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DIGIT Deal Roundup Column | June 2021 Edition

Michael Behr

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DIGIT Deal Roundup June
In the June edition of our Deal Roundup Column, we find out more about deals featuring Desana, Aveni, Codeplay, and Frog Systems.

Funding and Investment

Desana

Desana

Edinburgh-based PropTech startup, Desana, has raised $4 million (£2.9m) in funding as the firm looks to capitalise on the post-pandemic flexible working boom.

Desana secured the investment from a range of investors which includes Berlin-based PropTech1 Ventures, BGF and Techstart Ventures.

The cash boost marks the second significant investment for firm in the space of two years. In September 2019, the firm raised £550,000 in funding from Techstart Ventures.

Desana is a flexible workspace platform which enables companies to manage how their workforce uses office space.

Staff can choose to work from their employer’s own buildings or from Desana’s fast-growing network of flexible workspace operators in over 40 countries. Companies also have the ability to curate which spaces can be accessed by any member of staff.

Michael Cockburn, co-founder and CEO of Desana, said: “The growth of the business comes at a time when the traditional world of work has turned on its head. The shift towards flexible working was already in progress, however Covid-19, has accelerated this change.

“Employers are now looking for the flexibility that home working offers, however, they also yearn for the human interaction of the office. Desana fulfils a much-needed hybrid between the two.”

Read the full article here.


Aveni

Aveni Detect AI Tool

Scottish fintech firm Aveni has secured £1.1 million to launch its ‘ground-breaking’ Aveni Detect AI tool to help support vulnerable customers across the country.

The tool uses up-to-date AI and natural language processing (NLP) tech to automate processes directly from the customer’s voice, allowing companies to “achieve greater efficiencies” in quality assurance whilst “significantly improving client experience, staff training, and the ability to identify vulnerable customers”.

Crucially for many companies, the Aveni Detect AI tool will help reduce the cost of compliance, for example by helping businesses meet the FCA’s recent guidance on the Fair Treatment of Vulnerable Customers.

To implement the changes required, it is expected to cost the financial services industry £700 million.

Commenting on the investment, Joseph Twigg, CEO of Aveni, said: “Consumer behaviour and business needs have changed significantly over the past 18 months as the service industry digitised in response to the pandemic. This created a new base of consumers comfortable with video conferencing led, digital-first services.

“It also created a major challenge for firms to monitor and assess these calls, especially as an increasing number of them were from vulnerable customers who needed additional attention.

“In the new world, AI can be adopted throughout the customer journey, driving new insight, significant efficiency gains and better protecting the vulnerable. It’s a win-win situation.

“By using AI to help automate processes like quality assurance and risk monitoring, material cost reductions can be achieved. At the same time, companies gain targeted insights on customer experience and training opportunities for customer-facing staff.”

Find out more in the full article here.


arbnco

arbnco

Glasgow-based arbnco is set to trial a new digital air quality platform with consumers in Energy Systems Catapult’s Living Lab.

The Living Lab trial, which aims to reduce indoor air pollution, follows a £300,000 funding grant from Innovative UK’s Small Business Research Initiative.

Around 40,000 deaths in the UK are attributed to air pollution each year. However, indoor air quality can often be overlooked compared to outdoor air quality linked to vehicle emissions.

With a growing focus on improving ventilation in buildings due to Covid-19, the global ventilation market is expanding rapidly and has already exceeded £2bn in value and expected to reach almost £9bn by 2027.

arbnco R&D Manager Andrew Stewart said: “Indoor air quality is a problem literally hidden behind closed doors.

Issues typically arise from cookers in kitchens, gas heaters and wood burners in living rooms, humidity in bathrooms leading to condensation and mould, while even bedrooms can be a problem with raised CO2 levels building up at night, if not properly ventilated.”

The full article has more – read it here.


Q2 Solutions

Global Centre of Excellence

Scotland is to strengthen its reputation in life sciences after the announcement of a global centre of excellence in West Lothian.

US clinical research company Q2 Solutions has announced a multi-million-pound inward investment at its Livingston campus, creating 156 skilled jobs over the next three years.

Supported by a £3.8-million Scottish Enterprise grant, Q2 will establish a centre of excellence in flow cytometry and genomics testing and analysis, enabling it to offer an increased range of services.

The multi-million-pound research and development project will help “anchor” the firm’s operations in Scotland and sits alongside an ongoing £17-million infrastructure expansion project at the campus, where the company already employs more than 950 people.

