Top 16 Tech Startups in Scotland | 2020 Ranking

| Lucy Wilson

Scotland is home to some of the strongest talent in the UK’s high-growth space. Aberdeen-based BrewDog is perhaps its most famous startup success story, and the nation’s only active unicorn company (after Skyscanner’s notable £1.4b exit in 2016). But Scotland is currently home to a further 2,270 ambitious businessesof which 32% are technology companies. 

The wider UK’s high-growth tech sector is currently home to more than 11k companies and, since 2011, has collectively raised a massive £43.9b in announced equity investment. Scotland’s booming tech scene makes up 7% of these businesses. And so, having delved into the Manchester tech space a few weeks ago, we’re now taking a look at some of the most exciting Scottish companies contributing to the region’s tech ecosystem, from promising early stage startups to fast-growing scaleups, and everything in between.

Overview of Scotland’s Tech Ecosystem

Whilst clusters of ambitious tech businesses can be found scattered across Scotland, the majority are located in the nation’s three largest cities and primary economic hubs: 42% are currently based in and around Edinburgh, 29% in Glasgow, and 9% in Aberdeen. In addition, many of the companies that we spotlight today have been spun out of leading Scottish universities.   

High-Growth Tech Clusters in Scotland

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Within Scotland’s high-growth tech sector, there are currently 44 businesses offering products or services that use artificial intelligence. Other dominant verticals include fintech, digital health or eHealth, edtech, internet of things (IoT), and digital security. Meanwhile, several of the companies listed in this article (those that have secured significant equity deals in 2020), operate in the medical diagnostics and biotech space. 

Of the 1,020 Scottish tech companies that we track (or have previously been tracking), a large proportion are still at an early stage in their evolution. 36% classed as seed stage startups, and 20% at the venture stage. In comparison, just 5% are growth stage businesses, whilst 7% are currently at the established stage. Meanwhile, 3% are categorised as zombie companies, 7.5% have exited (either through an IPO or acquisition), and 21.5% have ceased operations. 

These figures are largely on trend with the UK tech sector as a whole, although the proportion of growth stage technology companies is roughly 3% lower in Scotland, whilst the proportion of those that have ceased operations is 3% higher.

High-Growth Tech Companies in Scotland by Stage of Evolution

As we saw in our latest COVID-19 Business Impact report, the UK tech sector has remained resilient during the pandemic. And whilst Scotland as a whole was one of the worst-hit regions, the impact of COVID-19 on the vast majority (69%) of Scottish tech companies is low, as of this month. Just 10% of businesses are moderately affected by the pandemic right now, whilst less than 1% are severely impacted, and an even smaller proportion critically so. In comparison, 19% of high-growth tech startups in Scotland are seeing a potentially positive impact from COVID, whilst 1% are showing signs of recovery.

Scottish Tech Investment Trends

Since our records began back in 2011, 377 ambitious Scottish tech companies have secured one or more announced equity fundraisings. Altogether, they have raised £1.43b in announced equity finance between 1st January 2011 and 20th November 2020, through 921 funding roundsthe average value of which was £1.63m. The majority of recipients were based in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow, with Scotland’s capital being home to 160 of them.

Last year, both the number and value of deals secured by Scottish tech startups reached its peak in Q4, with 52 fundraisings being secured, worth a total of £112.5m. Whilst this year’s figures may seem relatively subdued in comparison, the 38 deals secured in Q2 2020 were greater than any of Q1-Q3 2019.

Graph illustrating number and value of equity deals (2019-2020)

Now, for the second time this year, many businesses have been forced to close their doors in line with lockdown measures. Until mid-December, 11 local authority areas in West and Central Scotland (including Glasgow) have been placed into tier 4 of the Scottish Government’s five-level system of coronavirus restrictions. Having said that, 12 announced deals (totalling £53.3m) have already been secured by high-growth Scottish tech companies this quarter, despite the ongoing challenges facing small businesses. Investors will be thinking about the longer-term and, with the recent COVID-19 vaccine breakthroughs, this is starting to look more positive.  

