The Silicon Gorge tech cluster in the UK comprises Bristol, Gloucester, Swindon and Bath. Of late, this region is burgeoning into an active tech hub with several innovative companies. Of these, Bristol itself is a strong and robust fintech landscape alongside other industries including biotech, robotics, VR, digital and deep tech showing progress.
Notably, Bristol is one of the most popular cities in the UK for tech startups trailing behind London, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Manchester. So, what makes the city a haven for tech entrepreneurs?
The first reason is that Bristol is home to two research universities – The University of Bristol and the University of the West of England. Adding to these, the city of Bristol is home to incubation programmes and university spinouts.
The other reason is an impressive influx of capital. While the city might not boast the largest number of deals in the UK, it does make a good investment as compared to some regions. Bristol was popular among tech investors last year with the local businesses having received an impressive $414 million in 2020.
With the COVID-19 crisis being a catalyst in shifting the tech talent away from London, regions such as Bristol are getting a greater focus. Especially after producing some great tech companies like Graphcore, Immersive Labs and more. Having said that, here we list the promising Bristol startups worth watching in 2021.
Founder/s: Joel Gibbard, Samantha Payne
Founded year: 2014
A robotics company, Open Bionics, headquartered in Bristol designs a low-cost robotic prosthetic hand using 3D printing. This robotic hand called ‘Hello Arm’ senses muscle contractions and expansions, understands muscle movements’ variations and performs the task much like a normal hand. It is a low-cost and lightweight robotic hand and can give Iron Man-style arms for amputees.
Back in 2019, the robotics startup bagged $5.9 million (nearly £4.3 million) Series A funding from investors including Foresight Williams Technology EIS Fund, joined by Ananda Impact Ventures and Downing Ventures.
Founder/s: Tom Carter
Founded year: 2013
Ultraleap is a hand-tracking haptic (touch) technology startup from Bristol working with Qualcomm, Varjo and others. Its spatial interaction technology solutions offer a haptic module enabling the integration of virtual touch and an optical hand tracking module, which can capture the movements of a user’s hands with unparalleled accuracy and near-zero latency.
Earlier this month, Image Frame Investment, a subsidiary of Chinese gaming giant Tencent, invested $50 million (nearly £35 million) into Ultraleap in the first phase of the company’s Series D round.
Founder/s: Stan Boland, Ben Peters, John Redford and Simon Walker
Founded year: 2015
For self-driving vehicles to take over the market and the roads, we need the right technology and a means to measure the safety of this technology. Bristol-based Five is working on both. Five has developed a self-driving system for mixed-use urban public roads, which became part of the UK government’s StreetWise program. Currently, the company has eight self-driving vehicles, equipped with necessary sensors and immense processing power.
Early in 2020, the startup raised a $41 million (nearly £35 million) Series B funding from Trustbridge Partners, Direct Line Group and Sistema VC. Existing investors Lakestar, Amadeus Capital Partners, Kindred Capital and Notion Capital also participated.
Founder/s: Tristan Cogan, Jenny Bailey
Founded year: 2019
Biotech startup Ferryx, has brought an innovation in the treatment of inflammatory disease. It has come up with innovative bacterial products for the treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal inflammation in both people and animals.
Founder/s: Charlie Guy, Ben Crowther, Jack Farmer
Founded year: 2015
The vertical and indoor farming technology company LettUs Grow has designed a patent-pending indoor farming system for greenhouse and vertical farms to address global food security and sustainability concerns. Early in 2020, the agritech startup secured £2.35 million in seed funding led by Longwall Venture Partners LLP.
Founder/s: Nick Sturge
Founded year: 2013
Engine Shed is an event, venue and co-working space with a difference. Led by the University of Bristol in collaboration with Bristol City Council and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, Engine Shed is a hub where businesses, entrepreneurs, academics, social innovators, and corporates collaborate. It showcases the strengths and innovations of the region by providing space, creating encounters, and running projects that inspire, enable, and challenge all.
KETS Quantum Security
Founder/s: Chris Erven, Caroline Clark, Jake Kennard, Phillip Sibson
Founded year: 2016
Of late, the quantum computing industry witnessed exponential growth. As a result, the threat of quantum attacks on our communications is approaching quickly to a point when quantum computers will be used for attacks. Bristol-based KETS Quantum Security is a quantum tech company passionate about solving real-world security issues by leveraging the advantages of quantum technologies.
In June, the company just bagged £3.1 million in funding co-led by Quantonation and Speedinvest, with participation from Mustard Seed MAZE, to bring to market hardware to protect data from a new generation of cyberattacks that will use quantum computers.
Founder/s: Toby Cubitt, Ashley Montanaro and John Morton
Founded year: 2019
UK-based quantum software startup Phasecraft demonstrates research advances that bring practical applications for near-term quantum computers closer to reality. Its £3.7m seed funding round, led by VC firm LocalGlobe with Episode1 along with previous investors was raised in 2020. Prior to that, they raised a £750,000 pre-seed round led by UCL Technology Fund with Parkwalk Advisors and London Co-investment Fund and has earned several grants facilitated by InnovateUK. Former Songkick founder and prominent angel investor Ian Hogarth have also joined as board chair for Phasecraft.
Founded in 2019 by leading quantum theorists from UCL and the University of Bristol, the startup aims to establish a robust quantum industry by developing initial practical applications for quantum computers – despite the hardware’s current limitations. It also works in partnership with leading quantum hardware companies, including Google and Rigetti, academic and industry leaders, to develop high-efficiency software that evolves quantum computing from experimental demonstrations to useful applications.
Founder/s: Iouri Prokhorov
Founded year: 2004
Bristol-based software provider Helastel specialises in software development, IT consultancy, data management solutions and IT infrastructure services for private and public sector organisations.
The software firm is passionate about driving efficiencies through utilising software intelligently, and delivering tech that provides seamless experiences for users. Previous projects include the world-first prescription-only diabetes management app Mapmyhealth, launch and support of the RNLI’s Life Saving Activity Reporting system, and creation of global ATPL academy Bristol Groundschool’s proprietary e-learning platform.
Founder/s: Sam Bates
Founded year: 2019
Amplify.link Ltd is a music tech startup incorporated in 2019, and currently, the smart linking tool has 80,000 users and counting. Sam Bates has been a passionate music fan for well over 20 years, having been involved in the industry for 16 years as a DJ, promoter, and writer. In 2015 his passion for entrepreneurship led him to found an independent digital creative agency that connected artists, creators, and brands with their audiences through innovative digital marketing and first-class creativity. Amplify.link was founded as the culmination of these passions and experiences, with the goal of using technology to democratise the marketing of creativity.