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University of Oxford produces record number of unicorn companies

The University of Oxford has produced the highest number of tech unicorn founders across Europe, according to a new report.

The term “unicorn” is given to companies valued at over $1 billion dollars and there are around 1300 active unicorns globally. The report, undertaken by venture capital firm Antler, surveyed over 70,000 founders of which 850 were founders of unicorn companies.

Professor Chas Bountra said: “These findings reinforce Oxford’s position as a leading innovation hub in Europe. We are immensely proud of our talented alumni and spinout founders, and are committed to offering the very best support for budding entrepreneurs and founders through a range of programmes and events. There are certainly many more unicorns in the Oxford pipeline.”

The University of Oxford ranked as the top academic institution for producing tech unicorn founders; with the Otto Beisheim School of Management (WHU) in Germany in second place; and Stockholm University of Economics taking third place. Since 1984, eight of the world’s largest unicorns have been founded by Oxford graduates, including LinkedIn, Funding Circle and Eventbrite. Recently, Oxford spinout Nanopore joined the “unicorn club” when it became one of the biggest biotech listings in years, valued at £3.4 billion (about $4.6 billion) when it floated on the London Stock Exchange in September 2021.

The University of Oxford recently launched Enspire Oxford to help connect students, staff and alumni to entrepreneurial people, places and programmes. The initiative offers opportunities, training and support at all stages of the entrepreneurship journey: from developing employability skills, to starting a company, or growing an early-stage business.

Dr Zhanet Zaharieva, Co-founder, Quantum Dice, said: “We won £25,000 to put towards developing a prototype and, just as crucially, we have been receiving ongoing support from OUI, which has been invaluable. We’re in a perfect space where we can get support, resources and be inspired by so many other people. So, we’re really happy that we’re part of the Oxford tech ecosystem.”

Oxford spinout Quantum Dice, benefited from the StEP Ignite student entrepreneurs’ programme, led by Oxford University Innovation (OUI), and part of Enspire Oxford. The company, which is revolutionising the security of encryption keys using quantum mechanics, started out as a group of students who entered the StEP Ignite challenge to turn University intellectual property into a commercial venture. Since winning the competition and spinning out of the University as a company in 2020, Quantum Dice has been going from strength to strength and has raised £2 million in early stage funding.

Paul Britton, Chief Executive of Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce: “World renowned academic institutions and centres of excellence such as the University of Oxford, facilitate the realisation of the Thames Valley’s potential; utilising and enabling the ambitious, vast talent pool present within the region to flourish.”

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