London Tech Week is back for its sixth year, with over 170 events being held in key venues across the capital, from the Barbican, to coworking spaces, to Stratford’s Olympic Park. These will showcase the leading lights of the nation’s tech scene, and facilitate discussions around its strengths and weaknesses as a whole, as well as future trends and opportunities. Large multinationals will be well-represented, as will the UK’s leading technology startups.
At Beauhurst, we’ve created a series of triggers that allow us to track these high-potential British companies. In this post, we highlight some of the most interesting startups attending London Tech Week that are also tracked on the Beauhurst platform.
London tech week: CogXThe largest event taking place during London Tech Week will be CogX,the “Festival of AI and Emerging Technologies”, at various stages dotted around Granary Square in King’s Cross. The extensive speaker list features key AI sector actors from across the government, corporate, startup and investment worlds. Startup-wise, they’ve gone for a diverse range, including seed stagers who have only completed a Series A, to DeepMind, who arguably kickstarted the UK’s AI scene back in 2010, and is now a well-established unit within Google. Some of the top UK startups attending at CogX are as follows:
The inception of the UK’s artificial intelligence sector as we know it now should really be dated to September 2010, when a group of computer scientists founded DeepMind in London. The team was led by Demis Hassabis, a former child prodigy at chess, who co-programmed the famous video game Theme Park at the age of 17, before studying computer science at Cambridge. (According to Vanity Fair, an early investor in DeepMind joked as he left a meeting that he should shoot Hassabis on the spot, because it was the last chance to save the human race).
DeepMind’s activity was kept closely under wraps. Indeed, even on the announcement of its acquisition by Google in 2014, journalists at TechCrunch were still unable to ascertain what the startup was actually creating. DeepMind has since become Google’s in-house AI unit, where a lot of their efforts seem devoted to creating computers that can beat humans at video games. Other more practical uses have been found – for instance, in cooling Google’s city-like data centres, and in the creation of a healthcare app (now part of Google Health).
DeepMind will be represented at CogX by Senior Research Scientist Jane Wang, a physicist who used big data to help interpret brain scans as part of her postdoc at Northwestern University.
Incorporated in 2017, this early stage company has only raised one seed round: £100k, raised at the start of 2018. Company filings released at that time indicate they could have been valued at £2m. A massive expansion of those on their shareholder register suggests numerous angel (or family/friends) investors took part in the round, alongside Swiss investment firm ANC Capital.
Humanise.AI is developing an AI-enabled chatbot. Currently these bots form part of two main products – Gem and Chat. Gem is designed specifically for hotels, able to answer a set of industry focussed questions, and with the capability of notifying hotel management when the question exceeds the chatbots capabilities. Chat operates as a generic chatbot service, though its particular selling point seems to be a sleek interface, more sophisticated bots, and improved functionality with other CRM software.
Ruth Angus, COO at Luminance, will also be speaking at CogX. Luminance is perhaps the UK’s leading lawtech startup, having raised more venture capital than any other company in this emerging sector. Ruth’s talk will be on how AI is affecting the legal industry, which is exactly what Luminance is trying to do. Their developers have built software that is able to sift through large legal documents, identifying any parts of the text that contain linguistic or structural anomalies, and summarising the document review in a web-based dashboard.
Filings released around the time of Luminance’s latest funding round suggest they’ve reached a valuation of £120m. That’s a sizeable figure, especially when you consider they only incorporated in 2015. Backers include magic circle law firm Slaughter and May, suggesting Luminance has already caught the attention of the industry incumbents.
Previse CEO Paul Christensen will be giving a talk at the Innovation, Investment and Economy Stage, as part of a talk given by a co-founder at Founders Factory, Brent Hoberman. Hoberman has had a hand in some of the UK’s best known startup brands, such as Made.com and lastminute.com.
Previse is part of a batch of young fintech companies that is targeting the SME invoice market. This market is widely regarded as inefficient, with as much as 50% of invoices being paid late. Numerous lenders have entered the market providing “invoice finance”, paying an immediate sum to suppliers that cover the invoice figure, in return for later interest payments. However, this has its own problems, requiring extensive credit and compliance checks on the part of the financier.
