The event kicked off with a welcome from David Prior, who set the scene for the North’s tech sector followed by Leif Radford, Data and Tech Recuitment Director at The Candidate.
Praetura Ventures Operational Partner, Colin Greene, then took to the stage. Prior to joining Praetura, Greene provided an overview of his career after working for some of the biggest tech companies including NCR, Intel and Apple.
Now working for Praetura Ventures, the venture capital firm has had incredible growth with a portfolio of more than 29 promising companies. His key advice to tech start-ups was to “embrace the chaos”, as most successful companies are those who don’t panic in challenging circumstances, whether that be within Covid, cost of living crisis or beyond.
Following the reveal of the top 25 tech companies and a short break, David Prior was joined on stage by the four industry-leading panellists.
During the panel session, Matillion’s Ed Thompson explained how he often looks back at the tech unicorn’s own early-stage days with “rose-tinted glasses” and really enjoyed growing the company. On his advice for those companies at the beginning of their journey, he said having ambition, finding staff and retaining them was key. “You have to have a fantastic culture laid down on day one of the company.”
Following an overview of the incredible work Tech Nation does to support tech companies across the UK, from start-up right through to scale-up, Client Engagement Director Liz Scott said the national network nutures talent through its growth programmes, one-to-one support and workshops.
Leif Radford, Data and Tech Recruitment Director at The Candidate, then provided an overview of talent in the tech world. For tech companies to attract talent, offering flexibility and allowing staff to work where and when they want has become more important.
For Julian Wells, Director at Whitecap Consulting and FinTech North, he explained how the fintech ecosystem has boomed and how FinTech North was an “accidental entrepreneurial story” emerging from Leeds Digital Festival to showcase the sector.
On advice for start-ups, he said as there is uncertainty within the economy at the moment and deals are starting to slow down, “make sure you have a good story around your growth”.
“Investing in your employees” early on is crucial, added Leif Radford. “Those first 30 employees are the most important.”
Tech Nation’s Liz Scott said it’s all about ambition. Early stage tech companies shouldn’t be afraid to say they might be the next £50m business in the next five years.
With a final piece of advice from Ed Thompson at Matillion, he told the room full of tech companies that there is plenty of capital out there for those great start-ups with interesting stories.
Prolific North’s 25 Tech Companies to Watch 2022
Sponsored by The Candidate
[Numbers do not reflect a ranked position]
Founded: 2020 / Sector: Drones
Aeroknite is a cutting-edge drone tech firm from Manchester. Launched by aerospace engineer Yusuff, one of the company’s key products in development is a fire-fighting drone designed to tackle the accelerating problem of wildfires around the world.
2. Bimsense [recently rebranded and now known as Operance]
Tim Mutlow, Tim Yeo and Scott Pilgrim of Bimsense, Maurice Disasi of Mercia & chairman Nigel Hedley
Founded: 2016 / Sector: Property
Hull-based proptech company Bimsense, which recently rebranded to Operance to focus on the platform/software element of O&M manuals, raised £250,000 earlier this year to develop software to improve building safety. The software, which incorporates blockchain technology, produces a secure audit trail and aims to comply with the government’s ‘golden thread’ requirements to improve building safety.
Founded: 2021 / Sector: Tech for Good
Founded by Fady Tarek Selim, Alina Iigilikova and Daniel Rifaterra Solano, this tech for good start-up in Manchester aims to lead the consumer tech industry towards making ethics an integral part of a company. Joining Enterprise City’s Exchange programme earlier this year, the company has already raised £68,000.
4. Ecom Pilot
Jakub Lenski, founder of Ecom Pilot
Founded: 2021 / Sector: Ecommerce
Attracting $200,000 of pre-seed investment so far, Ecom Pilot is a subscription-based analytics platform that simplifies product research for online sellers to discover and validate white-label products. Manchester-based founder Jakub Lenski aims to democratise ecommerce by using big data to enable anyone to sell online.
