Will Davis, 04 October 2022
Bristol tech companies account for 36% of the city’s high-growth businesses. Collectively, these 208 tech startups and scaleups employ over 13k people and reported a combined turnover of £4.69b in their latest financials. Indeed, the tech sector is at the heart of Bristol’s startup ecosystem, with the region recently being named the UK’s second-best city for tech recruitment. Here, we explore Bristol’s tech scene in more detail, including some of the top tech startups to watch this year.
The Bristol tech ecosystem contains a healthy mix of tech giants (the likes of Amazon, Nokia and Sony all have a base in or around the city) and emerging startups that are demonstrating impressive growth. Bristol boasts the greatest number of high-growth technology companies in the South West of England. And across the United Kingdom, it follows only behind the London (5,911), Edinburgh (313), Manchester (241), and Cambridge (240) tech scenes.
Bristol is also part of the Silicon Gorge technology hub—alongside Gloucester, Swindon and Bath—these innovative tech cities have attracted large amounts of capital investment to the South West, as well as top-tier tech talent and entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, Bristol connects to the wider West of England’s tech ecosystem through organisations such as SETsquared, and TechSPARK, which works to strengthen the position of the region by bringing together its SMEs in a collaborative tech network.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is the most common high-growth sector in Bristol’s tech ecosystem, accounting for 31% of the city’s technology businesses. Behind software companies are internet platforms (24%) and mobile apps (14%). This follows trends seen across the UK’s wider high-growth ecosystem, in which SaaS, internet platforms and mobile apps are again the three most common tech sectors. Having said that, Bristol’s top tech companies span a wide range of industries, including fintech, cleantech, and biotech and pharmaceuticals.
High-growth tech companies in Bristol are mostly early-stage, with 76% currently operating at the Seed or Venture stages of evolution, in keeping with trends seen across the country. But together, they’ve drawn in vast sums of venture capital investment: since 2012, Bristol tech companies have raised a total of £2.09b in equity finance, across 521 announced and unannounced funding rounds.
Besides a sizable dip in 2020, at the onset of COVID-19, the volume and value of equity deals secured by Bristol tech companies has grown pretty steadily year-on-year. Just four fundraisings were announced in 2012, amounting to £3.60m, compared to 39 announced deals in 2021, worth £512m in total.
Bristol tech’s biggest raiser so far is semiconductor developer Graphcore. The company has secured an impressive £528m worth of equity fundraisings to date, and is one of two unicorn companies headquartered in the city. Fellow Bristol unicorn OVO (OVO Energy) has raised £259m in equity investment so far, across four funding rounds. Meanwhile, the fintech company ClearBank has raised £351m, while haptic technology startup Ultraleap (formerly Ultrahaptics) and cyber security firm Immersive Labs have secured £145m and £91.9m, respectively.
The equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs is by far the most active investor in Bristol’s tech sector, with 47 announced deals since 2012. Its Bristol portfolio includes high-growth software providers Yellowdog, Sennen, and trukl. Also very active in the region are local angel network Bristol Private Equity Club (22), Parkwalk’s University of Bristol Enterprise Fund (14), accelerator manager WebStart Bristol (12) and Molten Ventures (10).
Molten Ventures (formerly Draper Esprit) also tops the leaderboard for total value of fundraisings, having participated in £463m worth of announced equity rounds with Bristol tech startups so far. The leading VC fund has backed Bristol-based tech companies Graphcore, Xmos and Focal Point Positioning. Meanwhile, the University of Bristol Enterprise Fund aims to support spinouts from the University and its business incubator, such as aerospace software developer Boxarr and clinical diagnostics technology company Micrima.
We’ve ranked the 10 Bristol tech companies that have secured the biggest equity deals of the year so far. Every entrant in this list is a private business that has hit one or more of our high-growth tracking triggers. Read on to discover their growth journeys so far.
Tech sector: Fintech
Deal date: 18/03/2022
Amount raised: 175m
ClearBank operates a clearing bank which aims to increase efficiency and transparency in the banking industry through its software solutions. Describing itself as the first clearing bank in the UK in 250 years, the Bristol-based challenger bank is disrupting major incumbents in the banking and financial services industry like Barclays, NatWest, HSBC and Lloyds.
The scaleup company has secured £351m in equity investment so far, across six funding rounds. It has also received two large innovation grants, totalling £85.0m. ClearBank’s latest funding round, in March 2022, saw it raise £175m from Apax Partners, CFFI UK Ventures and PPF Group. It plans to use this capital to expand internationally into the United States and Europe.
Tech sector: AI
Deal date: 01/04/2022
Amount raised: £17.8m
Rovco provides underwater surveying and inspection services for a range of industries, such as oil and gas, scientific research and renewables. The technology company uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help its clients make informed engineering decisions and de-risk their projects. Rovco’s innovative technology includes autonomous subsea robotics, as well as 3D vision with machine-learning inspection. It has attended both the Entrepreneurial Spark and Upscale accelerator programmes, whilst also appearing in the South West Tech 50 high-growth list in 2020.
Since being founded in 2015, Rovco has raised £30.9m in equity investment, across eight funding rounds. In April 2022, in one of two rounds completed this year, the company secured a £17.8m equity and loan investment. Equinor Ventures, Foresight VCT, Legal & General Capital, IQT, and the UK Government’s Future Fund all participated in the round. It will be used to invest in marine infrastructure, clean energy and AI, and to expand overseas.
Tech sector: Fintech
Deal date: 10/05/2022
Amount raised: £15.3m
Tumelo develops a mobile investment app that aims to help users finance businesses and causes they’re passionate about. The “tech for good” company was created as a university activism campaign, advocating to change the way the University of Cambridge invested its £6b endowment pot. Tumelo’s mission is to enable retail investors and pension members to create and benefit from a more sustainable investment system.
