Top Glasgow Startups and Scaleups
Sam Peckett, 18 May 2023
As Scotland’s most populated city, Glasgow provides huge potential for businesses and entrepreneurs. The city offers a wealth of customers and a huge talent pool to choose from, and has Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, just a short journey away.
The proportion of high-growth companies in Scotland is more than double that of England, at 5% vs 2%, and Glasgow startups are leading the way. Four of the top ten fastest growing companies in Scotland are based in Glasgow, more than any other Scottish city, demonstrating its thriving startup community. Glasgow is the only UK city outside of London with two universities ranked in the top 40 for research and the value of this is apparent—one of Scotland’s fastest growing companies, Fixed Phage, is a University of Strathcylde spinout.
The Glasgow landscape
Last year was a record breaking year for venture capital investment in Scotland. The country bucked the trend of the rest of the United Kingdom, which saw investment fall 30%. Instead, investments in Scotland reached a total value of £705m, up 12.6%, making the country an ideal home for startups and scaleups looking for investment. Edinburgh and Glasgow take the lion’s share of VC investment in Scotland, with 519 high growth companies in Glasgow and 699 in Edinburgh.
Glasgow City Region is one of three pilot areas in the UK that is receiving a share of £100m for a new innovation and research accelerator as part of the UK’s leveling up plans. It’s a huge coup for a city that is already world-class in innovation and regularly ranks in the top 20% of the top 100 most innovative cities in the world.
Zooming in on the tech ecosystem, Glasgow has seen a lot of growth, with tech startups and companies receiving over £100m in private investment in 2022, up 153% from 2019. Glasgow’s position as the UK’s second city for tech companies after London is looking solidified, making it a great space for entrepreneurship in the tech sector.
Top seven companies in Glasgow
We’re taking a look at the top high-growth companies headquartered in Glasgow, ranked by the amount of equity investment secured to date.
Total equity raised: £85m
Sector: Property development/ management
Wheatley Group is Scotland’s leading housing, care and property-management group and owns or manages over 79,000 homes. For the four years leading to 2021, it was the largest builder of social rented homes in the UK. Wheatley Group and its subsidiaries are united by their mission of “making homes and lives better”. A subsidiary of Wheatley Group, called Wheatley Homes Glasgow, won the Global Excellence Award in 2017 from the European Foundation of Quality Management. The award is for organisations that “demonstrate an indisputable track record of success in turning strategy into action”.
The company’s first and only fundraise so far was in October 2019, worth £85m, from the European Investment Bank Fund, which works to help small and medium size businesses (SMEs) to access funding. Wheatley Group aims to use the money to increase the supply of quality, affordable housing across Scotland through both new builds and by improving existing homes. The company employs 2,700 people directly, and a further 2,000 through City Building (Glasgow), a repair and maintenance company that it is joint owner of.
Total equity raised: £56.7m
A spinout from the University of Strathclyde, ENOUGH produces ABUNDA® mycoprotein which can be used to create alternative vegan meat, seafood or dairy products. ABUNDA® mycoprotein contains all essential amino acids and is high in dietary fibre, making it a versatile ingredient. Selling its product to other businesses, ENOUGH helps retailers and companies to produce sustainable, healthy protein products. The company aims to save 5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2032.
Having received three grants worth £2.69m between 2017 and 2019, the company has gone on to raise £56.7m from six further fundraisings. The latest was in April 2022 for £11.7m. Investors include CPT Capital, who have invested in fellow plant-based protein companies such as THIS and Beyond Meat, Data Collective, who invest in green companies such as geothermal energy company Fervo Energy and CO2 emission recycler Twelve, as well as The University of Strathclyde, where co-founder Jim Laird graduated from.
Total equity raised: £30.8m
HV Systems design hydrogen-electric vehicles for commercial use. Hydrogen cars offer an alternative to more common electric vehicles that are powered by electricity stored in a battery which needs to be recharged. Instead, hydrogen-electric cars produce electricity through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, and can be refuelled with hydrogen in just five minutes. HV Systems have developed a hydrogen-electric heavy goods vehicle (HGV) which it aims to launch in 2023. HGVs account for 22% of transport CO2 emissions, while making up just 7% of road traffic, meaning a viable renewable energy replacement has huge potential for financial success.
