Qi3 – Quality, Insight, Integrity & Innovation - UNITING TECHNOLOGY & MARKETING

Tag: team

Here’s to the future of low energy lighting systems

I’m delighted to confirm today the latest investment led by the team of angels at Qi3 Accelerator; this time we’ve led a £1.1m syndicate investment in a company called iSotera.

iSotera has developed a novel control power distribution and control network for the next generation of LED lighting systems.

My colleague Paul Anson discovered iSotera over a year ago, and we have been working with the founder Marc Ottolini ever since in order to help him bring his business to an investment-ready state , providing input to all aspects of the business plan.  Peter Cowley of Martlet and our friends at 42 Technology have been instrumental in the technical evaluation. We introduced iSotera to a number of other Business Angels, and particularly significant was a presentation to London Business Angels in September 2011.  This brought together a syndicate of over 20 parties, including our colleagues at Synergy Energy and enabled co-investment by the Low Carbon Innovation Fund. We’re also delighted that Moonray Fidelity has joined us in this important investment.  Note that Qi3 Accelerator is not a fund, it’s a group of independent angels led by Tim, Paul and me, so an investment like this requires all of us to feel persuaded to commit our cash to worthwhile businesses.

So why iSotera? We all know that LED lighting is going to take a significant market share over the next decade, replacing incandescent lighting and compact fluorescents.  iSotera has spotted the opportunity in the more prosaic area engineering of power distribution and control for LED lighting.  iSotera’s technology enables more efficient energy usage, lower cost of ownership and easier installation, revolutionising the cost and energy impact of lighting installations.  So rather than investing in LED technology, we’re backing a system that makes it greener, cheaper and easier to install.

Marc Ottolini is a superb enthusiastic serial entrepreneur and has shown tenacity and determination to drive the company to become a significant market player.  Several leading lighting distributors are queuing up for the launch later this year of the first production systems.  Backing a great technology and a great team with our financial resources and commercial support feels to me like a winning mix.

The Qi3 Accelerator team will be playing an active role in the development of iSotera, with Paul, Nat Billington (Synergy Energy) and me all taking board positions.  We look forward with pleasure to the development of another UK High Value Manufacturing company.

Why good people make all the difference…

… and when to move outside your sector comfort zone

Our first statement of sector interests included security, environmental sustainability / cleantech and instrumentation. Apart from anything else, it’s only fair to provide guidance to people about the sectors in which we’re keen to invest, and by implication, the areas in which we’re less keen.

My industrial career provides a backdrop to my investment interests, a set of overlapping comfort zones within which I understand market dynamics, technologies and have contacts that may be valuable to investees. I’m keen to develop a portfolio of risks, whilst maintaining an explicable intellectual coherence.

But this tidy approach has always troubled me and it’s coming to life with some specific opportunities in our pipeline. The issues are:

  • Great teams: We recently saw a presentation in a business somewhat outside our declared sector interests. But there were three passionate and experienced individuals each contributing to a coherent team. How could we dismiss this opportunity given the primacy of team credibility in our investment criteria?
  • Mates: We have seen over a dozen pitches from people we’ve known, in some cases over many years. Surely that personal knowledge must count for something, regardless of sector?
  • Stonking opportunities: Whilst we love whacky early stage technologies, it’s far less risky and more financially justifiable to invest in propositions that seek acceleration for growth and offer significant, short to medium term returns.

In summary, ‘comfort zone’ is important, and it affects the degree to which one’s personal experience and contacts can be brought to the aid of an investee. But good people and great investment prospects are ultimately what this game’s all about.  I won’t be having sleepless nights over a diversified portfolio of superb businesses.


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