Emerging tech: early stage startups beating the odds

| Poppy Aston

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on businesses across the globe but it has also been a catalyst for digital transformation. Much of the media attention has been drawn toward companies like Zoom and Slack which have skyrocketed in popularity as a result of lockdown. Yet, there are some much younger tech startups that have also been positively affected. From the newest digital collaboration tools to pioneering ways for kids to safely connect, these are early-stage companies with a whole host of innovations that you likely will not have heard about, until now. 

Using the Beauhurst platform, which builds up a comprehensive timeline of a company’s development, we’ve spotlighted 8 seed-stage companies and explored how COVID-19 has impacted them. So who are the fledgling startups that we predict to beat the odds and come out on top post-pandemic?

Hopin

Founded: June 2019
Sector: Virtual networking

Hopin Logo

There are several businesses facilitating the sudden need for virtual events. Amongst them is Hopin, an online live events platform where users can quickly create, host and manage live events for up to 100,000 attendees at a time. Rather than just watch a live stream, their services aim to replicate the experience of an in-person event by allowing breakout sessions (roundtables), sponsors, and networking. 

Founded in June 2019 by Johnny Boufarhat, Hopin was created with the mission to tackle the inaccessibility, financial cost and environmental impact of hosting events. The service has been available since last year, and has already seen high demand with a wait list of 10,000 event organisers and over a 1000 events already under their belt. 

This interest looks set to grow. The company has been inundated with requests since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the number of attendees at events hosted on its platform from January to February has increased nine-fold. Also, Hopin is currently hiring for a number of positions which is a good sign of the long-term health of the company. 

In February 2020, Hopin received £5.02m in funding from backers Accel, Northzone Ventures, Seedcamp, Amaranthine Fund, Slack Fund, plus participation from a number of high-profile angel investors, including Ilkka Paananen from Supercell and Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas from GoCardless.

Graphy

Founded: May 2019
Sector: Collaboration tools

Graphy logo

Graphy develops an online collaboration tool for businesses, allowing users to import data from a range of different apps, then create interactive, and aesthetically pleasing dashboards for team use or with clients. 

Founded in May 2019 by Andrey Vinitsky (CEO) and Roman Sîrbu (CTO), the company secured a whopping £7.88m in investment through two fundraising rounds in July and December 2019. This funding seems to have put them in a better position than most, as their employee count grew by 25% in April and they are advertising for software engineers and product developers.   

Still in the early stages of development and available by invitation only, Graphy already has a mix of users; from computer software companies to digital design agencies. Competitors include American giants Looker and Amplitude who have both reached multi-million valuations. But Graphy has a niche – it’s aiming to import data from the everyday apps we already use. With many companies on the lookout for new ways to collaborate virtually, especially with data, Graphy could see sharp growth over the coming months.

*Disclaimer: Graphy shares significant shareholders with Beauhurst.

GoBubble

Founded: August 2019
Sector: Ed-tech

GoBubble Logo

With the closures of schools across the country and social distancing measures in place, it’s hard for children to stay in touch with friends safely. Adults can engage with each other over social media, but these networks have numerous safeguarding issues for children.

However, GoBubble has a solution designed to provide children a digitally secure playground for just them and their friends. Targeted at children under the age of 13, it is a safe community for kids to connect and chat with classmates online, with the child’s school as the hub of their social media network, and teachers are able to monitor activity. 

Founded in August 2019 by husband and wife duo Henry Platten (CEO) and Danielle Platten (COO), GoBubble ensures that every user verified is a genuine child through biometric age verification and advanced security checks. Through proprietary real-time content moderation powered by AI, GoBubble checks all content before it appears, to ensure that it’s safe and positive. 

The company was already offering its product free for schools before COVID-19, and intends to continue to do so. As confirmed by the appointment of fintech veteran John Lloyd as CMO in April 2020, the company has seen tremendous growth during this period. Currently, GoBubble is used within thousands of schools and homes across 31 countries, and is likely to continue to onboard many more users both during and post lockdown.

Sync

Founded: February 2019
Sector: Fintech

Sync Logo

Sync is an all-in-one hub that allows users to link all their existing bank accounts, cards and loans all into one app. At a time where many of us have multiple accounts, the aim is to give users greater control over their finances. The platform also allows users to quickly create an account and transfer money across the globe in multiple currencies.

