Tony Raven, CEO of Cambridge Enterprise and a GUV Lifetime Achievement awardee, will step down by the end of next year.
Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of University of Cambridge, is set to lose its chief executive Tony Raven by the end of 2021 as he announces his intention to retire, according to Business Weekly.
He has given the long notice period with the intention of supporting an orderly transition to his successor.
Raven has been the chief executive of Cambridge Enterprise since 2011, when he took over from Teri Willey following a serendipitous phone call, he recollected on GUV’s podcast last month. Willey now works for Indiana University’s investment arm IU Ventures.
Since Raven took over Cambridge Enterprise, its growth has been phenomenal: venture funding capacity has grown by 730%, the number of new spinouts has gone up by 250% and consultancy support service has increased by 90%. Indeed, Cambridge Enterprise has consistently ranked near the top in data analyses by GUV.
“Tony is one of the cleverest people I know in technology transfer.”
– David Secher, co-founder of PraxisAuril
Some of the success can be attributed to Raven’s work in helping to launch Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC), the $360m fund that invests not only in the university’s spinouts but in the entire Cambridge technology ecosystem. CIC is led by Andrew Williamson.
Also helping to support Cambridge spinouts more specifically is the $13m Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds, led by Anne Dobrée and the winner of the GUV Investment Unit of the Year award in 2019.
Awards have been gathering on Cambridge Enterprise’s shelves for a while: the tech transfer office already took home a GUV award in 2013 and, most notably, Tony Raven is one of only five people to be recognised with a GUV Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received in 2017.
Raven has also been a regular speakers at GUV events, most recently offering his expertise on a roundtable at our Digital Forum in July this year together with fellow experts such as Columbia’s Orin Herskowitz and Uniseed’s Peter Devine.
But Raven’s contributions to the innovation ecosystem go back much further than his leadership of Cambridge Enterprise. In 2000, he joined Southampton University as its director of Research and Innovation Services to help it drive technology transfer and, when he left just over a decade later, left behind a portfolio of 11 spinouts with four listings on the LSE.
Around the same time, Raven also worked with Beeson Gregory on what was to eventually become IP Group, the commercialisation firm that today not only drives significant innovation in the UK but also in the US and in Australia.
Extract from GUV’s podcast with Tony Raven
David Secher, patron and co-founder of professional association PraxisAuril, previously told GUV: “Tony is one of the cleverest people I know in technology transfer. Cambridge Enterprise has flourished under his leadership and he has developed a brilliant team. He spotted the need for local follow-on funds and raised the capital and organised the necessary infrastructure.”
Paul Seabright, deputy director of Cambridge Enterprise, added at the time: “His support for the staff of Cambridge Enterprise and their welfare is boundless. His belief in ‘treating everyone as adults’ and giving them the flexibility and freedom to fulfil their aspirations for new technologies is part of the fabric of Cambridge Enterprise.”
For Raven himself, meanwhile, none of this has ever been about tooting his own horn but about celebrating the work of his colleagues and the Cambridge brand. On the aforementioned podcast episode, he noted: “Teri Willey, my predecessor, put a lot of work into getting a really good team together. I think the success really is down to that team, because I have not done a single one of those deals.
“They are the people who have done the deals, who have made it all happen and the support we have had from the university. Again, I have to recognise that we are very fortunate in Cambridge. We have a university that is well endowed and is very positive about this activity and supports it strongly.
“Which bits have I done? I would say what I have done is helped to create an environment where that team can be as good as they can be.
“I think the key things I set when I came in were first of all, a focus on what we do, do what we do very well. The second is, if we are a university like Cambridge, we should have an ambition worthy of a university like Cambridge. That second part meant that we actually had to have the resources to compete with the Stanfords and MITs and others of this world.
“That is where now our ability to fund our seed fund, our companies, to the same level as they would get from other leading universities in places like Silicon Valley really has made the difference.
“Of course, there is always a bit of luck. We have had some good luck along the way.”
Although Raven never plotted out his career path to end up at Cambridge Enterprise (or at any of the other stops) – his mantra is simply to “have fun and make a difference” – the university and the innovation community more broadly can only be happy that this is how it all worked out.
GUV would like to take this opportunity to wish Raven all the best with his future endeavours, when the time comes, and we look forward to seeing what he achieves next. Until then, of course, he will continue to be a welcome voice at GUV events with his Cambridge hat on.