March 2016

Central Working launches new co-work space in Paddington

Things Image

Central Working, the shared workspace provider, is launching a new site in London, Paddington this May.

The new site, which will be developed in partnership with British Land, will be situated on the ground floor of 2 Kingdom Street. Central Working’s seventh UK location, the site aims to “support and nurture” local business.

James Layfield and Steve Pette began Central Working back in 2011. The company has since been the recipient of several plaudits, including startups.co.uk’s Service Business of the Year 2013.   Providing office membership for freelancers, startups, and SMEs, Central Working works with over 1,200 clients – including developer Rovio, Angry Birds, and unicorn ($1bn valuation) cloud communications company Twilio.

“Shared workspaces were seen as the domain of the startup”, says Layfield, Central Working CEO. “But we firmly believe that companies of all sizes are starting toes the benefits of these vibrant, driven communities. The way that business works is evolving and we are proud to be leading the way in the UK with partners such as British Land”.

The new Paddington office follows Centrals Working’s recent announcement of a partnership with Cambridge University. The pair are reportedly planning to open the UK’s largest innovation space in 2017.

Important “UK is ready”, says government on increasing capabilities of AI

robot android women with light“Robots are now beating humans at even the most complex games” says Nicola Blackwood MP, talking after the UK government’s Science and Technology Committee announced its inquiry into robotics and artificial intelligence.

“Artificial intelligence (AI) will play an increasing role in our lives over the coming years. From navigation systems to medical treatments, and from new manufacturing techniques to unmanned vehicles. New applications are rapidly being developed that involve robotic decision making”.

She added: “It is important that the UK is ready with the research, innovation and skills to be able to fully take advantage of the opportunities and manage any risks. The global market for the AI sector is expected to grow to $2-6 trillion by 2025”.

The UK government hallmarked robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) as one of the ‘Eight Great Technologies’ back in 2012. The new inquiry welcomes written submission on robotics and AI, with a deadline set at the end of next month.

Data firm Black Swan raises £3m

financingLondon-based data science firm Black Swan has secured £3m investment in a round led by Mitsui. In a recent statement, the company expressed intentions to use the capital for expansion into USA and Japan, as well as further developing is proprietary data unification platform NEST.

“We’re delighted to be working with Mitsui” says Steve King, Black Swan’s CEO. “After three years of organic growth it’s going to drastically change the pace of our international plans. Mitsui are the perfect partner to support our plans for new product innovation and entry into new markets”.

Mitsui’s general manager of IT & Communication, Jun-ichi Shibuta, commented: “Mitsui is investing in global business innovation across a variety of key business sectors”.

“The trend towards predictive data analytics will affect all industries and they way they think about corporate strategy, so it’s logical that utilising big data will become increasingly important to maintain and strengthen businesses, which is why we are collaborating with Black Swan”.

Black Swan, which boasts Tesco, Argos, and NPower, as high profile clients, was launched back in 2011. The company works to discover correlations between public and private data, which enables its clients to make valuable market predictions.

SME confidence down, according to Federation of Small Businesses

Dictionary definition of the word confidence.

A survey from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found that confidence among UK SMEs is at its lowest since 2013.

The research identifies Scotland and Northern Ireland as regions with the least SME confidence, while London and the East of England both suffered drops in optimism.

The FSB has put forward a number of explanations for its findings, with factors including uncertainty caused by the Brexit debate, changes to the National Living Wage, and auto-enrolment.

In spite of this, the report also found that SMEs are now finding easier to access finance. With many increasingly turning towards alternative finance. Reportedly, 9% of SMEs that applied for credit between January and March this year did so via peer-to-peer, lending, or crowdfunding.

“Small business confidence has clearly faltered, which is why the welcome small business focus in the budget is so important”, says Sandra Dexter, FSB vice chairman.

“We need a renewed push for growth and productivity – with policy makers delivering a sustained package of support for ambitious small firms.