5. Exciting Instruments
Dr Timothy Craggs, founder of Exciting Instruments
Founded: 2021 / Sector: Life sciences and medical
Launched as a spin-out from Sheffield University, Exciting Instruments is a true partnership of science and software. This start-up is on a mission to help simplify the process of making discoveries in biophysics, life sciences, drug discovery and medical diagnostics, through the use of cloud connectivity and real-time data visualisation.
February’s Tom Lewis and Ash Lewis
Founded: 2021 / Sector: Apps
This Hull-based company was founded by brothers Ash and Tom Lewis and supports businesses to build their own apps to a template design without using code. February has already raised £350,000 in two rounds since August and has been accepted onto the prestigious equIP start-up accelerator programme run by global law firm CMS. The company is also building two of its own apps: Duos, an app that allows people to find a friend to play games with, and Audid, an audio app providing 15-minute book summaries.
Ferrio’s Daniel Blaney and Alex Humphreys alongside Andy Evans of Mandashi
Founded: 2021 / Sector: B2B
This Sheffield start-up is building an automation product described as “Zapier for developers”, allowing users to build up automations and software integrations using a visual workflow design tool. Co-founded by Dan Blaney and Alex Humphreys, it has a simple goal: to make automation possible for businesses of all sizes, not just enterprise.
Founded: 2018 / Sector: Financial
Set up by sisters Laura Pomfret and Holly Holland, this Manchester-based start-up is a female-focused personal finance app addressing issues such as the gender pay gap and the financial impact of maternity leave. It has over 5,000 users so far and already raised £300,000 in pre-seed funding.
Founded: 2020 / Sector: Manufacturing
A tech spin-out emerging from the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), FourJaw has a clear mission: to deliver accessible technology that empowers manufacturers to achieve their productivity potential. FourJaw was also crowned as Tech Start-up of the Year at this year’s Prolific North Tech Awards.
Frame co-founders Hannah Bratley and Liam Fulton
Founded: 2020 / Sector: AI
Headquartered in Huddersfield, Frame uses AI to turn images into insights for its growing customer base with a focus on image-led data solutions. With a team that has since grown to 10 staff, the company’s client roster includes NatWest, Sorted Group, ECO Surv and Smart Data Foundry. Frame is currently developing a brand-new image optimisation product for the ecommerce sector.
Founded: 2022 / Sector: Music
Launched in the wake of the pandemic by musicians, venue managers and entertainment agents, GigPig was built to empower hospitality venues to grow their business with live music and give artists control over when, where and how much they are paid to play. Following a pre-seed investment in June 2022, GigPig has been piloting its new platform in Manchester with over 100 of the city’s restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs signed up.
Founded: 2021 / Sector: Tech for Good
Launched by young entrepreneur Harriet Noy, Hazaar is a zero-waste student marketplace. Based at Enterprise City in Manchester, Hazaar has secured £200,000 in funding and has 20,000 students in its community. Hazaar has already partnered with three universities and is on a mission to tackle fast fashion and encourage sustainable habits among students.
Founded: 2020 / Sector: Housing
Described as a ‘Tinder for renting’ app, Manchester’s Housr aims to make life easier for students looking for places to rent and improve relationships with landlords. It has 3,500 units on the app and is on track to close a seed round of almost £500,000 funding. In the next 18 months, co-founder Harry Panter has ambitious plans to expand across the UK and eventually launch the app in the US.
Founded: 2022 / Sector: Tech for Good
Founded by Manchester-based entrepreneurs Jack Peagam and Ben Whatson, Linkup aims to tackle mental health, anxiety and a generation of ‘serious loneliness’. Already securing investment from hip hop duo Krept and Konan, Youtuber Calfreezy and media group Pubity, the company has plans to revolutionise the way users build new connections and forge friendships.
