Back in March, we used our new Networks software tool to locate the UK’s leading serial entrepreneurs, based on number of companies founded, and the success of these companies. One of these was Alex Chesterman, the founder of internet businesses Lovefilm and Zoopla, and arguably Britain’s most successful entrepreneur from the dotcom boom. His involvement in a venture now sparks immediate excitement: his latest, an online used-car marketplace called Cazoo, raised £30m last November just two months after incorporation. It also won the 13th spot on the 2019 Startup 100 list, despite not having launched its platform yet.
At the time, we noted this was most likely one of the largest raises ever by a 2 month old company in the UK. In June of this year, however, we saw a similar deal: £35m raised by a two-month old life science collaboration between King’s College London and UCL. In this post, we’ve highlighted the other top raises this year by companies that were also founded in 2019.
quell therapies | £35m
Quell Therapeutics, a partnership between KCL and UCL, was backed just two months after incorporation by Syncona, a specialist life science investor who have backed numerous British startups. Quell is developing new cell therapies, or in other words, engineering cells to change their properties in order to support specific health or medical objectives.
Quell has been established in order to advance the engineering of T regulatory cells, which are an important part of the human body’s immune system. These will be engineered to help improve solid organ transplants, where the receiving body’s immune system frequently rejects the donated organ. Other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases will also be targeted.
Also contributing to the round was the UCL Technology Fund, a commercialisation fund managed by Albion Capital.
Ravin.AI | $4m
Founded by Eliron Ekstein, a former BCG consultant and head of new business development at Shell Digital Ventures, Ravin.AI has developed an autonomous vehicle inspector. Using a drive through CCTV inspection, this software programme uses machine learning to recognise the image of defects on the vehicle’s body.
Their recent $4m funding round was backed by Shell Ventures and Pico Partners, a venture capital firm focussing on Israeli entrepreneurs (Ekstein attended The Hebrew University between 2005 and 2008).
Proposed use cases include at used car dealerships, fleet owners looking to monitor the quality of their fleet, and insurers who want to insure they aren’t insuring already damaged vehicles.
lightcast discovery | £1.1m
Another life science company, Lightcast Discovery’s product is a high-technology hardware platform that uses software generated light patterns to manipulate and order microdroplets, allowing for the easier isolation and engineering of cells or other reagents like cancer drugs.
Operating out of Cambridge’s renowned tech hub in the Silicon Fen, Lightcast is headquartered on the same road as the university’s computer labs. Whilst this funding round wasn’t announced to the press, in the company’s first filings of ownership several investment firms were already included, suggesting the company was founded by an eclectic consortium of investors, and already had significant technology in place.
The following funds are included:
evoluteiq | £800k
lake parime | £771k
Founded by Sath Ganesarajah, a former trader at Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Citi, Lake Parime operates in the clean energy sector. Exactly what they do is hard to tell, but their marketing claims they will help decarbonise the electricity sector by tipping energy economics in favour of wind and solar energy. No small task.
Their marketing also focuses on helping data centres run on clean energy. Data centres are increasingly highlighted as an energy hungry part of the global economy, with Lake Parime stating that by 2025 they will consume a fifth of the world’s electricity. That said, this article in Nature suggests that this figure is for the ICT sector as a whole, to which data centres contribute a small but significant part.
Company filings suggest this early round of £770k saw the company reach a valuation of nearly £6m. However, at this stage it is impossible to tell who invested, as the round wasn’t announced to the press.
collective | £377k
Perhaps the most interesting company on this list is the latest addition to the UK’s fast-growing insurtech sector: Collective. Designing insurance products for the self-employed, this company is attempting to provide big company benefits to those who work freelance. They bill themselves as a community of freelancers, which uses collective bargaining power to secure cost effective services for their members. These services include protection, benefits and perks, such as paid sick days, maternity cover, legal advice, and healthcare insurance.
Freelancers can join the community via a monthly subscription, which is presumably then pooled to provide benefits to those when they are needed, much like a traditional insurance house. Services are accessed via a mobile app.
Similarly to Lake Parime their funding round wasn’t announced to the press, so we cannot tell who made the investment. As of their latest shareholder register the company is still primarily owned by founder Anthony Beilin, former Global Head of Innovation at Aviva. Beilin left this role a month before founding collective. Given Aviva’s strong presence in the innovation and insurance markets, it could well be that the corporation has had a hand in the creation of Collective.