So far this year, there have been 98 announced equity rounds raised by high-potential Scottish tech businesses, worth a total value of £137m. Of these funding rounds, 27 involved Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise—this government-backed fund tops the list for both number and total value of fundraisings in 2020, investing a total of £41.4m. Other top funders this year include the angel networks Equity Gap and Archangels, Scottish Enterprise’s Scottish Co-Investment Fund, and venture capital firm Par Equity. Read on to discover some of the top Scottish tech startups to have raised equity funding this year.

See how Scottish investment in 2020 compared to other UK regions, in our latest report.

The Top 16 Tech Companies in Scotland

1. Amphista Therapeutics

Location: North Lanarkshire
Stage of evolution: Seed
Amount raised this year: £6m

Amphista Logo

Amphista Therapeutics was founded by Advent Life Sciences and spun out of the University of Dundee in late 2018. The biotech business develops pharmaceuticals that use targeted protein degradation (TPD) to hijack and suppress the cells responsible for disease progression. Its approach differs from traditional TPD technologies and is designed to treat diseases with high, unmet medical needs.

Amphista Therapeutics secured its first fundraising in June 2019, worth £5.85m at a pre-money valuation of £1.33m. Having received three fundraisings to date (totalling almost £15m), its latest equity deal with Advent Life Sciences, BioMotiv, and Scottish Investment Bank in April 2020, was valued at £6m. The company is headquartered in BioCity, a life sciences incubator near Glasgow.

2. Build A Rocket Boy

Location: Edinburgh
Stage of evolution: Growth
Amount raised this year: £32.7m

Founded in 2016, Build A Rocket Boy is a video game developer, currently producing a new online game: EVERYWHERE. The company’s founder, Leslie Benzies, was recently mentioned in The Telegraph’s Tech Hot 100, a ranking of Britain’s richest entrepreneurs. Benzies was previously president of Rockstar North, and the lead developer on its hugely successful Grand Theft Auto series. 

To date, Build A Rocket Boy has secured three fundraisings, worth a total of £50m. Earlier this month, the company raised £32.7m in equity investment from Galaxy Interactive and existing investors NetEase Capital, eWTP Innovation Fund, and Creative Artists Agency, at a pre-money valuation of £111m. 

3. Calnex Solutions

Location: West Lothian
Stage of evolution: Exited
Amount raised this year: £6.3m

Calnex Logo

Founded in 2006, Calnex Solutions designs, manufactures, and markets solutions for network reliability testing in the global telecommunications sector. The company has additional locations in Belfast, NI and California, USA, and is supported by sales teams in China and India. In 2015, Calnex was presented with The Queen’s Award for International Trade. 

To date, Calnex has received nearly £600k in grants and secured £9.3m in equity investment, through four funding rounds. It raised £6.3m of this total in September 2020, with BGF Growth Capital. Last month, the company held an IPO which raised £109k, having listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), the London Stock Exchange’s market for SMEs. Beauhurst is no longer tracking this company as a result.

4. ClinSpec DX

Location: Glasgow
Stage of evolution: Venture
Amount raised this year: £2.4m

ClinSpec Logo

Spun out of the University of Strathclyde in 2018, ClinSpec DX uses artificial intelligence for the early detection of cancer and other diseases. In 2017, ClinSpec came second in the Converge Challengea company creation programme for staff, student, and alumni entrepreneurs from all Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. It won £25k in cash and £17k in business support in order to expand its simple blood test to detect brain tumours for rapid diagnosis. 

To date, the clinical diagnostics company has secured three fundraisings, totalling £3.72m, and has received more than £500k in grants. The company received its latest £2.4m fundraising in August this year, at a pre-money valuation of £4.98m.

