Saïd Business School partners with European VC firm to develop an AI-powered venture classification platform

Targeted at startup founders, investors, and policymakers, the open source platform will look to address market failure in technology start-up venture eco-systems

Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and OpenOcean, a European venture capital firm, have announced the signing of a new collaboration agreement to develop a venture classification platform – run as open source and open-access with associated data.

It will use artificial intelligence to classify start-ups, building up powerful, joined-up insights into businesses & their underlying technology. The joint team is starting by focusing on AI start-ups, drawing on the register of UK-based ventures at the UK Government’s Companies House, with the ultimate goal to expand the platform to the whole tech ecosystem.

The AI-powered venture classification platform aims to improve transparency, reduce bias, and generally improve the quality of decisions made by stakeholders in technology startup ecosystems. These include venture founders looking to target an underserved client base, funders seeking to accelerate time to identify investment targets, and policymakers wishing to unlock bottlenecks in technology areas or specific skills. Long-term, the platform is viewed by the team as an industry-wide endeavour. The fact it is open source puts collaboration front and centre, opening the door to future partnerships to build and develop the platform further to maximise its benefit for everyone.

Research for the project will be undertaken by a team across the University of Oxford and led by researchers at Oxford Saïd. Activities of the team at the school are funded by the Impact Acceleration Fund from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

“We are delighted to partner with The University of Oxford on this journey. Having topped the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the sixth consecutive year, The University of Oxford has the cutting-edge research and expertise to help make this platform a reality. For too long, key stakeholders in the tech start-up ecosystem have relied on siloed, and incomplete intelligence to make key decisions. There is a fundamental need for a common language to cut through this noise. Our platform will connect data on start-ups in a way that has never been done before, providing a shared way of classifying new ventures, and creating a fairer and more transparent ecosystem for all involved,” said Ekaterina Almasque, General Partner at OpenOcean.

Almasque adds: “Today VCs are constantly under pressure to act faster, increase their speed of decision making and gain a competitive advantage. At OpenOcean we intend to ensure the platform meets the needs of both VCs, and those of the entrepreneurs we work with every day who are reshaping the data economy. We firmly believe the platform will be a powerful force for good in our industry, removing major barriers for innovation and helping businesses scale at pace.”

“The tool will be a valuable public benefit in a startup ecosystem suffering from market failure due to genuine difficulty in assessing early-stage startups and unwillingness to share data,” said Professor Mari Sako, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

Dr Matthias Qian, Research Fellow at Saïd Business School adds: “This initiative has the ambition to transform how founders, investors and policymakers will make decisions over the next decade, to complement their gut feel with insights derived from artificial intelligence.”

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