Sadiq Khan vows to be “most pro-business” mayor yet

Bar graph rising“From day one, my approach will be to form a true partnership with business” were the words of Sadiq Kahn, having beaten the Conservative’s Zac Goldsmith to become London mayor.

“I will take an active role in helping to break down the obstacles holding London’s firms back and affecting their competitiveness” he added. “As someone who helped to run and grow a business before becoming a MP, I know the challenges many in the business community face and the importance of politicians working closely with business”.

Khan, who has been Labour MP for Tooting since 2005, has also served as minister of state for transport. His three main commitments to businesses include: creating a Business Advisory Board to identify and remove growth challenges of companies, bringing in a Skills for Londoners scheme to help promote scaling, and working with local authorities to prevent business space losses.

Khan also vowed: “as major, I will work with all of these groups and many others to deliver the infrastructure and skills the capital needs, campaign for increased aviation capacity in London, and champion London at home and abroad”.

CFOs back Cameron’s bid to stay in EU

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According to recent findings by Deloitte, CFOs are blaming business uncertainty on the euro crisis.

“A fog of uncertainty has descended on the corporate sector”, says Ian Stewart, Deloitte chief economist. “Perceptions of financial and economic uncertainty are back to levels last seen in early 2013 as the euro crisis abated”.

A Deloitte survey found that 83 per cent of CFOs now see the level of uncertainty facing their business as ‘above normal, high or very high’ – the worst reading for three years.

“This is due to there being a period of prolonged uncertainty about the tax regulatory, legal and trading relationships in the even of a Brexit” Steward added. “We’ve seen in the last ten years that this kind of uncertainty can be associated with a drying-up of liquidity, volatility in the financial markets, a decline in risk appetite and a decline in the value of assets”.

Of the 120 UK CFOs questioned by Deloitte, 75 per cent believed a Brexit would be detrimental for UK firms. Just 8 percent answered that a UK companies would benefit from leaving the EU.

RocketSpace announces first London campus

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RocketSpace, the San Francisco accelerator whose alumni include Uber, Blippar, and Spotify, has announced plans for a London tech campus.

The new campus, which will be designed specifically for fast-growing tech startups, will reportedly have capacity for up to 1,500 members.

“London’s tech community continues to rapidly expand and drive innovation”, says Duncan Logan. “Creating a physical presence here is critical to our expansion strategy and mission to build an ecosystem for innovation to thrive, across a global network of campuses. We are very excited about working with London’s tech entrepreneurs, who are creating some of the most disruptive technologies of the future”.

Kevin Hanley, RBS director of design, enthused about partnering with RocketSpace.

“RocketSpace will be housed in a building that we own in Angel. This will enable us to develop closer, deeper relationships with some of the startups; the companies we believe will be shaping the digital economy in the UK”.

RocketSpace is due to open its London campus in early 2017.

Innovate UK announces winners of IC Tomorrow Future of Retail Innovation competition

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Innovate UK has announced five startups as winners of its IC Tomorrow Future of Retail Innovation competition. Each of the five has been awarded up to £35k to ‘tackle some of the issues faced by the retail industry’, as well as mentoring from industry professionals.

“Consumers increasingly want more from their shopping experience and digital solutions are a key way for the industry to give consumers what they want”, says Matt Sansam, Innovate UK’s lead technologist, digital economy and IC tomorrow programme manager. “Each of the five winners demonstrates how new innovative technologies can be used to deliver positive interactions between the consumer and the retail industry”.

The winners, and their industry mentors

The five winners and their partner organisations are as follows:

  • Thaw Technology Ltd partnering with Tesco and WRAP
  • Cephalometrics partnering with Digital Anthropology Lab, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London (UAL)
  • Action Artificial Intelligence partnering with Unilever
  • Rewarding Visits Ltd partnering with Barclays
  • Proxama partnering with Greater London Authority

The winners will work with their industry mentors to develop their prototypes, retaining total control over their intellectual property.

Scotland shaping up as global FinTech contender

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According to chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) Graeme Jones, Scotland is well placed to be a ‘serious global contender is FinTech’.

“The speed of development in financial technology is truly breath-taking and the industry in Scotland is well placed to be a serious global contender” says Jones. “The financial services cluster in Scotland is second only to London in the UK in scale and diversity, providing a critical mass to build on with the new developments created by FinTech”.

“Many of our universities are at the cutting edge of these developments and producing highly skilled graduates, but it is important we work together and share our knowledge of this rapidly changing field. Working together we can identify the emerging areas of demand and get the right skills in place at the right time”, he added.

Last week, Scotland’s new representative body for the financial services industry met for the first time. The group was chaired by Royal Bank of Scotland Head of Design Louise Smith, and brought together over 30 industry professionals.

Azimo eyes Asian expansion with $15m raise


London-based digital money transfer platform Azimo has secured $15m investment in a round led by Japanese e-commerce company Ratuken. Existing investors eVentures, Frog Capital, Greycroft, Accion, and MCI also stumped up capital. The money will reportedly be used to aid expansion across Asia.