Since its launch in 2017, Tumelo has attended an impressive number of accelerator programmes: Entrepreneur Accelerator, Launch Space, AG Elevate, and Tech Nation Fintech. It has also raised £17.5m in equity investment, across four funding rounds (with investors including singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel). The fintech startup’s most recent fundraising, in May 2022, was a £15.3m round with Fidelity, Legal & General, Nucleus Adventure Capital, and Treasury, alongside angel investors.
Tech sector: Wearables
Deal date: 09/09/2022
Amount raised: £15.0m
Focal Point Positioning is developing technology to allow the tracking of mobile devices in environments previously unreachable by traditional GPS signals. Its advanced physics and machine learning software integrates with smartphones, wearables and vehicles. The company was spun-out of the University of Cambridge in 2015, but is now headquartered in Bristol. It recently attended the six-month Upscale accelerator for developing tech businesses, between October 2021 and June 2022.
In total, Focal Point Positioning has raised £26.2m in equity investment, across six funding rounds. The largest of these was a £15.0m deal, secured in September 2022, with investors including Gresham House Ventures and Molten Ventures. The tech startup will use this new capital to accelerate the development of its IP portfolio and to support demand for its services across the US and Asia.
Tech sector: Internet platform
Deal date: 13/09/2022
Amount raised: £5.34m
Next on our list of top Bristol tech companies is Bud, which develops a SaaS platform that allows businesses to deliver apprenticeships and their accreditations. Founded in 2016, its apprenticeship management software aims to help businesses reduce the cost of their training programmes. Bud was featured in the 2018 cohort of The FinTech50 high-growth company ranking.
Bud has successfully secured four rounds of equity investment to date, worth a combined £5.49m. Each of these rounds have been unannounced so far, with the company currently operating in stealth mode. The most recent of its fundraisings, completed in September 2022, brought in £5.34m from undisclosed investors.
Tech sector: Cleantech
Deal date: 31/03/2022
Amount raised: £5.00m
LettUs Grow develops technology that allows food to be grown without the need for soil, and was designed to reduce food waste and improve the sustainability behind growing produce. Its software analyses crop performance data and manages energy control to automate lighting, irrigation, and temperature most efficiently. Charles Guy founded the greentech company in 2015, to address growing concerns around global food security and climate change.
It has secured £7.87m in equity investment so far, across four funding rounds, alongside almost £1m in innovation grants. The company’s most recent raise, in March 2022, brought in £5.00m from the Knowledge Intensive EIS Fund, Parkwalk Opportunities EIS fund and other, undisclosed investors. LettUs Grow has also benefited from winning the Postcode Lottery green challenge prize in 2018. It has also been named in the FoodTech 500 and South West Tech 50 high-growth lists.
Tech sector: Internet platform
Deal date: 27/01/2022
Amount raised: £5.00m
Founded in 2016, Deazy operates a curated development marketplace. Its tech platform connects over 3k developers with teams around the UK. The fast-growing startup has helped businesses access software developers amidst rising demand during the pandemic. It also attended the Entrepreneur Accelerator programme, in 2019 and 2020.
Deazy has raised £6.34m in equity investment to date, across four funding rounds. But Puma Investments is the technology company’s only named investor so far, having backed its recent £5.00m round in January 2022. Deazy announced that it would put the cash injection towards scaling its commercial and development teams.
Tech sector: Pharmaceuticals
Deal date: 05/08/2022
Amount raised: £4.14m
Carbometrics is a Bristol-based healthcare company that has developed a form of carbohydrate-binding molecule, called Glucose Binding Molecules (GBMs), which are designed to sense and select glucose. Spun-out of exited Bristol tech company Ziylo in 2018, Carbometrics is based at the Science Creates incubator hub, a scheme backed by the University of Bristol that develops deeptech companies.
The pharmaceutical startup has raised a total of £6.87m in equity investment so far, across four funding rounds. Existing backers include Ada Ventures and the University of Bristol Enterprise Fund. Carbometrics’ latest £4.14m fundraising was completed in August 2022, with undisclosed investors.
Tech sector: Nanotechnology
Deal date: 15/07/2022
Amount raised: £4.10m
Bristol-based nanotechnology company Anaphite is working to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EV), by developing a novel EV battery manufacturing process. The startup’s metal oxide-graphene nanocomposites achieve faster battery charging, and reduce manufacturing costs and emissions. It aims to scale its production process next, and trials are already underway in a European giga factory.
Anaphite has attended both the Exeter Velocities – Nurture programme and the Deeptech Labs accelerator. It has raised a total of £6.07m in equity investment, across seven funding rounds, plus £384k in grant funding through Innovate UK projects. The company’s most recent fundraising, in July 2022, was its largest to date: the £4.10m deal saw participation from numerous investors, including Wealth Club, Blue Wire Capital, Zero Carbon Capital, and the Oxfordshire Investment Opportunity Network (OION).
Tech sector: Fintech
Deal date: 12/07/2022
Amount raised: £4.00m
Penny develops a mobile app which uses artificial intelligence to help users find different pension pots. Through the Penny platform, users can find pensions from previous jobs and keep track of funds. The fintech company graduated from the 2019-2020 cohort of Entrepreneur Accelerator.
Since its founding in 2019, Penny has gone on to raise £6.20m in equity investment, across three funding rounds. Its July 2022 fundraising brought in £4.00m of this, from Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI investment fund) and angel investor Tom Blomfield (Co-Founder of Monzo).
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