Outside of London, Manchester is one of the UK’s leading technology hubs. Manchester follows only—and very closely—behind Cambridge and Edinburgh in number of high-growth tech companies. The county of Greater Manchester is home to 1,468 high-growth private companies altogether, and over a third of these are technology and IP-based businesses.
Today we’ve analysed the Manchester tech scene, seeing how it compares to the rest of the UK. Plus, we’ve ranked the top 14 hottest Manchester tech startups in 2020.
A broad picture of Manchester’s high-growth ecosystem
- High-growth tech businesses in Manchester generate a combined turnover of £3.42b, and together employ an estimated 21.6k people.
- 3% of all UK tech investments since 2011 have gone to companies located in Greater Manchester. Overall, there have been 389 announced and 502 unannounced deals invested into the area.
- Just 16% of these companies are female-founded, compared to the UK-wide tech-sector average of 19%.
- Compared to the overall UK tech ecosystem, Greater Manchester has a 2% higher exit rate. This indicates a positive ecosystem for scaling tech companies.
- Manchester’s strongest tech sectors, by total number of companies, are Software-as-a-Service and mobile apps.
What makes Manchester a good place for tech startups?
As the graph below highlights, the number of investment deals going into Manchester’s technology sector grew steadily between 2011 and 2017.
Announced equity investment into Manchester-based companies
Manchester’s tech scene has also seen a general rise in the total value of fundraisings since 2014, with strong peaks of £400m in 2017 and £316m in 2019.
There are several funds focused on investment into Manchester and the North specifically. Many of these feature in our ranking of the most active funds investing into high-growth tech companies in Manchester:
The most active fund since 2011 has been the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, which seeks to decrease funding disparity between the North of England and the South East by investing equity finance into Northern SMEs. NPIF is a central government collaboration fund between the European Regional Development Fund, the British Business Bank, and ten Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the North West. It is largely managed by Maven Capital Partners and Mercia Asset Management PLC.
Another active fund is the North West Fund, a venture capital equity package for growth-oriented businesses within the digital and creative sector. It is a local and regional fund managed by AXM Venture Capital Ltd that typically invests between £50k and £2m—often in mobile apps and fintech companies.
GC Angels, an angel network based out of Manchester, has been the most active early-stage equity investor into Greater Manchester’s tech scene in 2020 so far. It typically invests around £350k and has invested in many companies on today’s list, including The Link App and my2be.
The 14 hottest tech startups in Greater Manchester
- Are technology and IP-based companies
- Are located within the county of Greater Manchester
- Have raised funds within the last 12 months
- Have been positively impacted by COVID-19 (according to Beauhurst analysis)
This returns a list of resilient, recently-funded, and fast-growing tech startups in Manchester right now. We’ve ranked the companies according to the amount raised through equity investment so far this year.
1. Push Doctor
Sector, Buzzword: Mobile Apps, eHealth
Amount raised in last 12 months: £13.7m
Push Doctor functions as an on-demand online GP surgery, through which users can access video consultations with NHS-trained doctors and order prescriptions. Over 5.4m people have used the company’s platform, which is accessible both online and through a mobile app. Push Doctor has partnered with many NHS GP practices across the North of England and beyond, aiming to supplement GP services rather than replace them.
The company has raised £60.9m since its inception in 2013. Back in October, Push Doctor received an equity investment of £13.7m, returning a pre-money valuation of £62m. This fundraising was led by Draper Esprit and is intended to drive R&D, and for the support of the NHS during the pandemic.
Push Doctor has featured in a number of high-growth lists, such as Syndicate Room’s Top 100 Fastest-Growing Companies 2018. This year, the company reached 100 employees and attended the DigitalHealth London Accelerator.
The company told us that its experience as a tech startup in Manchester’s ecosystem has been “fantastic—the city has access to unbeatable talent and a history of innovation in its DNA, as well as a vibrant culture which gives it an edge over other UK cities.”
2. Evergreen Life
Sector, Buzzword: Mobile Apps, eHealth
Amount raised in last 12 months: £2.28m
Evergreen Life develops an app through which users record their health information, allowing them to: book doctor appointments; view test results and medical records; monitor blood pressure and sugar levels; and stay on top of jabs. Evergreen Life secured a £2.28m equity fundraising in December 2019, which brought the company’s total fundraising to £5.25m.
Evergreen Life’s app also provides a “Wellness” score, determined by regular wellness questions and checkups around the user’s fitness, happiness, nutrition, and medical information. From there, the app provides personalised tips and advice.
The company is an NHS-assured provider of GP services through its app. In early 2020, the company won the NHS: Primary Care Award at the Medilink’s Healthcare Business Awards 2020. This award recognised the company’s efforts to improve efficiency and services in primary care in the North.
CEO Anthony Critchlow told us that Manchester has been a great place for Evergreen Life to grow: “there is a vibrant tech scene in Manchester” with “easy access to skills and technologists” alongside “a down to earth and supportive network of angel investors.”
