2020 has been a turbulent year for everyone. In business, startups have been particularly hard hit, with a recent survey warning that over 1000 young companies have filed for administration since the start of lockdown.
However, for those that have successfully weathered the storm, this year has brought opportunities along with challenges. In many cases, the opportunities have been the challenges, as startups offer innovative solutions to the problems brought on by the coronavirus.
Now, with a vaccine on the horizon and hopes of a return to economic growth, 2021 looks to be a year of both new challenges and opportunities. DIGIT has found some of the top startups to watch next year – those that have thrived in 2020 and those that offer new solutions to the new year’s challenges.
Building on double-digit revenue growth in 2019, Forrit had a strong entry into 2020. The company offers an enterprise CMS platform to help companies streamline their operations.
In June, the company made three new additions to its board, including Microsoft executive Steven Guggenheimer. He joined former Corporate VP at Microsoft Austen Mulder and Chief Legal and Policy Officer at Trustpilot and former Chief Legal Officer at Skyscanner Carolyn Jameson.
With the app launching in September, the company repeated its success in November, surpassing its new £400,000 target to reach £1 million, with investments coming from people and groups including Skyscanner co-founder Gareth Williams and Perivoli Innovations.
Counting Standard Life Aberdeen and BrewDog among its customers, the new investment and high-profile backers will help drive Pawprint’s 2021 goals.
These include adding new functions to its app, including setting carbon reduction goals and building the business wing of the app to help companies fight climate change.
Money Dashboard offers customers an open banking platform to consolidate all their bank accounts in one place, making it easier to track spending and move money.
Hot off the back of its £4.6 million funding round last year, 2020 saw the company release a new product, Money Dashboard Neon, to help roll out new products and features.
In addition, the company brought in former Paypal executive Renier Lemmensa as its new chairman in May to help the company into its next stage of growth.
The Edinburgh-based firm has also formed partnerships, made its first investment integration, and has since made multiple deals to work with a wide range of companies.
The space industry has seen a revolution in the past few decades as private companies develop some major technological breakthroughs.
Scotland’s Skyrora designs, manufactures, and deploys rockets to help small satellite manufacturers reach space and is currently developing launch vehicle technology.
The company hit some major landmarks this year. It conducted the UK’s first ground rocket test in 50 years back in May when it launched its Skylark-L Rocket. Later, it launched it Skylark Nano rocket from Shetland.
With a range of data collection tools, Talking Medicines’ AI data platform supports companies by translating patient comments into actionable pharma-grade intelligence.
The company received £1.1 million of funding in November, which will go towards scaling up its AI-based data technology platform for measuring patient sentiment.
In addition, the company received another vote of confidence when it was chosen to join Tech Nation’s Applied AI 2.0 Growth Programme in November.
Intelligent Growth Solutions
As the world’s population and average wealth grow, so too does its demand for food. Indoor agritech specialist Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) has developed vertical growth towers to produce food in urban environments and maximise yields.
Since creating Scotland’s first vertical farm in 2018, the company has enabled producers to grow crops all year round by providing control over environmental factors such as lighting, airflow, and temperatures.
Earlier this year, the company struck a deal to provide its indoor growing platforms to French urban agriculturalists Jungle. Under the multi-million-pound deal, IGS will start producing the first growth towers by early 2021, scaling incrementally to a minimum of 17 towers by the end of 2021.
Just as the coronavirus pandemic has brought stress and anxiety, new routines have also brought the opportunity to reflect on our health. As such, services that help us focus on mental and physical wellbeing are likely to become more popular.
Trickle provides one such service, which enables organisations to build better workplaces.
As part of a collaboration with the University of Aberdeen, the company recently launched the ‘How was your day?’ app for NHS workers.
This is on top of £1 million of seed funding it received from angel investors just over a year ago in December 2019.
LiberEat offers an app to simplify life for people with dietary restrictions, providing bespoke menus, supermarket grocery options and recipes to users with options filtered by their requirements. Its technology also helps provide allergen safety information, protecting those with potentially life-threatening allergies.
Founded by Barry Leaper and Louise Cahill, the platform also enables restaurants and supermarkets to become more accessible and provides useful analytics and insights.
The company was named as a winner at the Tech Nation Rising Stars 3.0 competition for Scotland. LiberEat is now competing in the UK semi-final, with winners announced in February 2021.
Tech for good companies have seen a strong performance in 2020 as ethical issues rise on people’s agendas. This trend is likely to continue into 2021 and beyond.
Frog Systems is a digital mental health and wellbeing startup that utilises video to communicate messages of hope and signpost support to those in need.
The company’s founder, Phil Worms, received the top prize at this year’s Startup Summit Competition, worth over £65,000 in October.
In addition, it was named as a finalist at the Tech4Good Awards and the Digital Agenda Impact Awards earlier this year.
October was an exciting month for data analytics innovator Bellrock Technology as it won approval to compete and bid for a share of almost £2 billion in public sector contracts.
Offering a range of data solutions – including Data Science Deployment, Artificial Intelligence Deployment and Machine Learning – the move enhanced the company’s status as a Data Analytics supplier.
Bellrock also received £1 million of additional funds from its long-term investors, leading to the company doubling its workforce and adding new members to its board.
The last year has demonstrated the risks associated with harmful online content. From cyberbullying, revenge porn and political threats rising from misinformation, online actions can have serious impacts in the physical world.
Napier University spinout Cyan is a Scottish tech company which creates new technologies to enable law enforcement and social media companies find and block harmful content online. The company started 2020 in a strong position, having secured £1.3 million in funding in December 2019 and an award win at PitchGovTech the month before.
The company has used this investment to fuel its ongoing expansion and target new markets in Northern Europe. It has spent much of this year forming new partnerships to help organisations stay protected.