Every year Tech Nation, the UK’s support network for startups and scaleups, scouts out the country’s most exciting early-stage tech businesses for its Rising Stars competition.
And unlike many startup competitions, Tech Nation really does scour the entire country.
Amongst the semi finalists for this year’s Rising Stars are startups from Belfast, Slough, Edinburgh, Totnes and Newport. They’re building businesses in a wide range of sectors, with solutions spanning from medical imaging tech and platforms to take the pain out of renting, to on-demand drinks and sport facility booking services.
But two sectors dominate: tech for good and fintech.
Tech for good and fintech dominate
The UK has firmly established itself as Europe’s fintech capital. In 2019, around £2.3bn was raised by British fintechs in the first half of the year; between 2017 and 2019 the UK received 30% of all fintech venture capital funding raised in Europe.
The huge success of the likes of Checkout.com, Monzo, OakNorth, Revolut and Starling (all members of Tech Nation’s Future Fifty programme) has inspired a new generation of fintech founders.
Many are looking beyond digital banks and payments solutions. ClearGlass, one of the companies shortlisted by the Rising Stars judges, is helping pension funds figure out where to invest. Shopper.com, another shortlisted startup, automatically applies voucher coders to online shopping baskets, while Moneyshake is looking to disrupt the car lease price comparison industry.
But there’s another area founders are paying close attention to: tech for good. While it’s harder to define what makes a business fall into the category of “tech for good”, many of the shortlisted startups have designed products and services which have direct impact on the wellbeing of people and planet. There’s Tootoot, a safeguarding app for students, which helps them confidentially report incidences of bullying or mental unwellness, and enables teachers to monitor vulnerable students. Culture Shift offers a similar service for adults, and can be used to report harassment at companies and universities.
The semi finalists
The shortlisted companies recently participated in the Rising Stars semi-final in Manchester, after a two-day training bootcamp. They pitched to a panel of industry experts, including judges from competition sponsors BDO Drive, Microsoft, Talent Works International, TLT LLP and Soldo, as well as venture capital investor Jess Jackson and GP Bullhound investment manager Ed Prior.
At the grand final in London on 12 February, just 10 companies will be crowned Rising Stars.
It’s proving to be a crown plenty of startups want to win: applications for the competition saw a 40% rise this year. It’s also attracting a diverse group of founders: 37% of this year’s applicants have at least one female founder, while the number of female founders reaching the semi finals has risen from 12% last year to 21% this year.
Which of the shortlisted startups would make your top 10?
East of England
- Digital staffing platform Pickr (Norwich) @pickrworks
- Industrial automation software Conundrum (Cambridge) @conundrumai
- Internet of Things (IoT) device security management solution Foundries.io (Cambridge) @FoundriesIO
Highly Commended in East of England: Robok, InsurTechnix
- Connecting asset managers and pension funds ClearGlass (London) @ClearglassL
- Coding school for African tech talent CoGrammar (London) @hypdev
- Personal data monetisation service Gener8 (London) @Gener8Ads
Highly Commended in London: Proportunity, OnCare, TaxScouts
- Quality assurance platform Fluence World (Birmingham) @FluenceWorld
- Voucher code tool Shopper.com (Birmingham) @shopperdotcom
- Employee performance management platform StaffCircle (Leicester) @staffcircle
Highly Commended in the Midlands: Kinnami, iScout, CarerDirect
- Compliance support for financial advisors Apricity Compliance (Darlington) @ApricityComply
- Marketing analytics platform Marketing Engine (Newcastle) @MEngineTweets
- Personal data management platform Fair Custodian (Newcastle) @FairCustodianUK
Highly Commended in the North East: Veritent, WotJob
- Harassment reporting platform Culture Shift (Manchester) @reportsupport_
- Safeguarding app tootoot (Manchester) @tootootofficial
- Utilities switching platform UrbanChain (Altrincham) @UrbanChain_
Highly Commended in the North West: Dr Fertility, VoiceIQ, Immersify Education
- Connected insurance product Bluesona (Belfast) @_bluesona
- E-commerce shopper analytics Péarlaí (Newry) @PéarlaíLtd
- Sports facility booking platform Pitchbooking (Belfast) @pitchbooking
Highly Commended in Northern Ireland: Gofyt, Obbi Solutions, Oroson
- On-demand drinks service Drinkly (Edinburgh) @WeAreDrinkly
- Digital health startup Talking Medicines (Glasgow) @TMedicines
- Platform to help improve customer service for people with disabilities Neatebox (Edinburgh) @neatebox
Highly Commended in Scotland: Frog Systems, Good-Loop, My Customer Lens
- Data platform IMGeospatial (Slough) @IMGeospatial
- Home care platform Seakr (Slough) @seakrcarer
- Stock management software Sparkbox (Southampton) Linkedin: Sparkbox.co
Highly Commended in the South East: Personal Data Management, Streeva, Percept Imagery
- Interactive video platform Codices Interactive (Truro) @quizkit
- Fan-based film content for brands Filmily (Totnes) @FilmilyApp
- Cloud-based analytics platform with a sustainability twist Value Xd (Exeter) @ValueXd
Highly Commended in the South West: Blockchain Ventures, Scribeless, Service Robotics
- Car-lease comparison website Moneyshake (Newport) @moneyshakeuk
- Management platform for renters Resooma (Cardiff) @ResoomahHQ
- Bots for the public sector We Build Bots (Cardiff) @webuild_bots
Highly Commended in Wales: Disberse, Simply Do Ideas, Coincover
- Smart content writing platform for businesses Branswer (Leeds) @TheBranswer
- Immersive technologies developer Cooperative Innovations (Leeds) @CoopInnovations
- Medical imaging for radiologists SeeAI (Leeds) @SeeAI_LTD
Highly Commended in Yorkshire: Checklate Media, Additive Automations, Calbot