The company has received seven grants worth £13.3m, and has gone through four fundraisings totalling £30.8m. Its latest fundraising was for £25m in September 2022 and was led by petrol station and retailer Euro Garages Group to help HV Systems provide hydrogen power infrastructure to its vehicles. The company has also received investment from Beehive Equity, a Euro Garages Group subsidy.
Total equity raised: £29m
Mironid develops new medicines to improve the quality of life for people with degenerative kidney diseases, chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer. The company’s aim is to become the world leader in cell signalling treatments, which are treatments that work by cells responding to substances outside of the cell via signalling molecules. Research published by Mironid claims that some of its work could improve the cost-effectiveness of the NHS.
Mironid is the second spinout of the University of Strathclyde, this time in 2015, and has since received three grants totalling £1.06m, with nearly half of that coming in a grant in March 2023 worth £502k. The company has gone through nine fundraisings, with the latest in March 2023 worth £8.18m, bringing its total funding to £29.0m. Investors include Biogeneration Ventures, who focus on seed investment for early stage companies working on medical solutions, Epidarex Capital who focus on life science companies, along with Scottish Enterprise.
Total equity raised: £21.4m
M Squared develops photonics and quantum technology—this is things such as lasers and chemical sensors. Its products are used by companies and researchers in aerospace, defence, oil and gas, healthcare and food and drink sectors. In 2021, M Squared collaborated with spacetech company Thales Alenia Space to accurately measure for the first time how much CO2 is released into the atmosphere due to human activity. The joint venture saw M Squared’s accurate sensors combined with Thales Alenia Space’s satellite imagery systems.
The company has attended three accelerator programmes: ELITE in April 2014, Upscale in January 2016 and Future Fifty from March 2019 to March 2021. It has also featured in many high-growth lists over the last decade, including the Deloitte Fast 500 in 2012, 2013 and 2017, the IP100 for four years running from 2017 to 2020, and the Northern Tech 100 in 2020. It has received a massive 86 grants worth £2.27m, on top of five fundraisings totalling £21.4m. Investors include BGF Growth Capital and Scottish National Investment Bank managed by the Scottish Government.
Total equity raised: £14.0m
Sector: Real estate
Previously known as CO2 Estates, arbnco creates software to help utility companies, property managers and commercial real estate owners to manage and reduce energy consumption across their portfolio. By analysing and benchmarking a building’s energy consumption, organisations can more easily identify opportunities to save energy and retro-fit their property. In 2019, arbnco opened an office in Detroit as it expanded to the USA with a partnership with the University of California, Davis. Arbnco worked to identify energy saving opportunities and find ways to improve air quality for both students and staff.
Arbnco has raised a total of £14.0m across 10 fundraisings, with the latest worth £782k in August 2022. The company has also received five grants worth £568k, and has been featured on high growth lists including Top 100 – Britain’s Fastest Growing Businesses in 2019, 100 SmartTech Innovators in 2020 and BusinessCloud PropTech 50 in 2021.
Total equity raised: £12.3m
A University of Glasgow spinout, Causeway Therapeutics develops microRNA therapies for treating musculoskeletal and age-related diseases. MicroRNAs help cells to control the type and amount of proteins they make. By increasing microRNA levels in damaged or older cells, cells can begin to repair themselves. Causeway Therapeutics’ treatments can target tendinopathy, osteoarthritis and skin ageing.
The company has received four grants worth £2.77m, and has gone through five fundraisings. The latest fundraising was in February 2023 and raised £8.75, bringing Causeway Therapeutics’ total fundraising to £12.3m. Investors include Mediqventure, a venture capital firm focused on biotechnology, life sciences and drug development, Scottish Venture Fund and Early Stage Growth Challenge Fund.
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