January 2016

New government scheme for cyber security start-ups announced

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Earlier this week the government announced a new scheme for cyber security start-ups. The scheme will work to encourage cyber security start-ups to develop new technical solutions against cyber threats.

The programme, which has been allocated £250k in funding, will be run at Queen’s University, Belfast, by Cyber London and the ‘Early Stage Accelerator Programme’.

John Whittingdale, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, spoke at the joint UK/US Global Cyber Security Innovation Summit:

“The UK’s strong and growing digital economy is changing the way we live and work. as technologies continue to evolve there will be an increased demand for secure products and services, and this new programme will ensure the best ideas from our brightest minds can help keep the UK safe in cyberspace.”

Kristen Connell, Cyber London, also enthused about the scheme:

“Naturally we’re very pleased that Cyber London and CSIT have been selected to deliver the Cyber Security Early Stage Accelerator Programme. We believe the UK is one of the world’s best places to build cyber security businesses.”

Tech North partners to provide free coding courses for women

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Tech North, the government funded initiative, has partnered with Liverpool Girl Geeks to provide free coding courses. The partnership is part of a wider move to encourage diversity within the tech sector.

The course will teach women how to build an app, website, or game, using a number of commonly used coding languages across the industry.

“There are so many girls in Liverpool interested in tech” says Rebecca Jones, co-founder of Liverpool Girl Geeks. “They just don’t know what careers there are available to them or where to start, so that’s where we come in. when we launched Get Your Head Around Code as a fully-funded session it booked up incredibly fast”.

“We offered 30 places for Jan, Feb and March and they went in less than a week which is extremely exciting for the city and shows the demand for this type of activity.”

Creative England launches support programme for creative and digital SMEs


Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, has announced the launch of Creative Nation – a new programme for UK creative,and digital businesses.

Revealed today at Creative England Live’s Catalyst event, staged at Google’s London headquarters, Creative Nation will work to encourage industry-wide innovation.

“The government is already helping to create the right environment for UK businesses to grow,” says Vaizey, “so I am delighted to launch the new Creative Nation programme bringing large organisations and smaller companies together.”

“It will encourage big businesses from across the UK to explore the boundless possibilities for growth and innovation that the UK’s many small, but exceptionally talented, creative business can offer.”

Caroline Norbury MBE, CEO at Creative England, says: “Creative England invests in and works with hundreds of small creative businesses all over the country and I’ve been continually impressed and inspired by people I’ve met who are using cutting-edge technology, creativity and innovation to address a whole array of diverse market need – in everything from healthcare to retail, insurance, education and hospitality”.

Creative England is expected to open for submissions from creative and digital SMEs later this year.

Chinese Unicorn hunters launch £500m fund

china flagChinese investors have made clear their intentions to discover the UK’s next Unicorn company, with the launch of a £500m London-based venture capital fund.

The UK and China High Tech fund was officially launched by Cocoon Networks, a Chinese investment firm, with backing from private equity houses China Equity Group and Hanxin Capital. The fund will be looking for UK start-ups to import back to China.

“This is a great opportunity to work together,” said John Zai, founder and chief executive of Cocoon Networks. “The reason why UK and European companies cannot grow to become huge is down to the size of the market.”

“No matter how successful, how good these companies are,” he added, “they have always had a limit. But imagine if we spread this product, this service, this company to China? It could be 10 – maybe 50 – times bigger.”

The fund has showed interest in start-ups within the fin-tech and biotech sectors. It will also concentrate on the UK’s creative industries.

Crowdcube Manchester office backs Northern Powerhouse


This year crowdfunding platform Crowdcube will open a North England hub in Manchester. The new location will add to offices in Devon and London.

After what has been described as an “outstanding” year by co-founder Luke Lang, Crowdcube’s expansion will be led by the company’s senior business development manager Adam Gillett. The crowdfunding platform registered a record-breaking 2015; with £83m equity investment raised across 166 pitches.

“In crowdfunding terms this is an important milestone and has finally seen the industry come of age” says Lang. Matt Cooper. Crowdcube’s commercial director added:

“We already have a vibrant investor community in the North of England and there is definitely an exciting opportunity to further simulate the start-up scene in the North West that is already benefiting from the government’s multi-million pound support for the region”.

“We are determined to put Crowdcube at the heart of the creation of the Northern Powerhouse. There’s no substitute for having boots on the ground; people who are in touch with the local business buzz and can get involved with entrepreneurs face-to-face”.

Innovate UK ‘Future of Retail’ contest now open to start-ups

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Innovate UK has today announced the launch of a £175k competition to discover the retail start-ups ‘of the future’. The competition will be run by IC tomorrow, an Innovate UK body that works to achieve innovation and economic growth in the digital sector.

