGF Ventures, an offshoot of the Business Growth Fund (BGF).

The fund launched last year and has so far supported ten companies.

Speaking to Insider in Manchester, Calver said he and his colleagues are hunting for the best ideas and entrepreneurs that have the potential to become companies with international reach.

"There is a huge opportunity for investors in technology businesses but when they are small, especially pre-profit there’s a lot of work to do to see a return," he said.

"And while it’s quite easy to get government funding at seed level it’s not so easy to get to the next level was the business is growing."

Calver studied computer science and then joined his family supermarket business. Combining his IT skills with his knowledge of domestic brands he went to work for Unilever and then joined Pepsi where he ran the brand in the UK and Ireland and later New York.

He also worked at Dell and added to his expertise in Silicon Valley before launching LoveFilm – which was later sold to Amazon.

More recently he was chief executive of Mothercare as part of the retailer's turnaround.

When asked if the BGF Ventures fund was like a Dragons' Den project, Calver laughed and said:

"Yes but it’s more about help and mentoring than the testosterone in the room.

"It is about re-fuelling the eco-system."

So far ten technology companies have received investment – including digital, software and ad tech – the only areas they don’t specialise in are biotech and materials and manufacturers.

Companies so far include Gousto food boxes; Toucan, a mail order craft box for children; and Marvel, a facility for prototype apps.

Calver said that the rate of data storage is growing exponentially and that in the next nine months the amount of data that there’s ever been will double.

But as the size of data gets bigger, entrepreneurs are getting younger as he added more and more young people want to "challenge the status quo and shake up markets".


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