5. Elasmogen

Location: Aberdeen
Stage of evolution: Venture
Amount raised this year: £2m

Elasmogen Logo

Elasmogen develops biologic medication, specialising in the development of next-generation soloMERs to treat cancers and auto-immune inflammatory diseases. Founded in 2014, the University of Aberdeen spinout has so far received £1.43m in grants from Innovate UK, the latest of which was in June 2020. 

To date, the biotech company has also secured £4m in equity investment, through four funding rounds. Its most recent fundraising in January 2020 was a £2m follow-on investment from Deepbridge Venture Capital.

6. Exizent

Location: Glasgow
Stage of evolution: Seed
Amount raised this year: £3.6m

Exizent Logo

Founded in 2018, Exizent is a SaaS tech business aiming to improve bereavement administration. The company’s software is designed to put everything in one place for legal and financial services firms and institutions, easing the burden on executors and families. 

Exizent has so far raised £4.13m in investment, through two funding rounds. Its latest fundraising was a £3.6m equity deal with FNZ Group and other undisclosed investors, in September 2020. There is currently a waiting list for early access to Exizent’s new platform.

7. Integrated Graphene

Location: Stirling
Stage of evolution: Seed
Amount raised this year: £3.1m

Integrated Graphene Logo

Integrated Graphene has designed a rapid manufacturing process for high-performing, pure 3D graphene foam, developed for application in biosensors and energy storage. Founded in 2016, the company has already received four grants from Innovate UK, worth more than £1m in total. In addition to this, Integrated Graphene has secured £3.4m in equity fundraisings

Integrated Graphene’s second and most recent funding round took place earlier this month. The company raised £3.1m from multiple investors, including Archangels, ESM Investments, Par Equity, and Techstart Ventures, at a pre-money valuation of £2.33m. 

8. LendingCrowd

Location: Edinburgh
Stage of evolution: Venture
Amount raised this year: £1.98m

LendingCrowd Logo

Founded in 2014, LendingCrowd operates a peer-to-peer online lending platform, which seeks to provide simple, low-cost loans to SMEs, whilst giving individual lenders better financial returns. In 2019, LendingCrowd attended Upscale, Tech Nation’s six-month accelerator programme for high-potential tech businesses. In the same year, it was chosen for Deloitte’s Fast 50, a high growth list celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship in the UK tech sector. 

To date, the fintech company has raised £26.8m through seven funding rounds. It most recently secured a £1.98m equity round in March 2020, at a pre-money valuation of £8.75m, with Equity Gap, Scottish Co-Investment Fund, and angel investors.

9. Macomics

Location: Edinburgh
Stage of evolution: Seed
Amount raised this year: £4.56m

Macomics Logo

Macomics is a biotech company which develops innovative immunotherapies which target tumour-associated macrophages, to enhance the body’s ability to defend against cancer. Founded in late 2018, the University of Edinburgh spinout has so far received two fundraisings.

Both of Macomics’ funding rounds were secured in 2020 and, together, were worth £4.56m. The first of these investments (in February) was with Scottish Enterprise, whilst the latest was received in July, with Epidarex Capital and Scottish Investment Bank, and worth £3.2m.

10. Optoscribe

Location: West Lothian
Stage of evolution: Venture
Amount raised this year: £2.2m

Optoscribe Logo

Founded in 2010, and spun out from Heriot-Watt University, Optoscribe designs and manufactures innovative 3D, glass-based photonic integrated circuits for the telecommunications and datacom markets. To date, the company has received six grants, totalling £1.25m, and £8.12m in fundraisings. 

In March 2020, five years on from their first funding round worth £25k, Optoscribe secured a £2.2m equity investment, at a pre-money valuation of £6.51m. This latest deal involved Archangels, Maven Capital Partners, Par Equity, and Scottish Investment Bank.

11. Pheno Therapeutics

Location: Edinburgh
Stage of evolution: Seed
Amount raised this year: £5m

Pheno Logo

Pheno Therapeutics is a biotech company, and University of Edinburgh spinout, that develops pharmaceuticals for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The company has identified an unmet need in MS treatments and healthcare, developing new regenerative therapies that enhance the repair of damaged myelin sheaths in the central nervous system. 