Matt Sansam, digital economy programme manager for IC tomorrow, and lead technologist, said in a statement:

“Digital has already transformed the retail environment. The customer experience in retail has come on in leaps and bounds in the last decade with digital technology as a catalyst”. He added: “the Future of Retail innovation aims to drive the evolution of this huge industry.”

The competition will also offer participants the chance to collaborate with IC tomorrow’s partners, including: Tesco, WRAP, Unilever, London College of Fashion, UAL, Barclays, and the Greater London Authority.

The five winners will trial their innovative solutions with industry partners across a period of 3 months.

Application must be submitted by midday on the 23rd of February.

Grocery Accelerator open for food and drink start-ups


The Grocery Accelerator’s new programme is now open to ambitious UK food and drink start-ups. The accelerator offers 6 young, fast-growing UK companies the opportunity to win a share of the £360k up for grabs, as well as mentoring from online supermarket retailer Ocado.

The 6 successful start-ups will receive 12 months coaching from entrepreneurs in the field, £60,000 funding in exchange for 15% equity, and “guaranteed listing” with online supermarket retailer Ocado. What’s more, the first 60 start-ups to apply that show noticeable ‘potential’ will also receive an invite to the accelerator’s Entrepreneur Development Seminar in early February.

The Accelerator exists to provide “cash and coaching” to food and drink start-ups, and was founded by Paddy Willis of Plum Baby, Simon Lacey from Idea to Shelf ltd., and fruit entrepreneur Rob Ward.

Start-ups must be SEIS approved. Discover more here.

2015, worst year for Alternative Investment Market

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According to research from the accountancy group UHY Hacker Young, the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) had its worst year for new issues since 2009.

The research found there were just 39 initial public offerings made on AIM last year, equating to approximately £600m raised. This total is drastic 54% drop on the 85 IPOs made on AIM in 2014. Other findings included a worrying drop in the number of companies listed on the London stock market, which constituted the biggest net decrease in listings since 2012.

UHY Hacker Young cited a number of issues that could’ve been to blame; a decrease in new issues, the departure of Chinese businesses, and the loss of oil and gas companies.

“In the last year” reflected Laurence Sacker, partner at UHY Hacker Young, “AIM’s strengths have proved to be its weakness. The success of AIM has long been built on its appeal to mining and oil and gas companies and its attraction for man Chinese companies seeking to raise capital and gain a market for their shares. But a collapse in oil, copper and iron prices and the slowdown in the Chinese economy have made 2015 a tough year for AIM”.

Commenting on the situation, a spokesperson for the London Stock Exchange said: “For a growth market like AIM, the ability of existing companies to come to the market for fresh funds is almost more important than the number of IPOs”.

2015: A record year for UK franchise industry

Melbourne, Australia - Auguest 29, 2015: People inside and walking past a Subway store in Melbourne, Australia

A recent report partnered by The British Franchise Association and Natwest has found the UK’s franchise sector to be operating at record levels. The report found that franchising added £15.1bn to the economy, with 44,000 franchises employing over 600,000 people.

97% of franchises surveyed as part of the report were profitable, while over 50% of all UK franchises are turning-over in excess of £250k. The report also discovered that young people are increasingly entering the franchise market, with 20% of franchisees under the age of 30. Encouragingly, the report also found that the rate of commercial failure remains low; less than 1% of franchises closed their door as a result of poor performance last year.

“Good franchising continues to deliver serious dividends for Britain’s economy” says Brian Smart, director general of the bfa, “creating businesses, jobs and wealth for local communities across the country”.

“The outstanding performance of the sector, in good economic times and bad, shows the power of the franchise model and its impact in the UK’s business landscape increases each year”.

UK tech start-ups secure record funding in 2015

financingUK tech start-ups secured a record-breaking £2.47m in venture capital funding in 2015, according to data from London & Partners. The amount invested is a huge 70% on 2014’s figures of £1.44bn.

London-based companies were responsible for the lion’s share of the 2015 investment, securing £1.57m in funding and representing a 69% on the city’s 2014 figures.

The UK tech sector has raised $9.7bn since 2010, with the fin-tech sector increasingly dominating. Indeed, fin-tech accounted for 25% of all investment raised by tech start-ups in 2015.

Two stand-out start-ups from the year gone include Deliveroo, which raised over £130m across three fundraisings, and peer-to-peer lending service Funding Circle – which claimed the biggest investment of 2015. In a round led by DST Global, Funding Circle raised £103m.

“With a flourishing tech scene and one of the world’s leading financial centres, it is no surprise to see that London’s tech companies are attracting record levels of investment”, said Boris Johnson.