23 Hottest Tech Startups in the UK 2021

| Annabel Beales

Since 2011 the UK’s startups and scaleups have collectively raised £68.4b in announced equity funding. Whilst investment activity slowed during the pandemic, it also saw unprecedented opportunities for growth for many tech sectors, including fintech and cybersecurity. And the UK’s best and brightest technology startup companies have still secured some large sums of money. 

In this post, we’ve profiled the UK’s best tech startups, based on those that have raised the most investment since January 2020, and been positively impacted by the pandemic (as defined by our Data team). They can be operating in any tech sector—you’ll find financial services, healthtech, and insurtech businesses on our list—and must be a private UK company. The resulting companies have developed innovative products and ambitious business plans, and secured the necessary funding to implement them.

Top Tech Startups in the UK 2021

Rank Company name Funds since Jan 2020 Total funds raised Year founded
1
Checkout.com
£454m
£631m
2012
2
Hopin
£419m
£419m
2019
3
Cazoo
£365m
£445m
2018
4
Graphcore
£278m
£528m
2016
5
Rapyd
£219m
£347m
2016
6
Oxford Nanopore Technologies
£180m
£673m
2005
7
Zopa
£160m
£296m
2004
8
Zego
£130m
£171m
2016
9
Vaccitech
£121m
£157m
2016
10
Gyroscope Therapeutics
£108m
£164m
2016
11
Thought Machine
£97.3m
£123m
2016
12
Onfido
£79.2m
£175m
2010
13
Bought by Many
£78.4m
£111m
2011
14
True Layer
£70.2m
£107m
2016
15
HungryPanda
£68m
£72.4m
2016
16
Tandem
£60m
£157m
2013
17
Cera
£53m
£75.1m
2015
18
Five
£52m
£68m
2016
19
Paddle
£51.4m
£77m
2012
20
BenevolentAI
£44.9m
£253m
2013
21
Touchlight Genetics
£42m
£56m
2008
22
Congenica
£40.9m
£67.8
2012
23
Atom
£40m
£522m
2013
Checkout.com Logo

Checkout.com

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £454m

Checkout.com’s new technology allows businesses to process their payments online in multiple currencies, and simplifies a previously lengthy and convoluted operation. It is fully customisable, allowing users to quickly process popular regional payment methods. Users are protected against fraud and provided with data and insights to help them stay on top of their finances. The tool is used by businesses of all sizesfrom small businesses to larger corporations. 

Checkout.com’s payments platform covers hundreds of currencies and has notable users such as Deliveroo and Adidas. The company now has 17 offices, globally, in locations including the United Kingdom, North America and Asia. It has raised an incredible £454m since January 2020, with its most recent fundraiser, at the start of this year, bringing in £332m and valuing the company at £10.8b.

Hopin logo

Hopin

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £419m

UK startup and unicorn company Hopin operates a platform that allows businesses to create online networking events. Users can host large-scale events that are public or private and apply company branding to the online venue. The company also offers plenty of tools for networking, such as brainstorming sessions, the ability to give out virtual business cards and a connection discovery tool to pair people up for discussion. Hopin’s ultimate aim is to recreate the in-person event experience as closely as possible online. 

Fittingly, the company is fully-remote and employs nearly 500 people from around the world. The global COVID lockdown saw the amount of events the company hosted almost triple in six months. Since its inception in 2019, Hopin has raised a total of £419m, all of which has been raised since January 2020. The company is backed by big-name venture capital firms such as IVP, Tiger Global, Salesforce Ventures, and Accel.

Cazoo logo

Cazoo

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £365m

Cazoo operates a digital platform from which users can buy or rent used cars, disrupting the typical car supply chain. Cazoo’s business model has weathered COVID-19 well, as customers are able to buy their car entirely online and get it delivered to their door. Cars are fully cleaned and reconditioned before being dropped off, which can be done while maintaining social distancing. 

The tech startup is relatively new; it launched in late December 2019, having set a record for raising over £180m pre-launch. Just six months later, Cazoo reached unicorn status, valued at over $1b. Its latest fundraiser, in October 2020, raised £240m, out of a total £365m raised since the start of last year. Investors include venture capital firms Draper Esprit, General Catalyst, Octopus Ventures and Stride.VC. 