Previse’s software uses AI to predict which invoices a large corporate is unlikely to pay back, improving the borrowing rates for the bulk of “good” invoices which will most likely be repaid. This also removes the need for credit checks, as the creditworthiness of the supplier SME doesn’t need to be assessed – the assessment is purely on the probability of an invoice eventually being paid. As such, the finance can be paid instantly to suppliers.
Alex Caccia, the co-founder behind young Oxford spinout Animal Dynamics, also features on the CogX speakers list. Incorporated in 2015, Animal Dynamics was founded on the research of Adrian Thomas, Professor of Biomechanics at Oxford. Through this, the company hopes to transfer biological features from animals (“evolutionary biomechanics”) into artificial machinery, such as drones. They currently have three designs under prototype, going by the names of Skeeter, Stork and Malolo.
Their most developed idea, an unmanned aerial system (essentially a drone) based on the flight mechanism of a dragonfly, has been undertaken in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence. This project started in 2015, and could well have been what spurred their commercialisation with the support of Oxford University Innovation. In 2016 the Government released a large lump sum of R&D funding to develop “futuristic technologies”, some of which reportedly went to Animal Dynamics.
If combined with emerging AI software, Animal Dynamics’ technology has clear potential in improving the mobility of new robotic technology.
London Tech Week: the smaller events
At a smaller AI event hosted by Wired at the Barbican, co-founder of PROWLER.io Vishal Chatrath will be giving a talk on how AI can shape human experience. PROWLER develops AI-enabled tools designed to help improve decision-making processes. Currently they cater to two sectors – finance and logistics. In finance, their AI decision making platform VUKU basically automates buy/sell decisions by using past events to play out future scenarios in price changes, and assigning probabilities to each.
A similar method is used in logistics, learning from history to predict a series of possible tomorrows in terms of how much demand is placed on suppliers. VUKU helps these suppliers predict peaks in demand, so that they can assign resources accordingly.
Money Matters, an event being held in Six Storeys in Soho, will feature a discussion on whether digital-only brands will be the future of finance. This event will pitch several financial incumbents against one of the UK’s startup challenger banks: Tandem, represented by Chief Product Officer Matt Ford.
Tandem’s latest funding round indicates they were valued at £150m, which is a lot less than their unicorn peers Monzo and Revolut. However, they were recently backed by Hong Kong financial service giant Convoy Global Holdings, through which they seem to be exploring expansion into the Asian markets.
Interestingly, this event is hosted by Somo, an adtech company who help companies with their app and website development, with the aim of helping them place in-app advertisements. With a range of new banks now offering app-only services, and acquiring huge amounts of customers in the process, there is clearly a lot of money to be made for a company like Somo. Indeed, founded in 2011, Somo had already turned a sizeable profit by 2016.
Another interesting event to take place during London Tech Week will be Createch, celebrating the best uses of new technology in the creative industry.
The Imaginarium Studios
This fascinating company operates a studio where natural human motions are captured for use in computer generated imagery (CGI). Think Andy Serkis’ transformation into Gollum during the Lord of the Rings franchise.
Imaginarium’s portfolio is impressive, with past projects including blockbusters such as Mowgli and the two Star Wars sequels (The Force Awakens and the Last Jedi). The company, founded in 2011, has received over £10m in unannounced equity finance rounds.
It is hard to tell who has participated in these rounds, but from their shareholder register it looks as though two funds called Apareiba Capital and Himl Holdings Ltd together hold 30% of the company. Himl seems to be an abbreviation of Herald Investment Management, an American investor that specialises in media and telecomms. Mark Baring, a scion of the Baring family, also features on the register. Once an investment manager, he now seems to be immersing himself in the arts, having recently established The Grange Festival (an opera festival) in one of the family seats.
In a sense similar to Imaginarium, Glassworks operates a post-production company. Their team of visual specialists and designers add visual effects such as digital animation to help augment a range of content types, from commercials, to TV programmes such as Black Mirror. Founded back in 1996, Glassworks recently won a place on Fast Track’s SME export list of fast-growing SMEs.