CES 2019: Best of British

| Hannah Skingle

Category: Tech & innovation

One of the busiest times of the year for Silicon Valley journalists is back again – CES 2019. The Consumer Electronics Show, hosted in Las Vegas, showcases a wide range of new consumer gadgets that could change the way we consume “hard” technology (physical gadgets as opposed to just software). Some of these products will come from young, fast-growing companies. 

Last year, we reported the number of British companies exhibiting at the show was growing. Unfortunately, this year the number dropped slightly, from 74 in 2018 to 68. That said, British entrepreneurs have come up with some fascinating new tech. Here’s our pick of the favourites.


what3words logo

Funding raised: £41.3m

Grants received: 0

Stage of evolution: Growth

Location: Hertfordshire

what3words has developed mapping software which divides the world into 57 trillion 3m by 3m squares, each of which are assigned a unique three-word address. For example, one multi-line address becomes “best.fake.nature”. This system is a reliable way to refer to more specific locations than traditional addresses allow. 

The software is already being used by emergency services in the UK, has partnered with Mercedes Benz, and AirBnB, to help tourists locate properties in areas where the postal system is less advanced. Recently released filings indicate they may have been valued at over £100m. 



Kokoon logo

Funding raised: £1.8m

Grants received: £339k

Stage of evolution: Seed

Location: London

Kokoon have designed and developed headphones that use brainwave sensors and patented technology to help people fall asleep, and monitor sleep quality. Their sleep app lets users monitor how they respond to certain audio, and see personalised recommendations based on results from integrated EEG sensors. 

They’ve raised £1.65m with Crowdcube, as well as receiving an emerging and enabling grant from Innovate UK in July 2018. They are also backed by The British Design Fund and participated in the Go To Grow accelerator programme. The product is now being mass produced for market. 


lightfoot logo

Funding raised: £4.2m

Grants received: £562k

Stage of evolution: Venture

Location: Devon

Lightfoot has developed a new gadget for “connected” cars (i.e. cars connected to the internet). Using technology developed for F1 racers, this device analyses driver’s driving patterns, identifying their “sweetspot”, which they claim reduces fuel usage by 15% and collisions by 40% using visual and verbal cues.

Lightfoot was part of the first cohort of recipients of an Innovation Loan, the new financial product from Innovate UK which was issued in June. In October, they received £3.2m in equity finance from BGF’s Growth Capital fund, one of the UK’s most prolific investors in high-growth businesses.


Kano Logo

Funding raised: £34.7m

Grants received: £1.52m

Stage of evolution: Growth

Location: London

Operating in the EdTech sphere, Kano develops and sells kits to teach children how to make computers and learn to code. A recent partnership with apple saw their ‘Harry Potter’ coding wand (retailing at £99.99)  rolled out across more than 300 apple stores across the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand in December.

Starting out on Kickstarter in late 2013, Kano have completed five fundraisings rounds with participation from Index Ventures, JamJar Investments and Localglobe, among others. 



ROLI logo

Funding raised: £36.4m

Grants received: £1.36m

Stage of evolution: Growth

Location: London

ROLI develops an array of slick, modern keyboard-style instruments, with an array of added features designed to make them more manipulatable to musicians and music producers. These include the “Seaboard”, designed to “reimagine the future of the keyboard”.

Backers include funds such as BGF Ventures and Index Ventures, and large music industry corporates such as Sony and Universal Music. That the incumbents have got onboard suggests the company’s products could become highly sought after in the near future. Indeed, In 2016 their turnover more than trebled, from £1.5m to £4.75m.


DNAnudge logo

Funding raised: £17.8m

Grants received: 0

Stage of evolution: Seed

Location: London

Spunout from Imperial College’s Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology, DNAnudge provides consumers with an on-the-spot way of carrying out a DNA test. Whilst it doesn’t yet map your whole genome, it tests for specific sections of DNA which have been identified as having significant genetic impacts on human health. The specific use in this case relates to nutrition, with the company believing that each person is genetically wired to break down and absorb nutrients at differing rates. By mapping key parts of the genome, DNAnudge believes can offer sound nutritional advice to its users.

Consumers use a small device to test their genome via saliva. The device then connects with their smartphone via an app, through which nutritional advice is provided. In this way, the company hopes to “nudge” people in a healthier direction.


testcard logo

Funding raised: £2.92m

Grants received: 0

Stage of evolution: Seed

Location: Yorkshire

TestCard has developed an elegant new method of urinalysis testing – a direct-to-consumer “postcard”, from which a small urine testing kit (a strip of card) can be pulled out. This card then displays a certain colour code based on the chemicals in the urine, which, when scanned with the associated smartphone app, can indicate whether the user is suffering from a particular ailment. At the moment, the testing kit seems primarily geared to diagnose UTIs.

Whilst the startup only incorporated in 2017, making it remarkably young, it has already undergone three rounds of seed-stage funding. They’ve been backed by Neo Ventures, a new venture capital firm located in Bulgaria.