Founded: 2020 / Sector: Music
Hull-based MediMusic uses artificial intelligence to compile personalised playlists that have been proven in NHS trials to ease stress in dementia patients. The technology can be used in hospitals, dental surgeries and care homes to manage chronic pain or support patients before and after operations. It recently announced plans to expand into the United States.
16. My First Five Years
My First Five Years app
Founded: 2021 / Sector: Education
Edtech start-up My First Five Years, which offers advice to parents in the formative years of their child’s life, was founded in 2021 by Jennie Johnson and Alistair Bryce-Clegg. Both based in Manchester, the duo already have successful careers in education and childcare and since launching the company, secured £1.4 million in funding in 2022. My First Five Years is targeting 250,000 users within three years.
Andy Taylor, founder of Payful
Founded: 2021 / Sector: Financial
Founder and CEO Andy Taylor’s mission is to “end late payments around the globe by 2032” with his start-up, Payful. Based in Manchester, the app integrates with accounting software to track how quickly businesses pay each other. This generates a ‘Payful score’ for each business, letting everyone else in the network see who is a reliable payer. It’s currently invite only but is anticipating a full launch in Q2 2023.
Founded: 2020 / Sector: Gaming
Manchester’s Piing makes live, multiplayer games for stadium-sized crowds. Think 50,000 people in the same place, all playing the same game on a big screen via their smartphones, with no app to download. It works with Premier League, Bundesliga, the 02 Arena, as well as Commonwealth Games and Rugby League World Cup. Piing has just joined forces with Autotrader for a World Record quizzing attempt.
Michael Aldred and Ryan Swann, Founders of RiskSmart
Founded: 2022 / Sector: AI/regtech
Founded this year, this Manchester-based regtech risk management platform is currently developing an integrated risk management platform that will make risk management simpler for SMEs by utilising Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence technologies to leverage valuable data. It’s already raised £1.25m to date.
20. Safer Date
Founded: 2021 / Sector: Tech for Good/ Dating
Founded by Elaine Parkes in Newcastle after her own horrific experience after using dating site Plenty of Fish, Safer Date is an app that requires ID checks for every sign-up. Since launching in December last year, the app has had 13,000 downloads and after raising £285,000, is currently going through another investment round.
Vicky Wilson and grandmother June
Founded: 2019 / Sector: Deathtech
Sunderland-based Settld was founded by Vicky Wilson after spending more than six hours on the phone dealing with end of life admin, following the death of her grandmother. Settld supports grieving relatives by streamlining end of life admin through a single channel that can be tracked and accessed by users at any time. It’s so far raised more than £800,000 in seed funding, with a Series A funding round to follow in the new year.
Founded: 2017 / Sector: Transport/AI
Simplifai was founded following a 2017 Innovate UK research project with the University of Huddersfield. Founded by Keith McCabe alongside Professor Lee McCluskey, the company uses the same scheduling technology used in space flight to generate real-time traffic control strategies to solve complex issues that are currently poorly managed. It is one of 10 early-stage tech companies that has recently gained a place on a new Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G accelerator in Sunderland.
23. Slingshot Simulations
Founded: 2019 / Sector: Transport
Launched as a spin-out from the University of Leeds, this start-up aims to make ‘digital twin’ technology accessible to businesses of all sizes, enabling them to use advanced computer simulations to test new ideas and make better decisions. To date it has secured over £2m and has grown from 3 to 16 staff.
Founded: 2019 / Sector: Retail
This Manchester-based retail technology start-up is on a mission to help retailers run on data. The company’s software solutions use machine learning to help retailers make data-driven pricing and inventory decisions, ultimately improving profitability and reducing waste. It raised £1.5m from Praetura Ventures in January 2022 and counts River Island and Matchesfashion.com as customers.
Georgia Wheadon, Founder of Umii
Founded: 2020 / Sector: Tech for Good
Umii is a university-based connections app, helping students to make friends at university with a mission to tackle student loneliness. Named Small Tech Company of the Year at the recent Prolific North Tech Awards, it has 30,000 app users and numerous partnerships with universities and student unions.