Tech in the East

Tim Robinson, COO of TechEast, shares his monthly roundup of the biggest tech news stories from East Anglia.

February may be the shortest month, but it’s been jam-packed full of exciting funding developments and tech news for the East of England.

Norwich leads Tech Nation Survey response

First of all, we’re pleased to share that Norwich provided the most responses for the recent Tech Nation Survey.

Organised by Tech City UK, the Tech Nation Survey is a national questionnaire that forms the basis of the annual Tech Nation Report. The report covers twenty regional ‘tech clusters’, including London, and is the “most comprehensive analysis of the UK Digital Tech Ecosystem”.

Here are the top five regions of the UK, by number of survey responses:

  1. Norwich – 364
  2. London – 238
  3. Leeds – 139
  4. Belfast – 139
  5. Redruth & Truro – 116

Considering their comparative sizes, we’re particularly pleased Norwich managed to achieve more survey responses than London. According to last year’s Tech Nation Report, there were over 300,000 tech jobs in capital while the total population of Norwich is just over 213,000.

According to Tech City UK, this year’s survey also saw responses from regions that had not previously taken part, including the Isle of Wight, Canterbury and Bangor & Holyhead.

The Tech Nation Report serves as a ‘barometer’ for the health and growth of the UK’s regional tech clusters, so it’s great to see more towns featured. It’s also heartening Norwich leading the charge, with the support of the local tech community behind it. We look forward to reading the full report when it’s published in May.

Funding news

A lack of access to funding has been cited by the past few Tech Nation Reports as one of the biggest difficulties faced by tech businesses in East Anglia. While this is a challenge still being negotiated, we were thrilled to see a number of great funding stories emerge from our region this February.

Newmarket-based Spark raises £50k

Electronic Vehicle firm, Spark, has just received £50k from Anglia Capital Group Investors to expand its business.

Spark aims to overcome obstacles hindering the adoption of electric vehicles by fleet managers. The biggest concern among fleet users of electric vehicles is whether they’ll be able to complete their journey without their car running out of charge.

Spark’s technology analyses live driver, vehicle and other data sources, such as the weather and congestion, using its advanced algorithms to increase the accuracy of journey predictions and reassure drivers. The system uses data provided by the University of Essex, as well as Spark’s own research.

Spark will use the funding to expand into international markets. The firm has already received particularly strong interest from environmentally conscious Scandinavia.

Justin Ott, chief executive of Spark, said: “Since we launched Spark EV last year we’ve seen increasing interest from fleet operators looking to move to electric vehicles, but who have been previously worried about efficiency and range anxiety.

“This new investment from New Anglia Capital, on top of money from the Low Carbon Innovation Fund, will help us meet this growing demand and target an estimated half a billion pound market with our AI-powered EV prediction solution.”

Spark was founded in 2007 with £2m funding from the New Anglia LEP. The firm was previously based in Cambridge, but relocated to Newmarket, Suffolk this year.

Norwich EdTech gets over £30k from Angels

Anglia Capital Group has made a second sizeable investment in the region this month, awarding £335k funding to Developing Experts, an EdTech startup from Norwich.

Founded 27 months ago, Developing Experts is an online platform to help teachers improve their knowledge in specialist science subjects. The platform provides a library of content including quizzes, handouts and lesson plans that can be used by teachers working in reception to Key Stage 3.

Developing Experts will use the funding to secure significant contracts for the provision of their platform with schools and organisations in India, Nigeria, China, and Saudi Arabia.

Sarah Mintey, Founder and CEO of Developing Experts, said: “I am delighted with the support and guidance Anglia Capital Group investors are giving. My investors have provided not only the finances needed to help accelerate the growth of the company but also the support, challenge and wisdom years of running successful companies have afforded them. The investment injected into the company provided the cash needed at a critical growth period for the company.”

Norwich FinTech startup closes £300k crowdfund

Mobile payments tech firm, Thyngs, has reached its £300k crowdfunding target via CrowdCube.

The Thyngs technology allows any physical object to become interactive by applying a sticker. It can also be used to deliver marketing information, or create a frictionless point-of-sale or donation opportunity.

The firm was founded by Neil Garner, previously chief executive of location marketing platform, Proxama.

Thyngs’ crowdfunding total includes contributions from founder of salad chain Tossed, Vincent McKevitt, and the company’s financial director Neil Sebba. Tossed was the first hospitality business in Europe to go completely cashless. Chris Gare, former managing director of Microsoft in Europe, also contributed to Thyngs’ crowdfunding round.

Thyngs will use its £384,870 in Seed funding to expand and grow, capitalising on its existing relationships with the likes of Apple, PayPal, Stripe and Worldpay. Thyngs has already sold over 250,000 units, and worked on major non-profit projects, including a partnership with the Royal British Legion.

Neil Garner, founder and CEO of Thyngs, said: “The funds raised will enable us to accelerate our growth and take advantage of the massive opportunity in the global market for mobile proximity payments. The Thyngs platform works for small and large businesses alike, giving them the ability to implement cashless payment options, without needing an app. And for consumers, it means a streamlined, friction-free transaction experience. We are proud to be playing such an important role in spearheading the cashless revolution here in the UK.”

$6.6m for Cambridge-based GeoSpock

Data integration platform, GeoSpock, has achieved an additional $6.6m in Series A funding. This brings its total raised to date up to $13.2m.

GeoSpock is a cloud-based database platform for organising big data. It also provides analytics, builds insight, and enables predictions. GeoSpock aims to become the processing engine at the heart of next-generation infrastructure, including smart cities, IOT, and driverless vehicles.

The platform is used by customers in the mobility, smart city, ad tech, financial services, telematics, and telco sectors, who benefit from interactive analytics at scale.

The funding round was lead by Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC) with existing investors Parkwalk Advisors and Sir Michael Marshall. Japanese strategic investors Global Brain and 31 Ventures also participated.

Richard Baker, CEO of GeoSpock, said: “The investment underpins GeoSpock’s significant growth projections, with a focus on developing and growing its commercial and engineering teams in the UK, Europe, Japan, and the US. We are privileged to have such a strong portfolio of investors with us on this stage of the journey.”