The ongoing improvements to small business finance demonstrates how a sustained and focussed approach to supporting smaller firms can really pay off”.

3D mapper eeGeo secures $5m investment

Earth planet globe. Side of the Europe and Africa. The Earth texture of this image furnished by NASA. (http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=2430)

Dundee-based EeGeo, the 3D mapping and visualisation company, has completed a $5m round led by Nestol Technologies. Launched to the public in 2015, the company boats high-profile clients including Cisco and NTT DoCoMo.

“We have seen an increase in customers and partners wanting to implement our mapping technology as part of their business offerings, in order to better engage with their end-users, maximise efficiency and create additional revenue streams” says Ian Hetherington, eeGeo CEO and founder.

“This strategic funding will put us in a position to serve a much larger market, whilst delivering new features and making our solution widely available”.

NetSol CEO, Najeeb Ghauri, commented on the investment: “This is an opportunity to partner with a transformative company and grow a new revenue stream by collaborating on edge’s disruptive product roadmap”.

“At NetSol we have an immense pool of talented software engineers working on developing cutting edge solutions for our industry vertical. This partnership was born out of a shared confidence that this same talent pool could accelerate edge’s product vision. We look forward to closely working with eeGeo as they continue to grow their business”.

Innovate UK stumps-up £180k for sharing economy startups

iStock_000039435680_SmallInnovate UK has teamed up with Airbnb and Nesta to give startups in the sharing economy space a chance to win a substantial cash injection and mentoring from industry professionals.

The government’s innovation arm is offering up to 6 SMEs a chance to win £30,000 to develop their sharing economy product. The six areas open for entry are: trust, travel and tourism, construction, DIY, and innovation and data analysis.

Aside from the cash award, startups will get the opportunity to collaborate with industry partners to help bring their product to market. Competition partners include: Nesta, Kingfisher, Airbnb, Crossrail, Peterborough City Council, Cranfield University, and the Sharing Economy UK body.

“The sharing economy is starting to impact many different sectors, but there is still much more than can be done to make the most of this opportunity” says Matt Sansam, Digital economy and programme manager for IC tomorrow. “This competition seeks innovative start-ups to help disrupt existing business models and to push the boundaries of the sharing economy even further”.

“With the support of our challenge partners, we want to help these companies get their ideas off the ground and into the market”.

Entries for the project close on Tuesday 12 April. Find out more here.

P2P LendInvest secures £17m investment

iStock_000049827706_SmallPeer-to-peer online mortgage platform LendInvest has completed a £17m raise. The money comes from Atomico, the VC firm specialising in tech, and founded by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström.

The round brings LendInvest’s total investment to over £200m, and follows a recent £22m backing from Chinese tech firm, Beijing Kunlun.

“To receive this backing from Atomico is a rare example of a VC firm whose founder has first-hand experience of building a multi-billion dollar, fast-growth technology company” says Christain Faes, co-founder & CEO of LendInvest.

Mattias Ljungman, Atomico partner enthused: “We’re impressed with Christian and Ian’s vision and ambition to disrupt the established lending industry”. Their lending and borrowing marketplace is bringing speed, efficiency and transparency to a traditionally cumbersome process.”

“We’re excited about working with the team to ensure that their great product is underpinned by the best technology, and to take their business to the next level”.

Since 2013, LendInvest has allegedly lent £560m to support 2,100 financing projects across the UK. A spokesperson for the company has announced LendInvest will use the funds to extend its lend in the property market. 

EU ‘good for business’, say UK tech entrepreneurs

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

According to TechUK’s latest report, UK tech entrepreneurs believe EU membership is ‘good for business’.  The findings show a significant majority of 70% are anti-Brexit, while just 15% are pro. A further 15% are undecided. The survey, which polled 277 UK tech SME owners between February 23 and March 7 this year, was released earlier today.