Graphcore Logo

Graphcore

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £278m

Graphcore has developed a processor that’s optimised for machine learning tasks, and technology to accelerate artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning applications, both in servers and in the Cloud. It also provides an open source machine learning development framework in C++ and Python. Graphcore’s clients are operating in industries such as finance, healthcare and telecommunications.

Graphcore has around 420 employees, in offices across the United Kingdom, the United States and Asia, but is headquartered in Bristol. After a £158m funding round in 2018, the company reached unicorn status. Since January 2020, it has raised £278m, out of a total £527m in investment to date.

Rapyd Logo

Rapyd

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £219m

Rapyd develops software that provides a range of flexible payment services for businesses and their users. The company’s inception was as a mobile payments company but, after finding it too difficult to scale globally due to different regulations in each country, the team pivoted to solve this very problem. 

Now, Rapyd offers ‘fintech-as-a-service’: a full stack of integrated payments, commerce and financial services which allow businesses to scale up across the world and provide payment options unique to each country. The UK tech company is headquartered in London and has offices in Singapore, Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv. To date, it has raised £347m, £219m of which was brought in from its latest fundraiser in January of this year.

Oxford Nanopore Technologies Logo

Oxford Nanopore Technologies

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £179m

Healthcare company Oxford Nanopore Technologies has developed a groundbreaking DNA/RNA sequencing technology that offers real-time analysis in scalable formats. As DNA and RNA are present in all living things, the technology allows users to answer biological questions during tests on anything from single genomics to entire populations. 

Founded in 2005, the company now employs 600 people and is headquartered in Oxford, with other offices across mainland Europe, Asia and North America. It has been featured in LSGE’s ‘1000 companies to inspire Britain’ and the Fast Track Tech 100. To date, it has secured £672m in investment, £179m of which has been raised since January 2020.

Zopa logo

Zopa

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £159m

Zopa is the first ever peer-to-peer lending startup. Investors in Zopa have their money spread across individual borrowers, and direct debit repayments are enforced to mitigate risk. Borrowers can apply for personal loans from £1k to £25k, as well as credit cards and car financing. In August of last year, the company launched fixed-term savings accounts after being given a full banking licence in June 2020.

Since launching in 2005, it has given £5b in personal loans and generated £250m in interest for its investors. It has raised a total of £296m in investment, £159m of which has been raised since January 2020.

Zego logo

Zego

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £130m

London startup Zego provides pay-as-you-go courier and food delivery insurance for drivers. The company aims to provide cost-effective, quick-to-use insurance products to small businesses. Customers can choose to insure individual vehiclesscooters, vans, or cars—or entire fleets. To date, the company has integrated with big-name food delivery businesses such as Deliveroo and UberEats.

The startup was the first UK insurtech company to be valued at over $1b, and last year won Tech Company of the Year 2020. Also part of the Fintech50 and Startups100 high-growth lists, Zego has raised £170m in total, with £130m of this coming in since the start of 2020.

vaccitech logo

Vaccitech

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £120m

Healthcare company Vaccitech develops immunotherapeutics products and vaccines to treat infectious diseases and cancer. Over the last year, its public visibility has dramatically increased, due to the company achieving what many thought improbable in such a short space of time: the design and development of the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine against COVID-19. 

Alongside this work, the company has a pipeline of six clinical product candidates for infectious disease and cancer indications, four of which have reached the stage of co-development. Based in Oxford, Vaccitech has nearly 50 employees and has raised a total of £156m, £120m of which has been raised since the start of last year. Most recently, the company announced the pricing of its IPO in the United States, at $17 per ADS.

Have you read our latest report on 2020 equity investment trends yet?

gyroscope therapeutics logo

Gyroscope Therapeutics

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £107m

Gyroscope Therapeutics develops gene therapies for eye diseases. In particular, the company’s science focusses on the complement system’s impact on eye disease, the genetic basis of age-related macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness in the elderly), and gene therapy as a mode of treatment delivery. 

Gyroscope Therapeutics has offices in London and Stevenage in the United Kingdom and Philadelphia and San Francisco in the United States. In April this year, it registered for a proposed IPO in America. The company has raised a total of £164m over three fundraisers, with the latest in March this year bringing in £107m.

