Jonathan Chevallier is the CEO of Oxehealth, a University of Oxford spinout company that has created a software system, which enables the reading of vital signs with a video camera in real time. Jonathan has been involved in IT, tech and startups for many years, and was brought in to Oxehealth after meeting the founder (Professor Lionel Tarasenko, IBME) and primary investors in 2013.
Q: Where has your funding come from?
A: Oxehealth received seed funding from IP Group, who invest in university spinout across the UK. We raised Series A funding in 2014, plus some investment from Ora Capital. We have also won grant funding in ehealth and connected hospitals areas.
Q: What is your biggest success to date, and what have you learned from it?
A: As we are pre-revenue, I can’t claim financial successes (yet), but having your startup validated by outside sources, including winning grants, IP revalidation, and interest from potential customers is very rewarding. All these things help to strengthen your business plan and show investors that we are worth investing in.
Q: What is your biggest mistake so far, and what have you learned from it?
A: Working in an environment where customers are big corporates, you need to carefully balance the number in your pipeline and be prepared to be patient as their decision making times are often much slower than an agile, fast moving start-up. The type of customer you want is someone who will work with you on your MVP. But the problem is if you engage with too few you might not find the right early adopters – engage with too many and they can consume too much of your scarce resource and end up not being prepared to buy early product anyway.
Q: What would you say are the top skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A: The most important skills are versatility, resilience and energy. Versatility is very important, especially in the early days when you, as CEO, need to be able to do everything! Even when you start hiring, you then find other gaps. So being able to adapt is extremely important. Resilience and energy go together. Entrepreneurship is like a rollercoaster: there are some amazing highs, but you also get knocked back. It’s a bumpy ride. You need to be able to get out there and sell your story no matter what is happening.
Q: What do you like about being an entrepreneur in Oxford? What could be improved?
A: Oxford has very good business support, with many small, innovative companies, and plenty of professional, high quality workspaces, such as the Oxford Science Park, to work in. There are many such places across the area, not just in central Oxford, which gives startup companies great flexibility when choosing where to be based. There is a good service network (lawyers, accountants, etc) in Oxford, as well as a strong network of willing entrepreneurs who can offer advice and contacts. The worst part about Oxford is the traffic! It is a real problem for everyone in the area, not just businesses.
Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most?
A: ARM. They are a phenomenal UK success story, yet so few people realize that almost every mobile phone uses their chips. Their license model is something we would like to follow, as they do not manufacture anything, yet are embedded in other many products.
Q: If you were to ask one question to ARM, what would it be? And what is your answer to that question?
A: “How did you make the model work to be able to supply every mobile phone manufacturer?” This is a question of how to not slip into exclusivity. Of course, if a company is willing to provide guarantees and pay enough, there is always room for an exclusivity deal. . .
Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for information or resources in Oxford, where would you direct them?
A: There is a wealth of great resources out there, from funding (IP Group, Longwall, Isis Funds) to events. Oxford Entrepreneurs, Venturefest, SVCO. . . all are good. There are also plenty of schemes such as Growth Accelerator and grants from Innovate UK to help. Free of charge business seminars are very good, and many parks (such as the Oxford Science Park and Milton) provide these to their tenants and others. Just make sure to go to a range of events, and see what works best for you.
Q: What piece of advice would you give to a new entrepreneur or startup?
A: Think very carefully about equity and very early on. This is probably more relevant to tech startups, where investment needed can run into the millions across multiple rounds. The arrangements you make early on will have very big long-term effects. Your share will be diluted, as more investment comes on board, so make sure you have a strategy which considers employees, executives and non-executives from the beginning.