February 2016

Up the apple ‘n’ pears for start-up Farmdrop

Fruit stand http://barnimages.com/

Farmdrop, the start-up that delivers seasonal fruit and veg direct from local producers, has secured £3m investment in a round led by Atomico.

Founded by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström and ex-Morgan Stanley stockbroker Ben Pugh, Farmdrop has been going from strength to strength since an initial £750k fundraising via CrowdCube in 2014.

“The food industry in this country is completely broken”, says Ben Pugh, “with too much power belonging to a selected few who treat farmers and producers badly, whilst offering consumers chemically-preserved, tasteless food”.

“Farmdrop is on a mission to fix the food chain by making it easy to buy the best food from the best local producers. We believe everyone deserves a more delicious world and this investment will help us to improve the product” he enthused.

Fellow investors alongside Atomico include JamJar Investments – the investment arm of fellow food entrepreneurs Innocent Smoothies – Jonathan Goodwin, Jason Goodman, Ales Chesterman, and Quentin Griffiths.

UK SMEs undecided on EU vote

flag of European Union or Europe banner on rough pattern metal background

According to a recent poll by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), close to half of the UK’s SMEs are undecided on whether to vote Brexit in the upcoming referendum.

Conducted together with 4,000 SME owners, the poll discovered that over half of the businesses felt inadequately informed of referendum goings-on. 38% said they needed more detail on the administrative consequences a Brexit would have on

UK SMEs. 33% wanted more information concerning the cost of EU membership.

The findings come just days after a number of prominent entrepreneurs – including Martha Lane Fox, Richard Reed, and Jacqueline Gold – signed a pro-EU membership letter.

“Our wide ranging research sends a very clear message on what information small businesses want from both official campaigns once they are appointed by the Electoral Commission”, says FSB policy director Mike Cherry.

“It is crucial that once appointed”, Cherry added, “that  both the ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ campaign groups tackle this information deficit”.

Autoglass £200,000 tech accelerator opens


Belron, part of the Autoglass brand, has announced the launch of a 12 week, £200k global tech accelerator programme. The programme is to be run in partnership with L Marks.

The programme is looking to fast track 5 start-ups that can creative innovative solutions to customer service, productivity and efficiency, and engagement with field employees. The successful 5 will be stationed at Autoglass’ Egham office, and receive in-house mentoring from Autoglass experts. Opportunities to trial products abroad have also been disclosed, and the programme will culminate with one successful start-up winning an additional £100k.

“Our team is looking forward to learning how entrepreneurs think and approach problem solving, which will challenge us to think and act differently”, says Nick Burton, head of digital and innovative  technology at Belron.

“By giving these start-ups unparalleled access to our brands around the world, along with education and investment support”, he enthused, “we can help them accelerate their businesses too”.

“We are excited to be working with Belron” says Stuart Marks, L Marks chairman, “to help them innovate their business and improve their already excellent customer service”.

Find our more here.

Mastercard announces Biometric payments to launch in 2016

Muenster, Germany - April 9, 2011: A close up macro shot of a Mastercard credit card. Mastercard is one of the biggest credit card companies in the world.

After widespread whispering amongst the tech community, MasterCard has announced that it will be launching biometric payments for UK customers this summer. This will take payment processing into the realms of sci-fi, allowing customers to pay online using a fingerprint or by taking a selfie.

“The UK is one of the most sophisticated markets for payments technology in the world” said a spokesperson for the American multinational financial services corporation. “British consumers are incredibly tech savvy and love their mobiles and using contactless. Couple that with the infrastructure and the UK offers the perfect environment. If you look at Apple Pay for instance, it’s no coincidence that it came to the UK first after its native market launch”.

The news comes as interest in the space continues to hot-up, with both HSBC and First Direct announcing their new voice biometric security tech just last week. Durham-based start-up Atom Bank, the digital-only bank, has also joined the biometric race – announcing plans to launch new tech this year.


£30,000 for smart city innovators

Insurance Concepts

BT’s Infinity Lab is encouraging SMEs to apply to its Connected Cities competition, with a total prize money of £30k up for grabs.

Run in partnership with the Cabinet Office, TechHub, and MK Smart, the competition is hoping to discover innovative solutions across a number of sectors – including employment, education, social care, and transport.

The competition will be judged across three categories: Smart City, Connected City, and the Internet of Things. The overall winner will receive £15k and six months membership at TechHub. a A panel of experts will judge the shortlisted businesses on the 26th of April at the BT Tower in London.

“This initiative aims to foster innovation and give small and medium enterprises the help they need to turn their great ideas into reality”, says Ian Dalton, president of global government and health at BT Global Services.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the entries”, enthused Dalton, “exploring the ideas small businesses have and using our huge technical and public sector expertise to help them play their part in creating connected cities”.