Thought Machine logo

Thought Machine

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £97m

One of the London startups on our list, Thought Machine, develops the retail banking software Vault, which provides a Cloud-based, end-to-end operating system, enabling banks to centrally manage a range of financial products. Thought Machine works with banks of all sizes, from Tier 1s to challengers, and provides the foundations for a more cost-effective way of operating. 

The fintech startup is part of the FinTech50, and works with banks such as Lloyds, Atom Bank (another company on this list of top tech startups) and TransferGo. To date, it has raised a total of £123m, £97m of which has been fundraised since January 2020. 

Onfido Logo

Onfido

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £79m

Also featured in our 2020 list of top tech startups, London-based Onfido’s online platform uses artificial intelligence to allow companies to remotely assess whether a government-issued ID is genuine and ownership is legitimate. Onfido’s product is app-based: users just need a smartphone device and an ID. The app will check that the ID is not fraudulent. On the other end, the applicant or customer takes a selfie or video, and the technology will use facial biometrics to assess their ownership of the ID. Onfido uses a team of AI and human experts to mitigate risk, and users can repeat the process whenever they need to.

Today, Onfido helps customers across industries such as banking, government and recruitment to verify applicants and customers: big-name clients include Revolut and Bitstamp. Its team is spread across the world in Europe, North America, and Asia. Named on the FinTech50 high-growth list, it’s raised a total of £79m since January 2020.

bought-by-many logo

Bought by Many

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £78m

Bought By Many launched in 2011 to offer bespoke and well-priced insurance in a sector which it believes typically treats consumers poorly. The company uses data and social media messaging to identify problems with existing insurance, off the back of which they develop their own insurance plans. It offers six different pet insurance plans, all of which offer lifetime cover and unlimited free video calls with FirstVet. They have no unfair charges or penalties and will contact the vet for you to claim, as well as producing insurance guides to increase understanding for pet owners. 

In 2015, it launched a SaaS platform in China, and in 2017, following its fourth funding round, launched Bought By Many Cat + Dog insurance. It is now one of the major players in insurtech, and has three offices across the UK. To date, Bought by Many has raised over £111m, £78m of which has been raised since the start of last year.

TrueLayer Logo

True Layer

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £70m

Fintech company True Layer develops APIs that connect mobile apps and other websites to bank infrastructure, allowing users to integrate payments and financial data into their products. Products include a payments API, which uses open banking to make instant payments, a data API to connect your app to any bank account, and pay direct which brings verification and payments together. 

The company provides ‘smarter financial services’ to companies in industries including iGaming, wealthtech, e-commerce, crypto, and more. With customers such as Revolut, Trading 212 and Zopa, True Layer’s platform receives 50% of open banking traffic in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain. To date, it has raised £107m, and a total of £70m since January 2020.

HungryPanda

HungryPanda

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £67m

London-based startup HungryPanda operates a food delivery service which provides Chinese food and groceries, aimed at Chinese people living abroad. The company’s app connects users to a wide number of authentic Chinese restaurants and an e-commerce Chinese supermarket. Its interface is in Mandarin, and it has 24/7 bilingual customer service. Owners of any size restaurantfrom small businesses to chainsand independent drivers can partner with HungryPanda to help their businesses grow. 

Operating in nine countries, globally, HungryPanda aims to become the world-leading platform connecting authentic Chinese food retailers with customers. Its latest fundraiser, in November last year, raised £52m, out of a total £67m brought in since January 2020.

Tandem Logo

Tandem

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £60m

Challenger bank Tandem is developing an app-based online retail bank with a focus on green finance. It offers financial services including fixed and instant access savings accounts, green loans and mortgages. Users can also make instant bank transfers, made possible by open banking, which are more secure than debit or credit card payments. 

The fintech company is London-based, with an office in Camden, and currently employs nearly 140 people. It is one of the LinkedIn Top Startups, and has raised £60m since the start of 2020, out of a total of £156m.

Cera logo

Cera

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £53m

Healthcare startup Cera* provides smart technology that allows users to track the health and well-being of pensioners, allowing health concerns to be identified and ultimately enabling people to live in their own homes for longer. Cera provides carers booked online or over the phone, who can give medical support and help with personal services such as shopping.  

