An astounding number of around 5.9 million SMEs are currently in the United Kingdom, which forms around 99.9% of all the companies operating in the region. 665,495 new startups were founded in the UK from 2019 till June of 2021.
So it seems that everyone’s an entrepreneur these days and there’s literally a new startup going up every minute in the UK alone. But among these millions, some go on to do great things while others fizzle out.
There are several hundred startups thriving in the UK. It’s no simple matter to choose the best among them, and it would be a matter of debate to decide how to sort them- on the basis of popularity, industry ranking, funds raised, revenue generated, relevance, and so on. The list below is only a simple and comprehensive look into things.
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So here’s the crème de la crème of the UK startup scene as of 2021.
Top UK Startups of 2021
Hopin is a virtual event management platform used for conducting virtual conferences. The company saw rapid growth and expansion once it gained popularity. Hopin has raised £419 million in funds since January 2020. The pandemic and the subsequent virtualization of conferences all around the world helped in this growth acceleration.
With Hopin, conducting everything from conferences and summits, to career fairs, social gatherings and meetings, become simpler.
What makes it different from other virtual meeting platforms? Hopin focuses on engagement in addition to just watching a meeting. In addition to the usual video hosting, rooms, and chat, the platform offers integrated ticketing and registration, an ‘expo hall’, and one-on-one networking options, as well as integrations with marketing apps from Hubspot to Twitter.
Cazoo is a company focused on selling refurbished second-hand cars, which can be ordered completely online by customers. Brand-new cars can also be bought on a subscription model payment scheme, with servicing, maintenance, tax and insurance all included in a monthly payment.
Cazoo offers home delivery for its cars. (Source: Cazoo)
In May 2021, Cazoo announced that it had delivered its 25,000th car. The first-quarter reports of Cazoo showed a gross profit of £3.7 million, and a year-over-year revenue growth of 481%.
Graphcore is known for its original processor design- its Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU) technology specifically designed for AI and Machine Learning applications. The processor is faster and efficient than normal ones when used for applications like NLP, Computer Vision, etc.
The processors designed by Graphcore find applications in finance, healthcare, life sciences, and telecommunications sectors.
In 2018, Graphcore raised 200 million US dollars and was valued at 1.8 billion US dollars, reaching the coveted “unicorn” status. At the beginning of 2021, Graphcore was valued at 2.8 billion US dollars.
Revolut is an application developed for managing your finances. It started as a money transfer app but now offers several other solutions, including a variety of budgeting and analytics tools, and a money transfer and exchange platform. It reached the milestone of having 10 million personal customers in 2020.
Revolut is now one of the leading neo banking solutions in the world, spreading across the UK, Europe, and recently the US.
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Darktrace’s Cyber AI Analyst autonomously operates and protects systems from malware and attacks. The Darktrace Immune System is said to be “analogous to the human immune system” and adapts and learns according to need.
Darktrace was named one of TIME Magazine’s Most Influential Companies of 2021. It has also received several other recognitions, including ‘Outstanding Security Automation’ at the 2021 Computing Excellence Awards for Darktrace Antigena, ‘Best Security Company’ at 2021 SC Europe Awards, and ‘Best Enterprise Security Solution’ at SC Excellence Awards.
Monzo is a neo banking service now available in the UK and the US. Monzo gives users a contactless Mastercard for cash transfers. The app also offers other features for managing your finances like sorting your salary, setting budgets, setting up saving pots, opening joint accounts, as well as applying for loans.
Monzo is a real bank- only without the brick and mortar offices. (Source: Monzo)
Currently, more than 5.26 million people use Monzo’s cards for financial affairs.
Rapyd is yet another online financial solution. It’s a business-centric financial application focused on enabling transactions across borders. The Rapyd Global Payments Network is a global-local payment method that functions in over 100 countries.
The company started as a mobile payments platform but soon became what Rapyd describes as a Fintech-as-a-service provider. Rapyd has raised over £347 million in funds since it began.
Cambridge University computer science graduates and game aficionados Herman Narula and Rob Whitehead founded Improbable with the vision of making multiplayer games better.
Improbable Multiplayer Services provides multi-server networking solutions and helps developers build massive online worlds for multiplayer gaming.