Anti-Brexit business owners felt enduring EU membership would make the UK more attractive to investors, facilitate better trade relationships with the EU, and enable the UK to be more competitive globally. The same party felt leaving would create uncertainty.

Those in the pro-Brexit camp voted in lieu of what they felt were regulatory burdens placed on the UK by the EU, as well as insufficient UK influence on EU rulings.

“Most of these companies, large and small, have customers and or suppliers across the EU”, says Julian David, TechUK CEO. “They are saying they will still have to comply with EU rules, whatever the UK decides on 23rd June. A British exit would mean the UK giving up control over how those rules are set. That could put UK business at a real disadvantage”.

10 tech start-ups join Virgin Media and Techstars accelerator

iStock_000051182406_SmallVirgin Media and Techstars have announced the 10 tech start-up finalists to participate in a new London-based accelerator programme.

The ‘Virgin Media Accelerator powered by Techstars’ is a 13-week mentorship and guidance programme, backed by Virgin Media Business parent company Liberty Global. The 10 start-ups to make the cut hail from around the globe, with home cities including Milan, Berlin, Venice Beach, and Dublin. The sector spread is equally diverse, with products and services ranging from a virtual reality treadmill, a P2P real-time video streaming system, an Internet of Thing device, and a crowdsourcing platform for real-time sports stats.

The programme is due to kick-off at the end of this month, in Aldgate East.  However, participants are first being whisked through a series of high-profile meets and greets in Silicon Valley with Google, Facebook, and Cable Labs. They’ll then share a flight with Sir Richard Branson, when they will participate will in a discussion on the future of entrepreneurship.

“We can’t wait to start helping these truly innovative start-ups grow and develop their business – it’s what we do best” says Ryan Kuder, managing director at Virgin Media Accelerator. “With the backing of Virgin Media, Techstars and Liberty Global these start-ups will have access to some of the best business knowledge and expertise as well as a global network of contacts to help them rise above competitors”.

The ten participants are:

  • Ecoisme – Poland
  • GoalShouter – Italy
  • KonnectAgain – Ireland
  • Synervoz – Canada
  • Rally Networks – USA
  • Repairly – UK
  • Sponsokit – Germany
  • Stepsize – UK
  • TelToo – UK
  • Wizdish – UK

Finalists announced for HSBC franchisor of the year 2016

hsbcThe British Franchise Association has announced 17 finalists for the HSBC Franchisor of the Year Awards 2016.

The 17 finalists have been chosen for their exemplary company culture, franchisee support, innovative practices, and ethics. The companies span a healthy sector-spread, ranging from renowned global franchises such as MacDonalds to younger franchises like delivery service Diamond Logistics.

A panel of industry experts will choose the winners. The panel includes Stevens & Bolton’s Nicola Broadhurst, AMO Consulting’s Euan Fraser, and Franchise Finance’s Stuart Walsh. The winners will be announced on June 23 in Nottingham.

The list of finalists include:

HSBC Franchisor of the Year 2016

  • Driver Hire Nationwide
  • Expense Reduction Analysts (ERA)
  • Home Instead Senior Care
  • McDonald’s Restaurants
  • Minster Cleaning Services
  • Rainbow International
  • Water Babies

Emerging Franchisor of the Year (five years or less in franchising)

  • busylizzy
  • Diamond Logistics
  • Heritage Healthcare

Franchisee Recruitment Award

  • Home Instead Senior Care
  • Premier Sport
  • TaxAssist Accountants

Award for Innovation

  • McDonald’s Restaurants
  • Swimtime
  • X-Press Legal Services

Customer Focus Award

  • Dream Doors
  • Dyno-Rod
  • O2

“It’s particularly pleasing to see the variety of businesses expanding through franchising represented, reflecting the range of operators in UK franchising” says Pip Wilkins, soon to be bfa chief executive in April. “Our finalists should be very proud to have been recognised for their exceptional performance”.