93: How to be a contrarian venture capital investor and making taboo investments | Will Gibbs of Octopus Ventures

12 Mar 2024 / Podcast Tax Advantaged

By Dr Brian Moretta

Octopus Ventures

Getting big returns in venture capital can involve stepping away from the mainstream and investing in opportunities that others won’t. Will Gibbs of Octopus Ventures has a reputation for investing in areas others see as taboo. We ask him about being a contrarian investor, how to do it well and what needs to change to create a successful investment.

In a discussion filled with numerous examples, Will discusses:

  • Getting big enough markets when the market is somewhat hidden;
  • Balancing new technology and new markets;
  • When specialist investors are needed;
  • Judging whether a company will be ripe for follow-on investment;
  • How taboo investments can interact with social change;
  • Sequencing market expansion;
  • What a company needs to internationalise;
  • What problems that internationalising doesn’t solve;
  • Building deal flow in taboo areas;
  • How the venture capital industry is creating some of the problems;
  • The value of team diversity in looking away from consensus areas;
  • Whether valuations are different in taboo areas.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Will brings a great perspective on how to bring mainstream venture capital skills to genuinely new areas. It’s a great discussion for investors and companies who dare to be different. Enjoy!

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Visit the Octopus Investments website here.

Visit the Octopus Ventures website here.

Featured companies:
Skin and me

Contact Will Gibbs on LinkedIn here.

Suggested books and media

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

In the Company of Givers and Takers by Adam Grant (article)

Will Gibbs, Healthtech Partner at Octopus Ventures, joined Octopus in 2013 and sits in its health team. He works with portfolio companies from consumer to enterprise, with a strong bias towards businesses making the biggest impacts on health. In recent years he has explored taboo areas within health, resulting in multiple new investments around this theme, from substance addiction to LGBT sexual health. He’s also passionate about the potential for digital therapeutics to deliver superior outcomes for some conditions, US expansion, the future of cannabinoids and novel business models within health. Will was based in Octopus’ US office in New York during 2016, and continues to support portfolio companies looking to expand into the US health market. Many of his portfolio companies are based in the US, and he invests alongside big global investors like SoftBank Group, Kinnevik, Atomico and EQT Partners.

Will is also a vocal champion of diversity and LGBT issues and is happily married to his husband Christopher. He founded multiple startups before joining Octopus Ventures, including a rare-breed pig farm and an organic spirits company. He holds a degree in ancient history and classical archaeology from the University of Oxford.