Greater Manchester’s tech sector is widely considered one of the leading tech hubs outside of London. In 2022, startups based in the region collectively raised a record £532m from investors.
Manchester has become one of the UK’s epicentres for tech unicorns, producing six companies valued at more than $1bn.
There is also a healthy flow of Manchester startups and scaleups rising through the ranks. According to Beauhurst, Manchester is home to more than 650 active high-growth companies.
From AI to fintech, here are four Manchester startups and scaleups to watch.
Simon Mellin, Tom Shaw, Becky Hilton and Paul White started Modern Milkman with a truck in Colne, Lancashire, in 2018. The delivery startup began by delivering milk, but has since expanded to include groceries such as eggs, butter, bread, fruit and vegetables. The founders were inspired by “Saint David Attenborough” to reduce the impact of plastic waste on the planet.
“We founded Modern Milkman on the basis that being sustainable should be convenient and we’re delighted to have secured the support of so many incredible businesses to further accelerate our eco-ambitions and empower the next phase in sustainable technology,” said Mellin, the company’s CEO.
Modern Milkman says it is bringing milk rounds into the 21st century through data analytics to manage customer orders from the app, track shelf-life dates and map out routes for the deliveries. Radio frequency identification inlays and tags are also used by the company to monitor the life of the glass bottles.
According to the startup, it has saved more than 55 million plastic bottles. Praetura Ventures invested £2.25m into the plastic-free delivery company in July 2022, which was part of a wider £50m Series C funding round announced later in November for its global expansion. The Series C saw participation from branding and packaging firm Avery Dennison, and it was followed by crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube, in which Modern Milkman raised more than £560,000 from angel investors.
HACE is an impact startup that uses data and AI to tackle the issue of child labour and support ethical action from companies. Founded in 2020, HACE has developed an index designed for financial institutions and investors that will help them make informed decisions on which firms are compliant with anti-child labour regulations.
The company has said that an estimated 10% of children globally are involved in child labour and it is not always clear which firms are guilty of perpetuating this. HACE’s child labour index scores companies on their involvement in child labour using AI to analyse public perception, company disclosure and risk.
The platform-based solution can be integrated into clients’ existing ESG data platforms. HACE was founded by Eleanor Harry, who has a background of working in corporate sustainability. Harry says that building her company in Manchester has supported growth.
“Manchester is increasingly seen as the innovation hub of the UK, especially in the technology sector,” Harry said. “There are almost limitless networking options in the city, which are always well populated with other entrepreneurs.”
Harry added that proximity to The University of Manchester and University of Salford allowed the company’s “academic research arm” to make a strategic partnership that helped HACE to “expand its recruitment network further towards passionate and innovative young people”.
HACE has been backed by a £50,000 grant from Greater Manchester AI Foundry and has participated in a handful of startup growth programmes, including the NatWest entrepreneur accelerator and CISL Women in Sustainability Innovation.
Launched in 2016, BankiFi provides SMEs with various white-label financial tools such as invoicing, payments and accounting. The embedded finance company’s goal is to improve the relationship between a bank and its small business customers.
Headquartered at Beehive Mill on Jersey Street in Manchester, BankiFi’s team is spread across the US, Australia and Belgium. Founder and CEO Mark Hartley was the chief innovation officer for Clear2Pay before launching BankiFi.
Praetura Ventures led a £4m funding round into the fintech in August 2022, a round that also drew investment from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA). The company raised funds to support its move into the US market and open a sales office, hiring Keith Riddle to lead BankiFi’s America division. It has since hired Lindsay Hodges to oversee product management and client success in the region.
BankiFi had previously raised £2.2m in September 2021, also led by Praetura Ventures with support from the GMCA, to open its Australia office. To date, the firm has secured £7.5m in total capital from backers such as Nationwide Building Society. It has grown to a team of nearly 50 employees. Its customers include TSB and Axiom Bank.
Be.EV specialises in the operation and maintenance of public electric vehicle (EV) charging stations based in the city of Manchester. Founded in 2019, the company was created with the idea that everyone – not just the wealthy – should be able to make the switch to EVs. The founding team saw a lack of public charging infrastructure beyond London and wanted to bring the technology to less represented areas in the UK.
Be.EV is currently the largest provider of EV charging facilities in Greater Manchester, having secured major contracts in Manchester, as well as Bury, Stockport, Trafford, Rochdale and other towns in the North of England, such as Warrington.
The company secured £110m in funding from the Sky Fund from Octopus Energy in October 2022. Octopus had already been working with the startup by providing electricity to its charging stations. The investment allowed the company to ramp up the rollout of its charging stations across Northern England. Be.EV was founded by current CEO Asif Ghafoor and Adrian Fielden-Gray.
“Greater Manchester is one of the fastest growing regions in the UK. We are lucky to have an amazing mayor and forward-thinking councils,” Ghafoor said. “The region genuinely wants to help tech firms grow, and our work with councils and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has really helped accelerate the business.”
Ghafoor praised the region’s top universities for providing a “great pool of talent” to drive business growth, adding that Greater Manchester provides opportunities to work with the rest of the North of England.
“There’s exciting work going on between Liverpool, Manchester and cities in West Yorkshire,” he adds. “These collaborations span up into the North East too and present a real opportunity for businesses to supercharge their growth.”
This content originally appeared in UKTN’s regional tech report on Greater Manchester. You can read the full report and find more Manchester startups to watch here.