In February 2020, Pheno Therapeutics announced that it had secured its first equity investment, raising £5m, at a pre-money valuation of £3m. Its investors included Scottish Investment Bank and Advent Life Sciences, as well as medical research charity LifeArc.

12. Pneumagen

Location: St. Andrews
Stage of evolution: Venture
Amount raised this year: £4m

Pneumagen Logo

Pneumagen is a biotechnology company spun out of the University of St Andrews in 2015. Pneumagen is developing glycan targeted carbohydrate binding molecules (CBMs) for the treatment of respiratory tract infections (RTIs). To date, the company has secured £4.96m in fundraisings. 

Pneumagen received the majority of its funding in May this year, from Scottish Investment Bank, Thairm Bio, and other business angels. The £4m investment will enable Pneumagen to progress its lead drug, Neumifil, in a clinical trial for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Through a demerger, Pneumagen has also recently established a separate company, Omideon Ltd, focused on progressing the research and development of CBMs for oncology. 

13. SHE Software

Location: South Lanarkshire
Stage of evolution: Established
Amount raised this year: £6.97m

SHE Software Logo

Founded in 1996, SHE Software is a B2B SaaS tech firm focused on health and safety management. It develops a software based management system, specifically for businesses, using the latest in health and safety Business Intelligence (BI) tools. SHE Software aims to make the workplace safer, whilst improving compliance, boosting efficiency, and engaging workers. To date, it has raised £13.1m in fundraisings, through six funding rounds, the latest of which was in February 2020. 

SHE Software raised almost £7m this year, with Frog Capital, Northern VCT, and other undisclosed investors. The company has also developed a new COVID-19 Assure Portal to support businesses during the pandemic, with new features such as those enabling vulnerable employees to self-identify or returning travelers to self-report.

14. Sofant Technologies

Location: Edinburgh
Stage of evolution: Venture
Amount raised this year: £2.2m

Sofant Logo

Sofant Technologies develops low cost, low power, and high performance radio frequency (RF) antennae, targeted at the SatCom and 5G markets. The company was spun out of the University of Edinburgh in 2012, and attended Seraphic Space Campa nine-week accelerator programme focused on the SpaceTech sectorin 2018. 

To date, Sofant has raised eight fundraisings, worth a total value of £7.57m, and has received six grants, totalling more than £2m. It secured a £2.2m equity investment in July 2020, with angel network Kelvin Capital, Old College Capital (managed by the University of Edinburgh), and MNL Nominees.

15. Sunamp

Location: East Lothian
Stage of evolution: Venture
Amount raised this year: £5.9m

Sunamp Logo

Founded in 2005, Sunamp is a cleantech company developing thermal energy storage devices for residential, commercial, and industrial projects. Sunamp’s heat battery technology has been designed to provide an efficient and cost-effective energy storage solution which is already driving down carbon emissions in thousands of homes across Europe. 

Since its launch fifteen years ago, Sunamp has received 20 grants, worth £3.76m, and secured eight fundraisings, totalling £16m. In August 2020, the company secured its latest equity deal, worth £4.5m, with Scottish Investment Bank, Aurus Capital, and other undisclosed investors.

16. Xergy

Location: Aberdeen
Stage of evolution: Seed
Amount raised this year: £1.8m

Xergy Logo

Founded in 2018, Xergy focuses on digital technologies for the oil and gas industry. Its first product, Proteus, is a talent pooling and resource planning platform. The cloud-based software seeks to revolutionise freelance recruitment in the energy sector, matching oil and gas professionals with projects best-suited to their skills. 

The Proteus platform has been designed to increase efficiency by integrating tasks and workflows, reducing fixed costs, and driving performance with automated reports and tracking throughout project cycles. To date, Xergy has secured £2.4m through two funding rounds, the latest of which was a £1.8m equity deal in March 2020. 

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