According to a recent report by London Tech Week and UK Tech Cluster Group, the North West of England has been revealed as the perfect breeding ground for tech startups, scale-ups and unicorns. The region is already home to six (43 per cent) of the UK’s 14 digital unicorns.
“The UK is home to 35 per cent of Europe’s unicorns and, over the last four years, has created more unicorns than Germany, France, Sweden and the Netherlands. The North West has a long history of pioneering technologies, from being at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, to its key role in the early days of computing. And in the 21st century, the region is forging new paths, with a focus on modern specialities – HealthTech, e-commerce and FinTech, says London Tech Week Festival Director Suzy Pallett.
At the other end of the scale, the region (which incorporates Manchester and Liverpool, the UK’s second and seventh largest cities) is home to a thriving tech startup community and is successfully nurturing fledgeling businesses to scale.
Further, the North West boasts excellent connections by rail and road to the rest of the UK, and by air to the rest of the world. In times of normal travel, Manchester Airport ranks among one of Europe’s busiest air hubs. We take a look at the flagbearers of the region and also up and coming ones.
THG (The Hut Group)
Founder/s: Matthew Moulding, John Gallemore
Founded year: 2004
Manchester-based THG (The Hut Group) is a vertically integrated digital-first consumer brands group. It retails its own offerings in beauty and nutrition, as well as third-party brands, via its proprietary technology platform to an online and global customer base. The company turned successful in 2020, and this was reflected when it went public with the IPO filing, which took its valuation to over £4.5B. The Hut Group IPO is the biggest IPO of a British company ever since the government floated shares of Royal Mail in 2013.
Before that, THG raised nearly £1B funding in late 2019 to invest in its properties, including developing a new headquarters of one million square feet near the Manchester airport.
“THG is proud to be a North West business. We are committed to contributing to the region’s economic success as a major tech hub, and will do this through major direct investment into local operations, and by investing in local people” Matthew Moulding, Founder, Chairman and CEO, THG.
The Very Group
Founder/s: David Barclay, Frederick Barclay
Founded year: 2015
Liverpool-based The Very Group is one of the largest integrated online retailers and financial services providers in the UK that operates Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com. This group reportedly generates annual revenue of £2B with 1.9 million daily visitors to the website and 4.5 million active customers. The company intends to make things easily accessible to more people. The Very Group works with the ambition to build the number one shopping destination for shoppers who value credit anywhere online.
“Our heritage is in Liverpool and we remain totally committed to the city, from where we’ve built the capability to deliver an outstanding online experience for our customers. The wider North West has a thriving tech and digital landscape. We love it here.” Carly O’Brien, Chief Marketing Officer, The Very Group.
Founder/s: Ali Moiyed
AccessPay provides a secure digital connection to over 16,000 banks and payment schemes worldwide. The platform is used by thousands of companies, banks and other fintechs to automate their payments, collections, and treasury processes. This frees up finance functions to perform other tasks. AccessPay has raised over £15m, and is backed by several leading US and UK venture capital investors.
“The North West is a hive of tech innovation and we are proud to belong to this regional ecosystem. Our very existence shows future talent that you don’t need to move to London to forge a successful career in fintech. It’s possible right here.” Anish Kapoor, CEO, AccessPay.
Founder/s: Richard Potter, David Leitch, Atul Sharma
Peak enables the world’s smartest enterprise companies to put the power of AI at the centre of all commercial decision making. The Peak AI System is helping the likes of AO, ASOS and PepsiCo unlock the value of their data. The company has raised around £18.5 million in investment to date and was named in The Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work For 2020.
“We wanted to be positioned at the heart of a fast-moving, ever-changing city on the rise, and Manchester is a melting pot of culture, innovation and technology. Engaging with the Northern tech scene has been a true catalyst of our success.” Richard Potter, CEO.
Founder/s: Carol Kane, Mahmud Kamani
Founded year: 2006
Leading the fashion e-commerce market giant Boohoo was founded in Manchester in 2006. For over 10 years, Boohoo has been pushing boundaries to bring its customers up-to-date and inspirational fashion, 24/7. In early 2017, the group extended its customer offering through the acquisitions of the vibrant fashion brand PrettyLittleThing, and free-thinking brand Nasty Gal.
Recently, Boohoo also acquired British department store group Debenhams, and also Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton for £25m recently.
Founder/s: Joe Perkins
Founded year: 1992
Billed as ‘Glassdoor for VCs,’ Landscape is turning the tables on the traditional startup/investor power dynamic by letting founders review venture capitalists and accelerators. In its first few months, it has attracted more than 1,000 reviews. More than 150 investors from across the UK, Europe, and the US have signed up as verified partners. Reflecting just how much as service like this is needed, Landscape regularly attracts media attention.
“I moved to Manchester in 2017 to take part in a startup accelerator, and have called it home ever since. The startup ecosystem in Manchester is going from strength to strength, and I’m proud to be building Landscape here.” Joe Perkins, Founder.
Founder/s: Michael Brennan
Founded year: 2013
Manchester-based Tootoot began as an app that gives school students a discrete, confidential way of reporting issues such as bullying and abuse. It has been adapted for use by sports clubs, and lets employers tap into staff concerns. The goal is to provide students with a safe and anonymous environment to report and resolve their concerns. The company claims to have made a big impact in a short time and continue to grow rapidly.
“We based our business in the North West because of the investment we could raise here, and it has been a great home for us ever since. We’re able to attract not just incredible tech talent, but the right marketing and business professionals too.” Michael Brennan, CEO.
Founder/s: Lee Omar
Founded year: 2018
Based on NICE guidelines, Safe Steps allows care homes to proactively implement a review process whereby vulnerable residents can be identified, receive appropriate care and thus reduce their risk of falling. During the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the company’s real-time dashboard enabled more proactive and responsive care for the most vulnerable community. As per Safe Steps, its tracker was used over 100,000 times to track COVID-19 symptoms in care home residents across Machester.
A spin-out from R&D company Red Ninja, Safe Steps began by developing software to assist care homes with their responses to fall-related injuries. Amid the pandemic in 2020, the company developed a pioneering app that tracks Covid-19 outbreaks among care home residents and coordinates their treatment with health professionals. By late 2020, Safe Steps was on track to serve more than 1,000 care homes
“The North West is a great place to build a tech company as the start-up and running costs are low, the culture is supportive and the startup scene is collaborative.” Lee Omar, Founder.
Founder/s: Nicholas Sherratt, Richard Hayes
Bringing the simplicity of online services to the often complex process of financing the purchase of a home, Mojo Mortgages says it’s “on a mission to force everyone in the mortgage industry to up their game.” The company offers customers a selection of mortgage deals based on their circumstances, then handles the application process. The company won Best Mortgage Broker at the 2019 British Bank Awards.
“The North West is a brilliant place to operate a tech business. It’s a hive of business activity and experiencing huge growth. There has been significant investment into the region, revitalising the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and mobilising the inventive talent available.” Richard Hayes, CEO.
Founder/s: Eren Ozagir, Matt Elcock
Push Doctor is a leading name in the rapid adoption of digital services by healthcare providers and the public. Its service connects thousands of UK patients each week with NHS-trained, GMC-registered doctors, online and via smartphone. Push Doctor partners with the NHS across the UK to serve its 5.4 million patients, and is rated ‘Good’ by the Care Quality Commission.
“We’ve had a fantastic experience as a tech startup in the North West. Manchester has access to some of the best talents in the world and innovation is in its DNA. The city’s vibrant culture also gives it an edge over other business hotspots.” Wais Shaifta, Chief Executive.