Today marks the start of CES 2017, the annual global consumer electronics and technology tradeshow native to Las Vegas. And this year's festival has already been mired in controversy: from Gary Shapiro's denouncing the British government as failing to support tech companies, to the NYT's festive proclamation that the "gadget apocalypse" was nigh, all omens seemed to indicate at best a damp squib on the horizon.
Armageddon appears, however, to be at least temporarily forestalled. 20,000 consumer electronics products are set for lift-off, and the technological array on offer this week ought to dazzle even the most cynical of commentators. It would be impossible to cover even half of the almost 4,000 companies attending. With that in mind, we've slimmed down the cohort to include only British-based ventures (56, not including the BBC), and of that set, only those that have met our most reliable indicators for high growth in the future.
That leaves 12 companies – and they are quite some companies. Between them, they've raised a total of £109m (an average of £3.88m per fundraising) in equity finance. The clear majority of the cohort are early or mid-stage, with only 8% of the exhibitors having achieved growth-stage so far (see left).
Three funds – Balderton Capital, Index Ventures, and Universal Music have jointly invested thrice into groundbreaking musical instrument company ROLI. Indeed, ROLI alone is responsible for £31.3m of the £109m figure above. We’ve blogged about the company and some of its activities, along with other new disruptions into the music industry, right here.
Two other funds have invested as many times: Cambridge Angels and IQ Capital fund. The latter has put money into BioBeats, which produces a range of wearable products aimed at managing stress and productivity, and both have invested – as recently as two days ago, in a fundraising that totalled $5.5m – into Audio Analytic. Audio Analytic has developed software that automatically recognises individual sounds (e.g. smoke alarms or an infant’s crying), and consequently has sophisticated applications in the ever-growing sphere of 'smart homes'.
Despite receiving such substantive investment, ROLI is not the biggest company in this collection. That prize goes to Formula E, the five-year-old championship series for electric-powered cars, in which drivers receive a small amount of extra electrical power based on their popularity with fans. The championship has raised £40m in just two fundraisings from investors including Qualcomm Ventures , the investment arm of a telecommunications and semi-conductor company, which intends to demonstrate its wireless charging technology during the races.
The third biggest-hitter in the series is perhaps the most futuristic of them all. Ultrahaptics has developed hardware that uses ultrasound to replicate the sensation of touch, meaning users can deploy gestures in the air to cause physical changes in their environment – for instance, turning up volume on a radio or opening a car sunroof. What’s more: they can feel the knob or switch being adjusted under their fingers.
These were the concepts announced by the firm at CES two years ago: this year, the company promises “make-your-own” haptic sensations, home appliances controllable by gesture (and which provide warning sensations before you touch a hot surface), and a haptic cash machine and lift. Its £21.5m backing comes from investors including IP Group (in two rounds) and CF Woodford Equity Income Fund . Ultrahaptics' pre-money valuation as of six months ago (a £10.8m funding round) was £12.5m.
The six remaining companies we've selected are listed in the following table, ordered by the size of their latest pre-money valuation as calculated by the Beauhurst research team.
|Name||Description||Beauhurst-calculated pre-money valuation||Valuation date||Notes|
|Smarter||Develops remotely controllable kitchen gadgets||£10m||July 2016||We've blogged about Smarter in our kitchen gadget series. Find out more here.|
|SAM Labs||Sells development kits which allow users to create personalised IoT devices without coding skills
|Kino-Mo||Developed 3D tech for digital advertising
|Technology Will Save Us||Designs DIY gadget kits to encourage tech-based learning
|Beeline||Developed a portable navigation device for bikes||£656k||October 2015||Beeline has since received a Kickstarter grant for £150k, and £515k in equity funding from investors including Seedrs and The London Co-Investment Fund.
|3 Legged Thing||Designs tripods and sells lighting equipment||£467k||July 2012||3 Legged Thing has not received any funding since 2012, and remain at the seed stage.|
The above are a select few of the UK companies intending to make a splash at CES. Virtual reality, wearables, 4K displays and many, many more gadgets are set to wow over the next four days, and we'll certainly be watching eagerly.