Mentoring mantra, why it’s so important for start-ups

Founded by Peter and Alan Cowley, The Invested Investor is a publishing project aiming to increase the success rate for entrepreneurs and early investors. They aim to achieve this by sharing the journeys of founders and investors, learning from their success and failure. The latest two podcasts focus on two leading female figures in Cambridge: Dr Anne Dobree, the sharp commercial Head of Seed Funds at Cambridge Enterprise; and Fiona Nielsen, the CEO of the reputable genomic data sharing company Repositive.

In the first podcast, Alan Cowley, the entrepreneurial project director of Invested Investor interviewed Dobree and asked her about the role of the University in tech transfer and in commercialising their research. Dobree replied, ‘ We are the seed tech investment fund with a 50 million fund to start with and we have now funded over 80 companies and with a return of 30 million back to the fund. But we are not just about the return, our primary aim is to have a successful result of the commercialisation and to have an impact on the society’. Dobree has worked in university technology commercialisation since 1999 and first joined the technology transfer team at the University of Cambridge in 2001, and has held a number of roles with Cambridge Enterprise and its predecessors including Head of Technology Transfer and Interim Director. To date, Dobree has supported many early stage companies and served on the boards of Pneumacare, Cambridge CMOS Sensors, Aqdot and Cambridge Touch Technologies to name a few

‘We sit on world-class research and we work with our spinouts and startups to make their business investible- this may include mentoring them, leveraging on your network to introduce them to the right people and supporting them to access further funding’, she explained further.

The role of mentoring and supporting startups is paramount to the successful CEO of Repositive, Fiona Nielsen. She is a bioinformatics scientist, turned entrepreneur and founder. Having worked at Illumina developing tools for interpretation of next-generation sequencing data and analysing cancer and FFPE samples sequenced on the latest technology, she realised how difficult it was to find and access genomics data for research. DNAdigest was founded as a charity in 2013 to promote best practices for efficient and ethical data sharing and, soon after, Repositive was established to provide a new software platform to capture those data.

Nielsen said to Peter Cowley, ‘If you want to start a company, you have to be driven for what you want to achieve, you have to be willing to take advice to avoid making mistakes. Cowley further reinforced this observation and said, ‘This is what Invested Investor is all about, helping entrepreneurs not to make the same mistakes’

‘Sometimes I receive conflicting advice, one says A, the other says B, so I choose X….’ explained Nielsen further on how she treats all the advice and guidance she received in her early years of being an entrepreneur.

Inspired by Peter Cowley, The Invested Investor is improving the journeys of startups by educating angels and entrepreneurs to make fewer mistakes, work better together and produce more successful exits. They want to empower angels to invest their time, emotion and experience into start-ups, and help entrepreneurs with how they should start to talk to investors and then build an open and trusting relationship with them. Run by Peter’s son Alan, the project’s underlying message is that more honesty and transparency between investors and entrepreneurs will lead to more successful startups. They have a series of podcasts on their website,, and a first book being released in the autumn of this year.

Peter CowleyComment