Cambridge Future Tech is a Tech Venture Builder with a vision to help facilitate the next generation of Deep Tech innovation. We work to commercialize scientific discoveries, platform-level innovations that fundamentally improve the way the world works.
Xavier Parkhouse-Parker is a serial entrepreneur and founder who started his first company at 15 and jumped in full time while pursuing an undergraduate degree. Xavier has led several startups with technologies such as AI, media, marketing, and HR tech. Xavier holds a masters from the University of Cambridge. He has been featured in The Guardian, USA Today, Tech Nation, and other publications and was one of CVC Capital Partners Young Innovators for 2017 and NACUE’s National Entrepreneur of the year for 2016.
What is Cambridge Future Tech all about?
Cambridge Future Tech is a Tech Venture Builder with a vision to help facilitate the next generation of Deep Tech innovation. We work to commercialize scientific discoveries, platform-level innovations which fundamentally improve the way the world works. We work partnership with inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs we act as a co-founder to build and grow successful new deep tech startups.
We work with founders from ‘Day Zero’ to series A and tailor our approach and support specifically to the venture’s needs. There is no cookie-cutter approach when it comes to startups.
We work with investors, early-stage founders, and established companies, utilizing scientific discoveries and manufacturing innovations based on deep tech from Digital (Artificial Intelligence & Big Data) to Physics and Materials (Quantum & Industry 4.0) and Beyond (Including MedTech and EnterpriseTech). We work across several commercial verticals.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
I’ve always been involved with Startups, starting my first real venture when I was an Undergraduate. Since then have been obsessed with founding businesses that have the potential for massive impact. When I was an undergraduate, I was also President of Southampton’s entrepreneurship society, Fish on Toast. I loved running this society, primarily because I had the opportunity to work with so many exciting founders and helping them to build fantastic startups.
Cambridge Future Tech for me is a combination of loving to get ‘hands-on’ with ventures and working with incredible founders. We saw that there is a gap in the very early stage DeepTech market, where new, nascent and innovative technology was frequently hitting early stumbling blocks, forming barriers that prevented company success. As a founding team, we all have been involved in mentoring and working with deep tech founders and saw that there needed to be a support structure in place to aid the success of these ventures. We looked at several different models and realized that the venture builder model, is the one that gives founders the best opportunity for success. We are facilitating the next generation of deep tech innovation.
What was the biggest problem you encountered with your business, and how did you overcome it?
The economics of early-stage is always a challenge. The majority of companies we are working with are pre-seed and are working with limited capital, typically only grant or award funding. The venture builder does not generate revenue like a typical business but builds value. Since every company we work with, we take an equity stake, we add considerable value to our business.
What were the top mistakes you made starting your business, and what did you learn from it?
Time. It always takes time, and it’s easy to underestimate how much time things take. As a new venture, it’s a challenge to predict how long things take, sometimes things move faster than expected but usually, things take longer. Even with this fact and lesson in mind, it is still easy to underestimate time considerations, since a new venture has different levers around which the velocity is based and makes prediction a challenge.
There are, of course, rules of thumb to take when predicting time such as doubling everything, and yet these are equally inaccurate. The best way is to be comfortable in the uncertainty of time and not to tie the success of the company to arbitrary time-based targets but instead to milestones. This lesson is especially important when waiting for external parties, who are unpredictable and largely uncontrollable.
What are three books or courses you recommend for new entrepreneurs?
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is I believe the best startup book that was ever written. Horowitz doesn’t sugar coat anything nor does he give ‘easy’ advice to the frequent hard problems faced by founders. I re-read it annually.
Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet is a fantastic manual for starting your company and the considerations to think and explore deeply about. The idea of beach-heads is crucial for any early-stage venture to gain early customer traction, building a stable platform from which to grow.
The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov is possibly the best sci-fi ever written but is also an odyssey for thinking about crises. A trilogy spanning 400 years, punctuated by galaxy-ending crises might seem unrelated to startups but every startup will feel the comparison since every founder will experience semi-constant crises.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Talk to as many people as possible. Cast a wide net and then let that net bring in prospects. In the case of Cambridge Future Tech, this is deal-flow. When we first started we knew we needed to have a consistently strong flow of great prospective companies and founders to work with in order to build value. We did this by speaking to as many relevant people as possible and we continue to do this. Every week we connect with new potential founders and ventures.
If you only had 1000 dollars to start a new startup, knowing everything you know now, how would you spend it?
Get a professionally designed pitch deck. Either for sales, raising capital, or just networking, this is absolutely essential and shouldn’t cost more than $1000. Communication is key and you need to be able to convey the right message to the right people, immediately and effectively. It is invaluable and can always be adapted to every new task but it becomes the best tool for clear communication. Professional designers know how to convey messages and make you look professional.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Just do it. Just start, it won’t kill you. You can learn more by starting than anything else.
What is your favorite quote?
Every Experience Is of Value
– Oscar Wilde
Besides the obvious social media tools available, what are the top 3 most useful tools or resources you’re currently using to grow your company?
People, we have a fantastic team and without incredible people in the team, and as advisors or support team we would struggle to grow.
Calendly – as a team I believe that this meeting scheduling tool probably saves 5-10 hours a week, especially as it syncs directly with zoom and makes it seamless to schedule and juggle busy calenders.
A great project management tool such as Monday.com – which houses our CRM and dealflow data as well as all the tasks we are working on and all of our projects.
How is running a tech company different than what you thought it would be?
It’s less about technology and more about people. People are always the most important and best asset that any venture has. It’s essential to ensure that communication between teams is fluid and that everyone is enabled to develop the best work they possibly can.