Every year Tech Nation, the UK’s support network for startups and scaleups, scouts out the country’s most exciting early-stage tech businesses for its Rising Stars competition.
And unlike many startup competitions, Tech Nation really does scour the entire country.
Amongst the semi finalists for this year’s Rising Stars are startups from Belfast, Slough, Edinburgh, Totnes and Newport. They’re building businesses in a wide range of sectors, with solutions spanning from medical imaging tech and platforms to take the pain out of renting, to on-demand drinks and sport facility booking services.
But two sectors dominate: tech for good and fintech.
Tech for good and fintech dominate
The UK has firmly established itself as Europe’s fintech capital. In 2019, around £2.3bn was raised by British fintechs in the first half of the year; in 2017-2019 the UK received 30% of all fintech funding raised in Europe.
The huge success of the likes of Checkout.com, Monzo, OakNorth, Revolut and Starling (all members of Tech Nation’s Future Fifty programme) has inspired a new generation of fintech founders.
Many are looking beyond digital banks and payments solutions. ClearGlass, one of the companies shortlisted by the Rising Stars judges, is helping pension funds figure out where to invest. Shopper.com, another shortlisted startup, automatically applies voucher coders to online shopping baskets, while Moneyshake is looking to disrupt the car lease price comparison industry.
But there’s another area founders are paying close attention to: tech for good. While it’s harder to define what makes a business “tech for good”, many of the shortlisted startups have designed products and services which have direct impact on the wellbeing of people and planet. There’s tootoot, a safeguarding app for students, which helps them confidentially report incidences of bullying or mental unwellness, and enables teachers to monitor vulnerable students. Culture Shift offers a similar service for adults, and can be used to report harassment at companies and universities.
The semi finalists
The shortlisted companies recently participated in the Rising Stars semi-final in Manchester, after a two-day training bootcamp. They pitched to a panel of industry experts, including judges from competition sponsors BDO Drive, Microsoft, Talent Works International, TLT LLP and Soldo, as well as VC investor Jess Jackson and GP Bullhound investment manager Ed Prior.
At the grand final in London on 12 February, just 10 companies will be crowned Rising Stars.
It’s proving to be a crown plenty of startups want to win: applications for the competition saw a 40% rise this year. It’s also attracting a diverse group of founders: 37% of this year’s applicants have at least one female founder, while the number of female founders reaching the semi finals has risen from 12% last year to 21% this year.
Which of the shortlisted startups would make your top 10?
East of England
Highly Commended in East of England: Robok, Insurtechnix
Highly Commended in London: Proportunity, Oncare, Taxscouts
Highly Commended in the North East: Veritent, WotJob
Highly Commended in the North West: Dr Fertility, VoiceIQ, Immersify Education
Highly Commended in Northern Ireland: gofyt, Obbi Solutions, Oroson
Highly Commended in Scotland: Frog Systems, Good-Loop, MyCustomer Lens
Highly Commended in the South East: Personal Data Management, Streeva, Percept Imagery
Highly Commended in the South West: Blockchain Ventures, Scribeless, Service Robotics
Highly Commended in Wales: Disberse, Simply Do Ideas, Coincover
Highly Commended in Yorkshire: Checklate Media, Additive Automations, Calbot