As we are coming close to the end of this strange year of 2020 – fighting the odds of once-in-a-lifetime disruption of the coronavirus crisis – the global tech industry has realised that a rapid, smart response to any exogenous shock due to the pandemic has been the key for most of the innovative startups to sail through these rocky waves.
While the crisis has hit small businesses hard, still a lot of them have continued to perform in the UK tech scene. Looking at the month of November itself, London-based recipe box firm Gousto added unicorn’s coveted status to its menu. Not to forget, Hopin sealed a whopping £94.3M funding deal to become a double unicorn, just 8 months after launch. At the same time, London VC Seedcamp raised £78M as fifth fund to boost next-gen tech startups in Europe.
Amid those who grabbed the front-page headlines, there were lots of other tech firms whose achievements, big or small, can’t be sidelined as what they achieved during this ongoing world crisis is phenomenal. So today at UKTN, we take a look at some of the biggest announcements made in November 2020 which simply deserve your attention. Let’s head on!
£800k SBRI grant to support autistic people
Brain in Hand, a healthcare company based in Exeter won £800K government grant to develop its revolutionary autism support services. The SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) Healthcare award is funded by NHS England and NHS Improvement.
Established in 2009 by Andrew Stamp and Tony Brown, Brain in Hand intends to transform the way autistic people are taken care of via its digital support system. The company lets people solve problems and face challenges strategically via their mobile phone. The second phase of funding will help in increasing the access to its self-directed support services. It has been revealed that the SBRI award will partly be used to test the product with 100 autistic adults.
Dr Louise Morpeth, CEO of Brain in Hand, says: “We are over the moon to be SBRI grantees and to have the opportunity to demonstrate the value of our system for autistic people. We are grateful to our partners for joining us on this exciting project, and especially pleased to be waving the flag for the south west! The pandemic has shown that it is time to embrace the potential of technology to support those who are so often excluded or overlooked. We look forward to seeing digital health solutions take their proper place in the continuum of care.”
E-scooter rentals trial on London streets
In an attempt to promote safety standards and have a better understanding of the impact of e-scooters on the roads of London, Transport for London (TfL) and London Councils have launched a competition to select three operators for a 12-month e-scooter rental trial. This competition will debut in spring 2021. As per the guidance issued by the Department of Transport, local authorities in the UK can trial e-scooter rentals.
Notably, the trials let people use greener modes of transport that do not increase congestion and regrade the air quality. The e-scooter rental trials will be coordinated by TfL, London Councils and the boroughs in London to promote safety and consistent standards. Already, a third of London’s boroughs have expressed that they are interested in joining the trial and more are expected to join later.
Mayor Philip Glanville, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said: “We are going ahead with this year-long trial to explore whether rented e-scooters could be a positive addition to London’s transport network, complementing walking, cycling and public transport and supporting our city-wide response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Running the trial safely is vital and operator performance will be regularly reviewed. All companies applying to join the trial will need to demonstrate they have plans in place to keep our streets clear and protect riders, pedestrians and other road users – including more vulnerable Londoners. We will also be looking for operators that understand London’s unique and diverse local communities and infrastructure, and can work with London Councils, TfL and individual boroughs.”
Revolut Android users can pay via Google Pay in these countries
London-based Revolut, a financial superapp launched Google Pay for its customers in 10 new European markets – Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal and Romania. By being the first financial services company that provides Google Pay within its mobile app, Revolut takes a step forward in letting people use their money the way they want.
With the launch of this service, Revolut users with Android phones can set up Google Pay within the app’s Cards section and add their Visa or MasterCard card to it so that they can spend instantly by just tapping on it before they get the physical card. With Google Pay, Revolut’s customers with Android devices can make fast and simple payments online, in-app, in-store and more. It is a safe and secure service that is protected by an advanced security infrastructure.
James Carpenter, Product Owner for Card Payments at Revolut said: “Our 13 million global customers are fast moving away from cash in the majority of the markets we operate in, and this has accelerated since the start of the year, so launching Google Pay in these 10 new markets is a very positive step forward in enabling our customers to safely use their money in the way that they want to. Our ultimate goal is to build the world’s first truly global financial superapp, and giving our customers tools such as Google Pay in order to make payments quickly, conveniently and securely is vital to achieving this.”
Revolut was founded in 2015 by Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenkov to enable exchange of money without any hidden fees and buy crypto, gold and manage your money with spending analytics.
Fintech using AI debuts international expansion with Ireland
London-based fintech, Plum is a money management app with the intention to expand into many European markets by the end of this year. It has debuted its international expansion plans by launching its service in Ireland. Besides launching in Ireland, Plum notes that it intends to reach five million customers by the end of 2021. Also, the company is in plans to launch in France and Spain in the coming months.