During COVID-19, the app has been asking users questions about their health, and then building a heat map of those with symptoms of COVID-19. The app is available on iOS and Android, with over 750,000 users and 33m NHS transactions completed to date.
Sector, Buzzword: Internet Platform, Design Services
Amount raised in last 12 months: £918k
CGHero provides an on-demand service that allows businesses to connect with computer graphics artists. Clients can then outsource necessary work to industry-leading 3D and CGI production professionals, freelancers, and studios around the world.
The company secured a £918k equity fundraising in March 2020, which brought the company’s fundraising total up to £1.14m across four funding rounds. CGHero only has two disclosed investors: Fuel Ventures and Ignite Main Programme, with the rest being private angel investors. The company is currently focussing on scaling: it completed the Ignite Accelerator in 2018, and plans to use its most recent funding to invest in marketing efforts and streamlining services.
The team behind CGhero actually moved into Manchester due to it being a location of choice for digital startups, transitioning with help from Manchester’s Inward Investment Agency (MIDAS). CEO Jonathan Lloyd cited “dedicated startup hubs,” “a thriving startup scene”, and “a great community of angel investors, knowledge, and support” as reasons for championing Manchester.
CGHero has worked with 1,700 digital artists located in 80 countries worldwide, serving a number of large-scale organisations such as Unilever, Doterra, and the NHS.
Sector, Buzzword: Mobile Apps, Artificial Intelligence
Amount raised in last 12 months: £500k
Cogenis is an AI-driven software development startup. It largely works on wellbeing mobile apps that function through recognising and interpreting human emotions. Cogenis’ first product is a cybersecurity and safeguarding app called Wing, which aims to keep children safe on social media.
Wing shares a daily emotional “weather report” with parents, which calculates the emotional activity of the child’s online interactions, using AI to flag potential concerns (such as violent messaging). The company works with in-house psychologists and machine learning engineers to develop the application across Android and iOS. While Wing is its first app offering, Cogenis is looking to create a mental wellbeing solution for employers next.
Founded in 2018—with a headcount of just over ten employees—Cogenis remains a seed-stage startup. The company has already received £800k in equity fundraising, however—one round of £500k in 2020, and one round of £300k in 2019.
Sector, Buzzword: SaaS, E-commerce
Amount raised in last 12 months: £500k
Shopblocks develops web-based software, designed to provide users with a full suite of e-commerce development tools. It’s essentially a one-stop-shop for setting up an online store. The software took five years to develop, but has seen rapidly-increasing interest during 2020. The company has seen hundreds of new customers and grown its team by 50% during lockdown, responding to demand from businesses moving their commercial activity online.
This Stockport-based startup has received £917k in fundraising, £500k of which was in the last 12 months. Its investment is sourced from a mix of angel investors—such as the Dow Schofield Watts Angels—and the Greater Manchester Investment Fund.
6. The Link App
Sector, Buzzword: Mobile Apps, Lawtech
Amount raised in last 12 months: £425k
The Link App develops a legal services app, designed to enable legal professionals and firms to communicate with their clients quickly and securely in one centralised channel. Founder and solicitor Lauren Riley created the startup in 2014 after finding herself frustrated with the slow pace of the legal industry, seeing space within the budding Lawtech industry for a customer-facing mobile app.
The company has received £1.21m in fundraisings in total, and £54.8k in grants from Innovate UK. The most recent fundraising was a £425k equity round for a 6.4% stake, which valued the company at £2.80m pre-money. The purpose of the most recent investment was for funding new board appointments and introducing an updated version of its interface technology.
Investors into The Link App include GC Angels and NPIF Equity Finance. The company featured on the Innovation 100 Greater Manchester high-growth list in 2018, and in 2020 Xero UK MD joined the company’s board of directors.
7. Immersify Education
Sector, Buzzword: Mobile Apps, EdTech
Amount raised in last 12 months: £290k
Immersify Education develops educational augmented reality apps to aid teaching in dentistry schools. The company aligns modern technology and resources with educational curriculums, aiming to improve student engagement and information recall.
The product offers app-based interactive animation, content, and 3D visuals to students. Immersify Education creates its resources in collaboration with authors, academics, and experts across multiple languages. It particularly focuses on gamification: the application of game-design elements in non-game contexts.
The Salford-based startup has received £290k across two rounds in the last 12 months. This funding comes from the GC Angels, Greater Manchester Investment Fund, NorthInvest, Phoenix Investment, and other undisclosed angel investors.
Immersify Education was previously known as DigiDentistry, but rebranded in 2019 to allow the company to scale into other industries such as biology and medical sectors. Founder Chloe Barrett told us that from 2020 onwards, the company is looking to “scale quickly, expand into other academic areas, expand internationally” and ultimately “create a platform where students and professionals from all over the world can come together.”
The company released its app on iOS and Android stores for the first time this academic year.