Improbable now has over 600 million dollars in funding backing them, and is valued at over 2 billion dollars. But the company has had a rocky run of things.
Improbable’s future currently hitches on the success of its in-house production Scavengers- a strategic survival multiplayer game. Scavengers is being released by Midwinter Entertainment, owned by Improbable. The game is expected to release full scale later this year.
Scavengers- A multiplayer strategic survival game developed by Midwinter Entertainment/ Improbable (Source: Scavengers)
Zopa is another- and one of the oldest- neo banks on the list. Zopa started out as a first of its kind Peer-to-Peer lending company. Zopa Bank was launched in 2020, with a full range of banking solutions.
Zopa helps people lend, invest, and manage their money. Borrowing can be done through credit cards and loans, investments can be made through their peer-to-peer investments feature, and money can be managed with their fixed-term savings accounts.
Zopa has raised funds worth £673 million since its inception, raising £180 million in 2020 alone.
GoCardless is a banking platform targeted at businesses. Their platform is developed specifically for making recurring payments easier. Invoice, subscription, membership and instalment payments can be collected by businesses in an efficient manner.
GoCardless now performs over 200 billion US dollars worth of transactions annually and has a customer base of 60,000 businesses. They are backed by some big-name investors- including Adams Street Partners, Accel Partners, GV, and Salesforce Ventures.
Deliveroo is a food delivery service in the UK. It now has an established network of riders and restaurants across the UK and is now one of the top delivery apps in the region. The pandemic has also prompted a surge in success for food delivery applications, including Deliveroo.
A Deliveroo rider working amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source: Deliveroo)
The service uses modern technologies to optimize their experience like a machine learning algorithm based on predictive technology to boost efficiency.
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Tessian is an email cybersecurity platform focusing on human error. This company is targeted at enterprises and hopes to “secure the human layer” of cybersecurity.
Tessian offers a range of tools to protect company emails. Tessian uses machine learning techniques to detect and prevent accidental data breaches, data loss, misplaced business emails and phishing attacks.
Recently, Tessian raised a sum of 65 million dollars in Series C funding. Tessian claims that currently, their security solutions prevent 36 security incidents caused by human error per minute.
Oxford Nanopore Technologies develops sensing technologies for molecular analysis, which uses holes in the nanoscale called nanopores. The company entered the commercial market in 2015.
Nanopore sequencing is primarily used for DNA and RNA sequencing. The technology finds applications in microbiology, the study of infectious diseases, human genomics, cancer research, populations genomics, and more.
A team of scientists from Oxford Nanopore Technologies in collaboration with Pacific Biosciences recently made headlines for their claim that they have sequenced the human genome completely, filling the “final unknown” of the human genome.
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Babylon Health is a company providing digital health services powered by technologies like AI. They released their first smartphone application in 2015. Technology is used to automate routine diagnoses performed by doctors thereby making healthcare more accessible to the populace. Although advanced medical conditions and complex symptoms are beyond the hope of automation, Babylon Health can treat diseases from acne to allergies and the flu.
In recent times they released a COVID-19 Care Assistant, specifically for finding symptoms and the latest information about COVID-19.
Norris says that “Pure’s goal is to help bring about a personal transport revolution and have a positive impact on our planet, benefitting society now and for generations to come.” The company now has around 20 showrooms across Europe.
Pure Electric also has goals to set up a rental e-scooter service across the UK, setting up a cleaner way for getting around.
A Specialized Turbo Como SL 5.0 Electric Hybrid Bike - 2022 from Pure Electric (Source: Pure Electric)
Most of the numbers regarding the funds raised by these various startups are sourced from reports by Beauhurst.
Looking at the top startups in the UK, we can see a few trends on the rise. A lot of the most popular companies focus on virtual solutions to real-life problems- like online banking, online conferences, and even online healthcare. This can be attributed in part to the effects of the pandemic, but also to a digital shift that was present even before. Other startups catching attention are those focusing on eco-friendly solutions. Cybersecurity companies are becoming ever important, and most of the others also incorporate technologies like AI and Machine Learning into their operations.
These trends could be interpreted as the reflection of a world that is increasingly moving online, focuses on sustainability, and prioritizes technological advancement.
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