Google and Facebook back UK E-commerce mentorship scheme

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Senior executives from Facebook and Google have pledged support for Forward Partners’ new mentorship programme for UK e-commerce SMEs.

Launched last week, the FP50 network will aid start-up founders wanting to collaborate with successful e-commerce executives. Forward Partner was founded in 2013, and typically invests in seed-stage start-ups.

“As an entrepreneur, being able to talk with someone that has experienced what you’re going through can be incredibly powerful”, says Nic Brisbourne, Managing Partner at Forward Partners. “The FP50 Mentor Network is a select network of mentors who want to build meaningful relationships with the UK’s next generation of start-up leaders.”

The FP50 network is also being bolstered by senior executives from UK success stories Farfetch, Funding Circle, Onefinestay, YPlan, Citymapper, and Coinfloor.

UK Tech SMEs leave other sectors behind

financingAccording to recent report by Tech City UK, digital businesses are growing 32% faster than companies in other sectors.

A collaborative effort from innovation charity Nesta and data specialists GrowthIntel, Tech Nation 2016 reports that digital tech is also boosting national employment figures – accounting for an estimated 1.56 million jobs. What’s more, the report finds that growth in the digital sphere has generated high paid opportunities, with the average salary coming in just under £50k.

“The UK’s credentials as a home for digital excellence have been well established” says Eileen Burbidge, Tech City UK chair and partner at Passion Capital. “Now Tech Nation 2016 provides a new level of insight into the impressive productivity of our digital economy – driving growth across all sectors and regions of the country”.

Even Prime Minister David Cameron had something to say after reading the reports findings.

“Britain’s world leading tech sector gives us a competitive edge that is not just transforming our daily lives but also our economy. Tech is transforming the way we do all kinds of business.”

“More than half of all digital jobs now aren’t in high-tech hubs of London or Leeds – they are in businesses of every description, in every sector. This government will continue to back, with all levers at our disposal, the innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship that is redefining and strengthening the modern British economy”.

Exporting boom for UK SMEs

Fruit stand http://barnimages.com/2015 was the year of the export for UK’s SMEs. According to Barclay’s recent Business Abroad Index, UK-based small and medium-sized enterprises enjoyed a 6% increase in revenue from European exports.

The UK’s primary export destinations were in Europe. Germany was the UK’s biggest buyer, followed by France, the US, and the Netherlands. Exports to China enjoyed a 21% increase on 2014 figures.

The index also iterated that exports from UK’s retail and manufacturing sectors grew significantly in 2015, enjoying growth of 36% and 10% respectively.

“The first port of call when considering exporting is identifying a target market and researching it thoroughly” says Steve Chillds, head of international for business banking at Barclays, “learning the culture, economic and political environment, customs, market, how business is conducted and most importantly, the competition”.

Crowdfunding aggregator OFF3R raises £480k

Travel, services and international business management concept with a globe and international flags of the world on white background.

Mobile crowdfunding aggregator OFF3R has completed a £480k fundraising. Investors include New Look Founder Tom Singh, Earlymarket, angel Diana McPherson, and Jumia’s head of marketing.

Launched just over half a year ago in June 2015, the London-based OFF3R claims its app has already had over 500,00 interactions, and dispatched 2 million deal alerts to investors in 75 countries.

“We are very excited” says Leak Deak, founder of OFF3R, “this investment will help us establish OFF3R as a leading player in the alternative finance market, providing a world-class user experience across mobile and web platforms”.

“We want make it an even more powerful and useable tool”, he enthused, “helping the investor community to discover and invest in companies from a broad range of sources”.

Earlymarket’s Patrick Wills says he sees OF3R as the “Righmove of seed capital”. He has promised Earlymarket’s network of hedge funds and high net worth investors to bolster OFF3R’s database.

Government paves road ahead for driverless cars

3824779905_04e793711a_oThe UK government is encouraging the development of driverless car technology, with a new £20m fund.

In a statement released earlier this week, the government announced eight projects which have been awarded a share of the fund. The projects range from solutions for visually-impaired drivers, to simulation trials for autonomous pods.

The shortlisted projects are the first to draw down funding from the government’s £100m Intelligent Mobility Fund, outlined by Chancellor Osborne in 2015’s Spring budget.

“Our cars of the future will be equipped with technologies that will make getting from A to B safer, fast, and cleaner”, said Business secretary Sajid Javid. “They will alert drivers of accidents ahead and be able to receive information from their surroundings about hazards, increasing the safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians”.

He enthused “Britain is a world-leader in research and development in such innovative technologies which improve lives and create opportunity for all. that is why this government has protected the £6bn science budget and is providing up to £20m for these projects”.

For more information on the Intelligent Mobility Fund, and each of the eight projects, click here.