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May 2023

Startups and scaleups to watch

Aceleron Energy
Complygate
Upp
CyberQ Group
Graide
Grid Edge
Hausbots
Modo Energy
Petalite
Reelyze
Sitenna
Skyfarer

Company spotlights

Energym

Energym has created an exercise bike that generates power during workouts and stores the electrical energy in a removable battery pack. The Birmingham-based startup aims to create banks of these bikes spread across multiple locations, such as gyms, offices, and commercial environments. During an average workout, one bike can generate enough energy to charge an iPhone 12 times, the startup says.

Will Flint, founder of Energym, drew inspiration for the company from his own life experiences. Flint was stabbed whilst coming to the aid of a woman who was being attacked. His subsequent reflection in hospital led him to a new focus: climate tech.

Flint drew up the concept designs for the first bike on a flight back to the UK after travelling, where he saw first-hand the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. Energym’s technology claims to achieve above 85% efficiency in turning human power into stored electrical energy. The company has been recognised for its innovation, winning Birmingham Tech Week’s Startup of the Year award in 2020.

Flint founded Energym in 2017 and it has grown to a team of 20. It has raised a seed round of £450,000 from three angel investors. Flint points to the West Midlands universities as a key strength for the region.

Energym

Onto

Onto is a Warwick-headquartered electric vehicle subscription company and has over 140 people in its team. The company’s electric vehicle subscription service includes the car, insurance, breakdown cover, servicing, 750 miles a month and public charging, with no deposit.

In January, Onto secured £100m in credit from the investment group CDPQ and asset manager Pollen Street to support its European expansion plans. However, its European plans are currently on pause and it’s focusing on strengthening its UK position.

“We have currently paused our expansion into Europe while we solidify our position in the UK market, as in the current macroeconomic climate it’s vital that we focus on sustainable growth and profitability,” the company says.

To date, Onto has raised £340m across equity and debt funding, including a £50m Series C funding round led by financial services group Legal & General last July. Last year the firm reported a 300% growth in its revenue.

It was founded in 2018 by co-founders Rob Jolly and Dannan O’Meachair. Jolly previously worked for automotive manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, while O’Meachair has a background in project management.

Onto

CrowdProperty

CrowdProperty is a platform that’s increasing access to funding for small to medium-sized housing developers. Founded in 2013, the Birmingham-based company describes its ethos as “property finance by property people”. Its platform facilitates peer-to-peer lending to support the development of new properties.

CrowdProperty opens up investment into property development schemes beyond the largest firms. The company says it has supported the development of more than 3,000 homes to date. Michael Bristow, Andrew Hall and Simon Zutshi founded CrowdProperty after experiencing funding challenges first-hand to build new homes.

The trio of SME property developers set out to solve this with a tech-driven platform to speed up the process of sourcing financing for property projects. CrowdProperty and its team of more than 50 staff have since raised over £20m, the majority of which came in the past two years. The most recent funding came from British Business Investments, the commercial subsidiary of the British Business Bank, which invested £15m into the company in April 2023.

The investor was keen to support the company’s goal of giving smaller housing developers outside of London funding access. CrowdProperty also ran a successful Seedrs campaign in which it secured £481,000.

Bristow, who is serving as chief executive of CrowdProperty, said that Birmingham is an ideal place to operate his business. He said that in Birmingham, costs are “significantly lower than a traditional financial services hub, such as London”. 

CrowdProperty

Clarilis

Law firms are always in need of tools to improve operational efficiency, and the document-heavy industry’s demands presented an opportunity for legal tech company Clarilis. Based in Leamington Spa, Clarilis is using automation to quickly and effectively draft documents for law firms and corporate legal teams.

Founded in 2011 by former solicitor James Quinn and his brother and technical developer Kevin, Clarilis was inspired by first-hand experience with corporate tax law. The company claims its intelligent drafting platform liberates legal teams from the tedious routine of document drafting, allowing them to put their attention towards more important tasks.

Commercial leases and ancillaries can be drafted in minutes, the company says, and more complex documents with several additional parties can be created in under two hours. The platform was first launched in 2015 and, since then, Clarilis has secured £9.1m in funding, with the most recent coming in a £6m Series B round from Mercia Asset Management, a private equity firm that specifically targets regional businesses, and Gresham House Ventures. The company team has also grown to around 70 staff.

Charlis

Nourish3d

Birmingham-based Nourish3d creates personalised nutrient gummies. Customers complete an online questionnaire about their lifestyle and goals, and then Nourish3d uses 3D printing technology to create bespoke gummy vitamins in-house and on demand. Melissa Snover founded Nourish3d in 2019 after dropping a bag of pills and supplements at airport security and thought there must be a more convenient way to take vitamins.

The company is backed by more than £15m in funding and sells its tailor-made gummies via online subscription. The company’s most recent raise came in November 2022, when it secured £5m, with financial backing coming from parent company Rem3dy Health. Nourish3d is active in the UK and US markets and sees Asia as a key target for expansion.

Its revenues increased more than six-fold over covid and the company has also expanded into the children’s vitamins market. Snover, who is the company’s CEO, says that Nourish3d has “benefited from the skills and expertise of recruits from three local universities who focused their studies on additive manufacturing”.

She also points to the city’s “reasonable rent for office space and production units, as well as the direct transport links to the rest of the UK” as strengths for the West Midlands tech ecosystem. “Finally, the thriving hub of innovation, local authority support and collaboration between independent businesses which we have found throughout the community in Birmingham has been invaluable to our growth,” Snover adds.

Investor Focus

Key Sectors
Accelerators & Incubators
Support services & providers
Investors
Tech meetups & groups
College & universities

Digital skills bootcamps:
How the West Midlands is leading the way

The digital skills gap is a perennial problem holding back UK tech innovation. Free, flexible bootcamps that teach skills such as coding and data analytics are one way to address this issue – and it’s an area where the West Midlands is leading the way.

The West Midlands was one of just two regions, alongside Greater Manchester, to initially trial the digital skills bootcamps. Since 2019, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), a group of 18 local councils and three local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), has been overseeing the delivery of the bootcamps.

Last year alone, those bootcamps supported over 2,000 adults in the West Midlands who were unemployed or looking to upskill to get a better-paid job, with around half of the participants coming from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The success of digital skills bootcamps in the West Midlands has led to other regions following suit. Over the past 24 months, the government has rolled out the initiative to more regions including Liverpool, Lancashire, Derbyshire, West Yorkshire, Devon and Nottinghamshire.

Key Sectors
Coventry
Key Sectors
Creating pathways