London startups are consistently ranked among the fastest-growing in Europe. As we highlighted in our regional articles throughout 2020—including Bristol, Manchester and Scotland—the UK is a varied and innovative ecosystem of startups, scaleups, and venture capital. But above all other cities, London leads with the highest number of active companies and attracts the most venture capital by a large margin.
In 2020, the UK was home to 426 high-growth companies raising announced equity funding for the first time, down from 550 in 2019. This 23% decrease is consistent with our analysis throughout the year: investors preferred to focus on existing portfolio companies rather than seek out new investments, in a time of increased risk and uncertainty. But, while the number of first-time equity investments decreased from 2019, investors were still willing to take on new risk for the right venture.
Of the 426 small businesses that raised first-time equity in 2020, 276 were in the Technology and IP-based business sector. This sector covers a wide range of disruptive industries, from edtech and drones, to insurtech and clean energy. The tech sector fared better than the ecosystem as a whole in 2020, having secured 311 first-time deals in 2019, proving a gentler decrease of 12% last year.
In total, private tech companies raised £380m through first-time funding rounds in 2020, £196m of which went into London. Of the 276 tech startups that raised announced equity finance for the first time last year, 141 were London-based companies, 41 of which raised over £1m. No wonder the Capital’s technology hub (East London Tech City) has been named Silicon Roundabout.
As shown above, when focussing on the number of deals secured by London tech companies, there’s been little change compared to 2019. This suggests that tech businesses headquartered in London—even at early stages—have weathered the pandemic better than those in other parts of the country, and in other sectors.
We’ve taken a closer look at the London-based tech startups that raised announced equity investments for the first time during 2020, generating a snapshot of names worth watching in 2021. Here’s our top 10 startups list.
Top 10 London tech startups: by largest first-round fundraisings (2020)
Funds raised in 2020: £21.2m
H4 develops software to improve the management and analysis of financial and legal documents. The platform digitises documents and captures the data as it does so, storing it in a searchable digital library.
H4 was founded in 2016, and has over 120 employees across London and Skopje, Macedonia. H4 counts many leading global banks and law firms as customers, including shareholders J.P. Morgan and Barclays. It was also the first startup to attend J.P. Morgan’s In-Residence tech incubator programme.
The software-as-a-service (SaaS) company raised its first equity investment in June 2020, totalling £21.2m from Barclays Ventures, Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investment, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Linklaters. The investment will help H4 expand its customer base and broaden its use cases.
Location: City of London
Funds raised in 2020: £17.8m
Primer develops payment infrastructure software for third-party payment providers. The company’s API allows merchants to centralise all their payment choices and infrastructure in one place, without code, reducing the cost and confusion that comes with offering multiple payment methods. It also allows merchants to quickly adopt new methods as they come to market, such as cryptocurrencies.
Founded in 2019 by ex-PayPal employees, this financial technology company (fintech) has raised £17.8m across two rounds—the first in May for £3.80m and the second in November 2020 for £14.0m. Primer is valued at £40.1m pre-money after its most recent fundraising in November. The company is backed by leading European fintech investors, including Accel, Balderton Capital, Kima Ventures, Seedcamp, Speedinvest Fintech, and RTP Global.
Primer is a leader in flexible working, one of the perks of a remote-first company, with just over 30 employees spread across six countries and multiple cities, from London and New York, to Stockholm and Bordeaux. The funding raised in 2020 will be invested in furthering Primer’s international presence, scaling operations, and recruitment.
Funds raised in 2020: £16.5m
Proxymity operates a platform designed to connect shareholders and related parties, allowing electronic proxy voting and investor communications. Instead of in-person meetings or emails and lengthy voting processes, shareholders can access agendas digitally and vote in real-time. The platform authenticates and counts votes automatically, aiming to streamline, simplify, and secure the process of shareholder proxy voting.
Proxymity is a corporate spinout from Citigroup, a product of Citi’s internal D10X program. It was spun-out in 2020 and has around 35 employees, with Citi executives sitting on the board and in C-suite roles at the company.
In May, the company secured £16.5m in equity fundraising in exchange for a 50% stake, taking the firm into consortium ownership. A long list of established investors from across the world participated: BNY Mellon, Citigroup, Clearstream, Computershare, Deutsche Bank, HSBC Commercial Banking, J.P. Morgan Private Bank, and State Street Bank.
Moving forward, Proxymity will use this funding to scale its platform offerings, deliver its services to a wider client base, and enter a broader range of geographic markets.
Funds raised in 2020: £12.7m
Omnio formed when two fintech startups, Tuxedo Money Solutions and Payment Cloud Technologies, merged in 2018. Omnio develops a cloud-based digital banking platform, through which banks can run their financial services instead of legacy systems. The platform also helps ‘bankify’ businesses—such as post offices, airlines, travel companies and retailers—by allowing them to offer financial and payment services to customers.
