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3i invests in BT start-up

The venture capitalist is investing an initial £2m in the technology start-up launched by Brightstar, BT's technology incubator.

Venture capital company 3i is continuing its support of BT technology incubator Brightstar with an investment of £2m in PsyTechnics, one of the incubator's start-ups. 3i has taken a minority stake in in the business.

The venture capital company has already invested in Brightstar's spin-offs Kymata and Truth Consulting. Brightstar and PsyTechnics said they were keen to have 3i on board because of its proactive stance in helping appoint the management team. Executives from 3i and from Brightstar have been appointed as non-executive directors of the company.

Unlike the previous two 3i investments in Brightstar fledglings, PsyTechnics is the first incuband to have been incubated by the BT division from day one of its existence. Chief executive of PsyTechnics Mike Hollier had spent 10 years working in R&D at BT when he launched Psytechnics’ formal incubation in April 2000.

Psytechnics develops technology that measures voice quality over communications systems as a human would hear it. This differs from traditional tools that do not truly reflect the users experience. Psytechnics has already signed up twelve licensees. It will initially concentrate on audio quality and has models for video and multimedia in development. PsyTechnics is located at Adastral Park, home of Brightstar’s incubands and 3,500 of BT’s top scientists, engineers and business people, but hopes to use the financing to move to its own premises shortly and to expand its team.

Mike Hollier said: “There can be a significant gap between what is perceived as acceptable speech quality by a user’s mobile and what the current performance measures indicate. For a network operator this can mean lost customers. With the onset of 3G services and IP telephony, it’s critical that service levels are based on what people actually hear. It’s the only real way to satisfy customers while maximising return for network operators.”

Stewart Davies, managing director of BtexaCT, which provides research, development and consulting services for the BT Group, said: “The creation of PsyTechnics demonstrates how Brightstar is successfully establishing an extensive entrepreneurial network within the UK and the Cambridge-Ipswitch hi-tech corridor. We are consciously driving forward the UK agenda of ‘enterprise for all’.

Brightstar was founded last year in a bid to create an environment where BT employees can develop their technology ideas into credible businesses. It intends to launch fifteen companies per year. A total of fourteen have been set up to date. The declared aim is to achieve a valuation of more that £100m within three years for spun off companies.