Holly Carter | Intern, Gyana Limited

Does your degree affect your Oxford start-up?

With the new #StartedinOxford campaign on the go, I thought I’d have a look at some of the businesses that did in fact start in Oxford. As you can expect, many of the companies are continuations of individuals’ degree and PhD studies. Examples of this include Run3D; a technology allowing analysis of a runner’s gait to detect abnormalities leading to injury, which was founded by Dr. Jessica Leitch who studied running injury biomechanics at Oxford. Another is YASA Motors, whose founder came up with the idea of lighter electric motors while studying for his DPhil in engineering.

This said, there was still a theme that I found to carry through a number of these Oxford start-ups: your degree doesn’t actually have to relate to your start up idea. NaturalMotion, a cutting-edge games and technology company, is a demonstration of this. It was founded in 2001 by Oxford biological sciences graduate Torsten Reil. The company has had huge success, with offices spreading as far and wide as San Francisco! It was NaturalMotion’s hit game Clumsy Ninja that rocketed them to success in mobile gaming.

Another gaming company coming straight out of Oxford is Rebellion, but this company was founded a little before NaturalMotion’s time back in 1992. It is now one of Europe’s leading independent game developers, boasting games such as Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron and the iOS game Joust Legend, which was inspired by the English Heritage jousting events its founder Jason Kingsley used to take part in. Jason and his brother Chris studied biology and chemistry degrees at Oxford; a pretty far fling from the computer science that you’d expect!

Joyeeta Das is the founder of Gyana, a company building a digital representation of the world. They help unlock big data using AI, showing the general mood throughout London with the help of social media and satellite technology. Joyeeta didn’t study big data and AI at Oxford, but instead completed an MBA.

I think that it is rare to know exactly what you want to do with your life before choosing your university degree; I still don’t know what I want to do! Founders of successful companies such as these give us hope that even if you don’t know what it is you want to do yet, your life definitely hasn’t been decided based on what you thought you’d like to study at the age of 17!


Holly Carter is currently an intern at Gyana. She is going into her second year studying zoology at Newcastle University and is currently trying to figure out what she wants to do when she graduates!