Plum makes use of Artificial Intelligence to learn about the spending habits of users. The fintech company has launched a premium service that offers enhanced cashback and reward features along with collaboration with Button, a New York-based fintech.
Victor Trokoudes, co-founder and CEO of Plum, said: “The people of Ireland already know how important it is to save. But they face the same problems we all do across Europe — a rapidly changing financial landscape with an increased need for long-term financial resilience.”
Madrid-based insurtech raises £4.5M Series A funding
Madrid-based insurtech startup Bdeo bagged €5M (nearly £4.5M) Series A funding in a round led by BlackFin along with existing investors K Fund and Big Sur Ventures. The fresh investment will be used to consolidate its position in the existing markets – Spain and Latin America. Also, this funding is a part of its plan to become a leader in visual intelligence in the insurtech industry by 2022.
Founded by Manuel Moreno and Julio Pernía Aznar, Bdeo leverages Artificial Intelligence to digitise the interaction between policyholders and insurance companies. It offers a comprehensive solution, which spans from automatic policy subscription to the digitalisation of claims management and much more.
Julio Pernía, CEO and co-founder of Bdeo, explained: “Our technology reduces the operational costs of insurers by up to 70% while radically improving the experience of policyholders, increasing their NPS by 20 points on average. As a result, in just three years, we have begun working with 30 insurance companies in 19 countries on three different continents.
‘Fintech for good’ bags £1.75M funding
Yorkshire-based ‘fintech for good’ company, incuto has bagged £1.75M funding in a round led by NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF); the government’s Future Fund; Ascension Ventures’ Fair By Design Fund; and the North East Innovation Fund backed by the European Regional Development Fund managed by Northstar Ventures.
incuto will use the fresh investment to rollout its platform to more UK credit unions and overseas expansion. Founded by Andrew Rabbitt in 2016, incuto is a socially profitable fintech company. It develops financial technology aimed at helping everyone access high quality and low-cost financial services.
Andrew Rabbitt said: “We’ve been extremely busy supporting our credit union partners during Covid-19. The lockdown not only escalated the need for credit unions to offer their members digital access, but also to communicate with them more regularly and effectively, something our technology also enables them to do. Credit unions have been at the forefront of supporting financially excluded and often vulnerable individuals and families over recent months, so we are delighted to offer them technology which not only better supports existing members in a digital world, but also enables them to promote their message of ethical, supportive banking to a wider audience.”
New London startup raises £28.8M Series A funding
A new London-based startup Harbr raised $38.5M (nearly £28.8M) Series A funding in just six months of emerging from stealth mode. The round was led by new investors Dawn Capital and Tiger Global Management along with existing investors including Mike Chalfen, Crane Venture Partners, Boldstart Ventures, Backed and Seedcamp along with Daniel Dines and Brandon Deer (UiPath’s founder and CEO and head of strategy).
Established in 2017 by Anthony Cosgrove and Gary Butler, Harbr’s enterprise data exchange empowers organisations to unlock more value from their data and to accelerate data-driven business models via its secure, custom-branded data sharing and collaboration platform. Harbr delivers the simplicity that users need and gives them the control they need to generate new insights and extract value from data.
“Despite significant investments in data-focused technologies and teams over the last decade, most enterprises are still unable to deliver targeted outcomes from data in a timely and scalable manner. The secure data sharing and collaboration capabilities of Harbr’s enterprise data exchange platform fast-track those outcomes,” said Gary Butler, CEO and co-founder, Harbr.
Mintos launches first-ever crowdfunding campaign
Mintos, a leading European alternative investment platform for investing in loans has launched its first-ever crowdfunding campaign. This round will debut this month through Crowdcube, an equity-based crowdfunding platform. This campaign is a part of a larger fundraising round that is planned with venture capital firms. While it reached its crowdfunding target of €1M (nearly £0.9M) in just 15 minutes after opening to its community, the company has raised a record amount of €5.3M (nearly £4.7M) in the first 24 hours and it is still counting.
Mintos was founded by Martins Sulte and Martins Valters in 2014 has bagged €7M (nearly £6.2M) from angel investors to date. Also, the company is approaching another milestone by becoming a fully regulated marketplace.
“Demand for alternative investments has grown, since the interest rates on deposits have been persistently low and equity markets have become crowded—leaving retail investors with very few good options,” said Martins Sulte, CEO and Co-Founder at Mintos. “In the past, when retail investors did look at alternative investments, they often found that these came with high minimum investments and high fees that kept them out of the mass market. Current demand is for modern solutions that are both accessible and not correlated with traditional assets. Mintos goal is to offer loans as a new alternative investment type, fitting retail investor needs.”