Azimo, created in 2012 to solve a ‘broken and often expensive money transfer industry’, already has offices in the Philippines and Thailand.

“Rakuten’s investment is fantastic news for both our customers and the Azimo team”, says Azimo CEO Michael Kent. “Our focus has always been to transform the way people send money around the world, and we’ve been lucky enough to receive lots of offers of funding on our journey.”

Managing partner of the Ratuken FinTech Fund, Oskar Mielczarek de la Miel, commented:

“Azimo has cemented itself as the European specialist in digital remittances and its global network is unrivalled in the industry. This is a testament to an outstanding team, led by Michael and Marta, who saw an opportunity four years ago to disrupt the $600 billion remittance industry”.

Tech for tots startup SAM Labs raises £3.2m

iStock_000076065345_SmallSam Labs, the creator of Internet of Things starter kits aimed at kids, has secured £3.2m in a fundraising led by Imperial Innovations Group. The Imperial College spinout, founded in 2011, last year raised £125k through a crowdfunding campaign.

“It’s amazing to have Imperial Innovations as our fist institutional investor” says Sam Labs CEO and founder. “Particularly given their excellent track record in science and engineering. Their scientific and creative approach are a huge source of inspiration for the construction kits we’ve built”.

Director of technology venture at Imperial Innovations Robert Bahns enthused:

“The SAM Labs wireless construction kits are encouraging young people to take an interest in technology and engineering, which is an issue we feel very passionately about. We have always championed UK innovation, particularly in STEM, and look forward to seeing how these products will enable young people to explore real ­world applications.”

SAM Labs asserts that over 1,000 educators have adopted the kits to explain concepts of coding, circuitry, and wireless connectivity to young children.

GCHQ alumni secure ‘significant investment’ for data intelligence startup

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Founded by ex-GCHQ engineers, data intelligence platform Ripjar has raised a ‘significant’ sum from Winton Ventures.

Cheltenham-based Ripjar allows users to analyse and visualise real-time information from ‘bulks of structured and unstructured data’. The company encompasses a number of different technologies, including natural language processing, matching learning, and visual analytics.

“Data capture and analysis is becoming increasingly important to the day-to-day operations of organisations of all sizes” says Ripjar CEO Tom Griffin. “There is a need for new, advanced tools that facilitate this process and, consequently, enable organisations to focus their own resources elsewhere”.

Director of Winton Ventures Owen McCormack also enthused; “We are excited by the potential of Ripjar’s profound data analytics knowledge, which is a central component that underpins and complements our own business, previous investments and partnerships”. He added “We are confident that Ripjar will emerge as a market leader in the near future”.

Other cybersecurity investments made by Winton Ventures, the venture arm of the Winton Group, include a $2.25 seed-stage backing into Panseer in November 2015.

Woof&Brew seeks £250k to expand ‘drinks for dogs’ line

iStock_000089139143_SmallDoggy-drink startup Woof&Brew has launched a Seedrs campaign to expand its ‘drinks for dogs’ line. The UK-based startup believes its product-line is unique, with a range of herbal teas, tonics, and infused water-based drinks for dogs.

“Our range of healthy, herbal blends (for dogs) are a complimentary pet food, created and blended to support your dog’s specific needs”, said a spokesperson for the company. “The blends are all veterinary approved as safe and the herbs used are left intact, rather than ground, to provide optimum nutritional benefits. Bursting with antioxidants, vitamins and mine”.

Speaking to the Telegraph, co-founder and brand director Lisa Morton explained:

“Our dog tea bags aren’t just treats, they’re tonics as well, designed with and approved by vets. Everybody these days is on a bit of a health kick and that goes for everyone in the household including the dogs. It’s all part of the emotional connection we have with our pets these days – dogs are part of the family too.”

Since it’s launch the campaign has raised nearly £75k. To read about co-founder Steve Bennett discussing the company’s new beverage ‘Bottom Sniffer’, click here.

Level39: “one of world’s most internationally diverse tech hubs”

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Data released by Canary Wharf’s accelerator programme Level39 reveals the hub has become one of “the most internationally diverse tech hubs in the world”.

Home to 213 companies, with 71 based outside the UK, Level39 celebrates its third birthday this year. The accelerator is home to fast-growing companies spanning a diverse range of sectors, including fintech, security, bigdata, and retail.  TransferGo and GrowthIntel are just two of the accelerator’s alumni, with current members including WordRemit, Aim Brain, and Behavox.

“Funding for fintech is booming and global investors are pouring in funds”, finds Level39 in its report. “VC firms spent less than $1bn in Q2 2010 compared to nearly $3bn in Q1 2015 on fintech”.

“Our little island nation attracted £312m of fintech investment in the first six months of 2015, compared to just £24m for the whole of 2010.”