Sync was founded in February 2019 by Revolut’s former head of product design and strategy, Ricky Lee (CEO), and experienced entrepreneur Azahara Egea (COO). 

The app has yet to publicly launch but Sync has already partnered with Mastercard to create a card with unique security features. The company is also currently hiring for a training project manager, amongst other positions. 

Primer

Founded: December 2019
Sector: Fintech

Primer Logo

Primer is another promising fintech startup. The company was founded in December 2019, by Gabriel Roux and Paul Anthony, former senior employees of PayPal-owned company Braintree. The fintech is targeting merchants with a payments API that allows better consolidation of their payment stack. 

Many merchants, particularly the larger ones, have to support an array of payment methods, which brings significant technical overhead, a lack of transparency and a negative user experience. Primer eases this issue with a platform that reduces friction when adopting new payment methods and provides data driven insights on checkout performance. 

Despite being less than 6 months old and with its product still in development, Primer secured £3.2m in seed funding in May 2020 led by Balderton Capital and joined by Transferwise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus. The round comes on top of a pre-seed investment of £600k from Seedcamp, Kima, and Speedinvest.

Pelation

Founded: August 2019
Sector: Health and Fitness

Pelation Logo

According to Pelation, 64% cyclists in London feel stressed on the road and 9 out of 10 experience a close pass overtake weekly. Founded by Imperial College graduates Crispian Poon and Elizabeth Yu in August 2019, Pelation has invented REBO, a safe and smart, bike light and dashcam for urban cyclists. 

The REBO has built-in video recording with a handlebar clicker for instant bookmarking and download of footage, as well as live speed and distance detection of vehicles moving around cyclists. The aim is to encourage safer and wider passing for cyclists, and help increase the number of cyclists on the road by tackling mobility barriers.

Pelation could see a surge in demand for its services very soon; the government has launched a £250m active travel fund this month to promote cycling and walking and Boris Johnson has advised people to cycle instead of taking public transport where possible. In order to relieve the current pressure on public transport, plans are being made for pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle-only corridors.

In fact, in April 2020, Pelation was one of the 12 winners for this year’s Department for Transport, ‘Decarbonising the Transport System’ T-TRIG Grant track, designed to bring cutting edge transport innovations to market. With this grant it plans to conduct a six-month feasibility trial of its ‘cycling near miss prevention’ technology, and use the data to help authorities, planners, and businesses make better decisions about cycling related projects.

PostEra

Founded: November 2019
Sector: Biotechnology

PostEra Logo

PostEra develops machine learning technology for drug discovery. Essentially, it is an online ‘synthesis laboratory’, and is designed for scientists to explore and create new chemical structures using 3D drawing tools. The company was founded by Aaron Morris, Matt Robinson and Alpha Lee in November 2019 initially with the plan of developing a drug aiming to help with substance abuse.

Since the outbreak, the company has been combining the latest research with its AI algorithms to help find a COVID antiviral. PostEra even launched a non-profit ‘COVID Moonshot initiative’ so that scientists from all around the world can submit their designs using the online drawing tool, while machine learning algorithms run in the background, to enable an efficient turnaround. Already they have received over 4,500 drug designs, with the best being tested and put into production.

Handi

Founded: March 2020
Sector: Healthcare

Handi Logo

Launching a new company is a particularly brave step in a climate of such economic uncertainty as this. Founded in March 2020 by Anthony Ganjou, Handi has already developed contactless hand sanitisation units as a result of COVID-19. By using modular, touchless, hand hygiene technology the Handi totem can provide hand sanitisation in under 3 seconds. Each totem has a total capacity of 1,500 vends of antibacterial liquid and can be custom branded. The technology is designed to be placed in any location, uses battery power and utilises IoT/web connectivity for live stock level management and tracking.

The company already has big plans, with a mission to build the world’s largest cloud connected network of smart health technologies, and clean billions of hands. The Handi also has the potential to link hand ‘squirts’ live to instant charity donations which could make it a powerful tool to help support both people and businesses. Although the product is still in the early stages of development, hundreds of Handi totem prototypes have already been installed across Europe in offices, airports, restaurants and hospitals. As life eventually returns to some form of ‘normal’ in the coming months, Handi could play a pivotal role in helping brands rebuild trust and foster safety.

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