Mental health app secures £50K
New mental health startup, Superpow secured £50K investment that will be channeled towards the app’s development. The startup raised 120% of its target of £50K on Crowdcube from more than 280 investors. Besides its development, the fund will be used to enter the market as well as accelerate growth. This app will be launched in the UK by the end of 2020 to remove factors that prevent people from accessing mental health support.
Founded by Gabriel Birgaoanu and Andrei Stoica, Superpow aims to minimise barriers to accessing quality therapy by pairing users with therapists from a similar cultural background. In addition to this, the mental health app offers complete flexibility with payments. Users can pay for a set number of sessions as many therapists do. So, users have to liberty to have as many sessions as they need.
Andrei, who is originally from Romania, explained: “When I was experiencing mental health issues in the past I tried a number of different therapists, but it never felt right. Yet once I found a like-minded Romanian therapist everything changed. I no longer had to give short cultural lessons about Romania or search for the English word which bests describes a feeling. The experience was life changing for me. We are lifting up the barriers we personally had to face in the past so others do not have to come across the same obstacles when seeking mental health support, no matter what their background is.”
Digital bookkeeping and cash flow management for SMEs
KashFlow by IRIS Software Group has announced that it is working with Yapily, a leading enterprise connectivity platform. As a result of this partnership, KashFlow customers will gain real-time insight into their cash flow and experience a smooth end-to-end bookkeeping service. The partnership lets KashFlow users connect and extract account information from the portal. The integration of Yapily’s open banking API lets KashFlow improve its SME customers’ experience by speeding up the critical processes including invoicing, payroll and reconciliation.
JF Sullivan, Chief Product Officer for IRIS Software Group said, “By partnering with Yapily, our customers now have a far more efficient and secure way to manage their cash flow – which is of utmost importance in this current landscape of uncertainty. Yapily’s core infrastructure means KashFlow customers can now control their controllables with ease. Getting a single source of truth about their financial health so they know best how to prepare for what’s ahead. They can now move forward with confidence – and thrive – in the next normal.”
Stefano Vaccino, Chief Executive Officer for Yapily said, “Through partnering with KashFlow, we’re continuing our mission to expand the reach of open banking and bring its benefits to all small businesses. We believe open banking enables fairer and better financial services for everyone. We look forward to developing our partnership with KashFlow and IRIS Software Group to fuel greater financial accessibility for their customers.”
Photonics & quantum tech firm secures £32.5M funding
M Squared, a UK-based photonics and quantum technology companyy has bagged €36.4M
(nearly £32.5M) funding led by Santander UK, a British bank and Scottish National Investment Bank. The investment will be used to support its growth and technology developments. Spliting this investment, Santander UK will provide £20M debt facility and Scottish National Investment Bank will pump in £12.5M growth capital.
Speaking on the development, Dr Graeme Malcolm, founder & CEO of M Squared said: “Our commercial and technological potential is enormous, and with this transaction, we have the ideal financial and structural platform to progress and realise substantial growth and launch major new developments. We are delighted to now be working with both Santander UK and the Scottish National Investment Bank, alongside continued support from BGF, on funding a shared goal to innovate and scale.”
M Squared was established in 2006 by Dr Graeme Malcolm OBE and Dr Gareth Maker. It designs and manufactures advanced photonics tools that are used in science, industry, and education. It has enabled breakthroughs in quantum technology, biophotonics, and chemical sensing and finds use in aerospace, oil and gas, defense, healthcare and more.
Open banking services for the Quantum Workforce
Quantum Employment Design (QED) leader My Digital has announced that it has collaborated with Ecospend Technologies Ltd. This new digital service is claimed to bring about a digital innovation that is needed in the accounting services for the Quantum Workforce in the changing labour markets during the pandemic crisis.
In collaboration with Ecospend’s open banking technology, My Digital will provide cutting-edge accounting as well as payroll services to the temporary labour market. It will provide enriched financial data, faster payments, and complete GDPR compliance.
“We are very pleased to be helping My Digital bring authenticated account information rapidly and efficiently to its clients using our Open Banking infrastructure,” said Metin Erkman, founder and CEO of Ecospend. “We see My Digital’s platform leading the way in bringing the benefits of Open Banking to the business community,” Erkman added.
John Whelan, CEO of My Digital concluded, “Open Banking is a transformational change for businesses, and we are delighted to have partnered with Ecospend to deliver this banking service for those supporting the Quantum Workforce. Our aim is to accelerate the evolution of QED to match the needs of a growing sector which is increasingly digitally savvy. Our partnership with Ecospend means we are now moving into a higher gear and able to deliver on the expectations for digital banking.”
Do you think we missed some other important announcements? Then write to us on [email protected].