Cera’s co-founder Dr Ben Maruthappu had the idea for Cera after struggling to organise care for a loved one. Today, it is one of the largest home care providers in the United Kingdom and one of the fastest-growing healthtech businesses in Europe. It also has established partnerships with public sector organisations such as the NHS and the Department for Health & Social Care, and private sector organisations such as Uber. To date, it has raised a total of £75m, £53m of which was raised after January 2020. 

*Cera shares significant shareholders with Beauhurst

Five logo

Five

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £52m

Five is developing artificial intelligence software to be used in autonomous driving technology. After building its own autonomous vehicle system and testing it in London, the company created a platform which uses machine learning to facilitate the safe development of autonomous vehicles. Users can create or choose scenarios, run varied simulations, evaluate performance and refine stacks. 

Ultimately, Five has a vision of making travelling by car safe, green and available to everyone. It employs nearly 120 people in six offices across England, in Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, London, Millbrook and Oxford. Since January 2020, the artificial intelligence company has raised £51m, for a total of £68m.

Paddle Logo

Paddle

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £51m

Technology company Paddle develops software that helps developers to sell their digital products, such as apps, games and other software. Services offered include managing payments, VAT and currency exchange, customer support and tools for analysis. Paddle’s offerings are designed to help companies at either the new launch, startup or scaleup stage of growth. 

Paddle helps over 2,000 companies based in over 245 countries, and has featured on the Deloitte Fast 50 for four years in a row. It currently has 140 employees and has offices in the UK, mainland Europe and North America. It has raised a total of £76m, £51m of which was raised since the start of 2020. 

BenevolentAI Logo

BenevolentAI

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £44m

BenevolentAI develops artificial intelligence and machine learning technology that aims to speed up scientific discovery through mass analysis of scientific data, allowing scientists to make sense of it on a large scale. The company analyses big data in order to facilitate the discovery of new medicines for diseases that have no treatment. Recently, BenevolentAI used its AI platform to respond to the pandemic. Its search for an existing drug to treat COVID-19 led to a clinical trial with Eli Lilly and the US National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases. 

BenevolentAI has two offices in the United Kingdom, in London and Cambridge, and one in New York. It currently has over thirty drug discovery programmes in process, and its total funding is over £253m. It reached unicorn status in 2015, when it was just two years old, making it one of the UK’s fastest-growing startups in terms of valuation growth. Since the start of 2020 it has secured £44m of equity investment. 

touchlight genetics

Touchlight Genetics

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £42m

Startup Touchlight Genetics develops a novel DNA replication technique that can be applied to the production of vaccines and other therapies. The company has created a unique vector for use in advanced genetic medicines that is safer and more efficacious than plasmid DNA. It is being used to create DNA vaccines for oncology and infectious diseases. 

Touchlight Genetics was founded on the thinking that DNA is going to be a material of the future. Based in Hampton, its executive management team and board all have previous experience in leading DNA-based therapeutics companies. The company has raised a total of £56m, the majority of which—£42m—has been raised since January 2020.

Congenica Logo

Congenica

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £40m

Precision medicine startup Congenica is a digital health company that has a world-leading clinical decision support platform, which integrates genetic data into healthcare. The platform rapidly analyses and interprets genomic data which allows users to diagnose and provide healthcare for often hard-to-identify genetic diseases, treatment of which might previously have been improbable or impossible.  

Headquartered in Cambridge, Congenica is part of the NHS Innovation Accelerator and to date has raised £67m, £40m of which has been secured since 2020. It is currently working on enhancing automated analysis and advancing its artificial intelligence functionality, as well as creating new applications for speciality areas and expanding its reach beyond rare diseases.

Atom Bank

Atom

Funds raised since Jan 2020: £40m

Fintech startup Atom develops digital-only financial services. The company offers an app-based banking service as well as business loans and competitive mortgage and savings rates, all of which can be accessed from the customer’s mobile phone. One of the UK’s most established challenger banks—alongside Monzo and Revolut—Atom is guided by three principles; putting customers first, acting responsibly in the community and in the industry, and using technology to provide real value. 

Atom was founded in 2013 and is based in the North East of England, in Durham. It’s been named as one of LSGE’s ‘1000 Companies to Inspire Britain’ and is one of the FinTech50. To date, it has raised over £521m and £40m since January 2020.

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