Sector, Buzzword: Internet Platform, Supply Chain & Logistics
Amount raised in last 12 months: £250k
Avail develops a website that connects HGV drivers with delivery jobs. This startup is aiming to disrupt the haulage logistics industry through its platform, which is available through internet browser, mobile, and smart device app. Through its technology, Avail increases rates of pay for HGV drivers and reduces costs for the companies sourcing workers.
Avail has secured £800k across three fundraisings. In January 2020 Mercia Fund Managers invested £250k into the company. Northern Powerhouse Equity Finance has been a large investor in Avail, too.
The company has signed up over 1000 drivers and has secured haulage clients all across the North of England, and claims to save an average of £4,000 per driver a year.
Sector, Buzzword: SaaS, Fintech
Amount raised in last 12 months: £248k
Mina develops software that offers accountancy services to individuals, aiming to simplify the application process for tax refunds. Its software calculates where clients can save money and ensures users are not paying more tax than necessary. Anyone can apply for a tax check on Mina’s website.
The company has raised £306k across three fundraising rounds. The latest fundraising was for £248k in return for an 8.6% stake, giving the company a £2.62m pre-money valuation.
Sector, Buzzword: SaaS, Virtual reality
Amount raised in last 12 months: £150k
Manchester-based startup Rezzil recreates football training and situations through virtual reality software. It uses information from sensors on a person’s feet and connects it to proprietary augmented reality technology and VR headset display.
The company aims to develop cognition and vital skills in football players. It’s targeted towards all skill levels, but is used by (and sold to) premier league teams such as Liverpool and Manchester City. In January 2020, it signed a partnership with the largest football-speciality chain in the US, Soccer Post.
Rezzil has raised £526k altogether across four equity rounds. The most recent round, secured in March 2020, totalled £150k. So far, all of the company’s investments have been unannounced, indicating that it is operating in stealth mode—a phenomenon that we explained in our recent report, The Stealth Round.
Sector, Buzzword: Mobile apps, Supply chain
Amount raised in last 12 months: £146k
Clicksit has developed an app that allows users to track parcels, particularly when making returns to e-commerce companies. Clicksit is a fully-automated returns solution, operating for smaller businesses that don’t have the resources to provide fast and cheap returns. Through handling a larger aggregate volume of returns, Clicksit can offer better rates than SMEs could offer themselves.
The company has raised £407k across five rounds since its inception in 2015. Just like REZZIL above, Clicksit appears to be operating in stealth mode, keeping all of its fundraisings under wraps. Clicksit has attended two accelerators—the Entrepreneurial Spark accelerator in 2017, and the Entrepreneur Accelerator in 2019. To date, the company is working with over 200 companies and arranging thousands of returns per month.
CEO Thomas Hill told Beauhurst that Clicksit is currently working on a raise with a Manchester-based VC, and that looking forward they are planning to “replicate what we have done in the UK market abroad to grow the business, and capitalise on the size of US market especially”
Sector, Buzzword: Internet platform, Pharmacy
Amount raised in last 12 months: £132k
The most recently-founded company on today’s list is Yaaas!, an on-demand streaming platform that was incorporated by CEO Paul Coster just 12 months ago. This Wigan-based startup caters towards a younger demographic, streaming an assortment of children’s shows and movies.
The channel is available on Freeview without a subscription and is free to watch. Unlike most Freeview channels, Yaaas! is streamed on-demand—which means that (like Netflix) you can choose what you wish to watch from a wide list of content. The company has plans to launch onto Samsung Smart TV, Android and iOS Tablets & Smartphones.
The company received its first fundraising in March 2020, receiving £132k in exchange for a 2.3% stake, resulting in a £5.50m pre-money valuation
Sector, Buzzword: Internet platform, Pharmacy
Amount raised in last 12 months: £90k
Another relatively new business, founded in 2019, is Salford-based startup Pillo. The company develops an online platform that organises users’ medication and delivers it to their home. The company is an NHS-registered pharmacy, and guarantees delivery to customers’ home within 48 hours.
Pillo secured a £90k equity investment in February 2020 for a 2.0% stake in the company, giving a pre-money valuation of £4.50m.
Sector, Buzzword: Information Services
Amount raised in last 12 months: £50k
My2be operates an online platform that connects students and professionals to mentors. The platform connects, engages, and develops people and teams remotely and at scale. It has 1000+ active users to date, and 1000+ hours of mentoring has taken place on the platform.
The company offers a personalised matching service by utilising psychographic profiling, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The app is catered both as an internal service for private organisations, and as a public-facing solution. My2be works with a variety of organisations from the public and private sector, including Box in Silicon Valley.
My2be secured a £25k equity fundraising in December 2019 and £25k in January 2020. These fundraisings came from GP Bullhound Angels Network and North Invest respectively. The company’s most recent pre-money valuation was £1.17m, up 61% since its last investment earlier that same year. My2be is another attendee of the Entrepreneurial Spark accelerator, graduating in 2018.
Founder Adam Mitcheson told us that “our ambition is to become the world’s number 1 People Development Platform, helping employers, employees, students, and individuals reach their potential.”
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