The Westminster-based company raised £12.7m in equity investment in January 2020. While the round was announced publicly, its investors remain undisclosed. Its latest fundraising capital is intended for scaling the sales team, optimising the product offering, and for working capital.
Omnio serves over two million users and over 300 firms across the world, working with companies such as AnPost and easyJet, along with being partnered with major names like Mastercard and Visa. The company has a global presence, with operations in Europe and Australia. It has just over 130 employees to date.
Location: City of London
Funds raised in 2020: £9.52m
Griffin develops software providing online infrastructure for fintech companies. It is looking to become one of the UK’s first platform banks, where everything needed for banking is managed over API. Being API-first will make it far easier and quicker for clients using Griffin to launch financial and payment services online.
The company was founded in 2017, and is currently developing its platform, whilst working through the banking authorisation process. Griffin secured a £3m equity fundraising in January 2020, followed by £6.45m in November. Named investors into the company are Tribe Capital, EQT Ventures, and Seedcamp. It has secured £9.52m overall.
Griffin is using this latest investment to further product development, hire more developers, and continue the bank authorisation process to allow them to offer full bank accounts to customers, with FSCS-insured deposits.
Location: Richmond upon Thames
Funds raised in 2020: £6.93m
NURVV develops a wearable device for runners that provides a range of metrics, aiming to improve technique and increase speed. NURVV has worked with UK sports science universities to develop sensor technology that captures data more accurately than traditional offerings, providing analysis and feedback to runners in real time.
Founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Jason and Ulrica Roberts, the company’s first product, NURVV Run, comes as shoe insoles—containing 32 sensors that capture 1000 datapoints per second. The company secured its first equity fundraising in February 2020, totalling £6.93m. The solo investor was Hiro Capital, a Luxembourg and London-based fund that invests in video games, esports, streaming, and digital sports ventures.
NURVV’s funding will help bring NURVV Run to the global market and will go towards further research and development of sensor technologies. The company currently has just over 40 employees.
Location: Tower Hamlets
Funds raised in 2020: £6.93m
eConsult develops an online portal that can be integrated into the websites of medical practices, allowing patients to look up their symptoms and receive medical advice online. The platform allows GP practices to offer online consultation, manage requests, and signpost services digitally. eConsult also manages digital triage, prioritising the most urgent cases and reducing the need for face-to-face services where possible.
Founded in 2011, the digital healthcare company received its first ever equity investment last year in October 2020. The round totalled £5.57m and was contributed entirely by Gresham House Ventures, a London-based growth equity investor that has invested £78.3m into 20 tracked, high-growth companies. eConsult will use this investment for product development and supporting further expansion.
eConsult attended the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator from 2017-2018, and is used in over 3,000 NHS practices across the UK to date.
Funds raised in 2020: £5m
AGORA develops an app that enables users to review and purchase beauty products. Founded at the beginning of 2019, Agora brings together sharing, discovering, and shopping onto social commerce platform. It aims to emulate the customer experience of offline shopping, online, through the use of video and personalised content. It already has over 50,000 registered users.
The company raised £5m in December 2020 from Draper Esprit, Angel Capital Management, and Lakestar. With its new funding, AGORA is focusing on building out its e-commerce platform with new technologies, such as live streaming and AI-driven suggestions and personalisation. It will also work towards reaching new audiences and markets, particularly across Europe.
Location: City of London
Funds raised in 2020: £4.56m
Sumsub has developed identity verification software, particularly for anti-money laundering and anti-fraud purposes. Founded in 2015 by a team of machine learning specialists, Sumsub’s software uses artificial intelligence to automate identity verification, validating selfies against submitted identity documents, and ensuring digital compliance with various identification laws across the world.
The cybersecurity company raised £4.56m in equity investment in September 2020, contributed by Flint Capital and MetaQuotes, alongside undisclosed angel investors. The investment will be used for R&D, aiming to further develop the Sumsub platform and expand into new markets across the globe.
Sumsub is used by over 600 customers, working particularly closely with the cryptocurrency and fintech sectors. Major clients include TransferGo and PaySend. It has just over 50 employees to date.
Location: King’s Cross
Funds raised in 2020: £3.25m
Radix develops software for decentralised finance, tokens, and coins. It pitches itself as a scalable alternative to blockchain. The platform has not yet been released, but a public test showed Radix processing over 1m transactions per second—a world record.
While current financial infrastructure uses separate, often incompatible technologies, Radix’s platform allows assets to be moved and traded anywhere. Radix—and decentralised finance as a whole—aims to offer frictionless and faster finance for the 21st Century, with the ability to easily and quickly switch assets and currencies.
The King’s Cross-based company raised £3.25 in its first ever round in July 2020 from LocalGlobe, Maven 11, XSquared, and TransferWise’s co-founder Taavet Hinrikus. The investment will be used for hiring and bringing Radix’s product to market. Additionally, late last year, the company had its first successful token sale, where £12.7 million was placed into escrow on the Radix platform by users.
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