Commenting on the news, Elaine Lowey, Q2 Solutions’ General Manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: “I am delighted to lead such a momentous undertaking.

“Expanding our European operations in key technical areas supporting the development of new precision medications adds significant value to our global pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients.

“We are delighted to be working with Scottish Enterprise in this venture and look forward to the job creation this will bring in our new state-of-the-art facility.”

Read the whole story here.


Business Gateway

Business Gateway has helped an agriculture software firm access over £16,000 of funding which has enabled the successful launch of an app that will improve farming health and safety.

Launched in 2020, Smart Farmer logs pre-start safety checks on farm machinery, allowing operators to see when machines were last serviced and if there are any issues, instead of the previous impractical method of maintaining paper records.

Recognised as an expert in his field, founder Marc Skivington was keen to solve existing impracticalities within the industry while revolutionising the way records are shared.

Equipped with agri-sector knowledge, Skivington had the theoretical experience, passion and initial concept, but it was Business Gateway that provided the practical experience necessary to form a robust business plan that helped bring Smart Farmer from concept to cash.

Following one-to-one support on his business plan, Skivington was able to approach Aberdeenshire Council and secure over £16,000 of funding.

Skivington said: “Business Gateway and my adviser John provided constant encouragement and helped me step out of my comfort zone as I started on this journey, pointing me in the right direction at every juncture. They helped ensure my business plan was robust enough to successfully secure funding and put me in touch with a software developer so that Smart Farmer could become a reality.”


IBioIC

Biotech Spin-outs IBioIC

A new Spin-Out Support Programme from Glasgow’s Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) will help bring new industrial biotechnology concepts to market.

The programme will provide funding to support researchers at Scottish universities create spin-outs from their concepts. Not only will this help progress bio-based research and establish new companies, but it will also help drive the growth of Scotland’s bioeconomy.

The innovation centre will support proof-of-concept projects that provide the necessary evidence to turn ideas into investor-friendly products and services. This forms a crucial stepping-stone towards launching a spin-out.

In addition, it will help bolster the diversity of the sectors associated with industrial biotechnology.

Director of business engagement and operations at IBioIC Liz Fletcher said: “This will be the first time we have delivered a support programme specifically aimed at the academic community, who are often working on ideas that would make a great foundation for a spin-out company. Turning these concepts into commercial businesses represents a significant opportunity for the continued growth of Scotland’s bioeconomy.

“There is much more to industrial biotechnology than its links with the chemicals industry and we are keen to support proposals across a breadth of sectors and applications. Spin-out companies could operate in a wide variety of sectors, ranging from food and drink, textiles, construction to healthcare, vaccine development or marine and aquaculture.”

Find out more here.


 SIS

Impact 12 Investment Fund

Social Investment Scotland (SIS) has announced a partnership with 12 leading universities to create the Impact 12 investment fund, which aims to support “mission-led” university ventures.

The fund, managed by SIS Ventures, a subsidiary of SIS, is aiming to support university ventures motivated by beneficial social or environmental impact, rather than focusing solely on profit.

Impact 12’s aim is to bring “positive change” by accelerating the development and success of impact-led social ventures spun out of universities. It will support social ventures with innovative finance tailored to their needs, including equity investment and debt. Additionally the fund will provide access to “expert mission-aligned finance and impact support”.

Commenting on the Impact 12 investment fund, Alastair Davis, CEO of SIS, said: “At a time when global economies are still suffering the impacts of the pandemic, Impact 12 provides a new and exciting vehicle for helping to support and fund some of the very best mission-driven businesses spinning out of universities’ research labs and accelerators.

“While Scotland will always remain our core focus for connecting capital with communities, for SIS Ventures, this fund also marks a new opportunity to realise our ambition of entering new markets where we feel able to support impact creation.

“Through our collaboration with these twelve universities, we believe we can create considerable impact by supporting mission-aligned businesses which have the potential to be the cornerstone of our economy in years to come.”

Learn more here.


Cloudsoft

Software and expert-led service provider Cloudsoft saw a strong performance in the first half of 2021, including high double-digit growth in revenue across both strands of its businesses: AMP and Tempo.

This follows a strong full year result in 2020 of 40% growth in revenue. To help manage this ongoing growth, the company has nearly doubled its headcount and is continuing to actively recruit.

Since January this year, Cloudsoft has secured strategic business wins with new and existing customers across the financial services, security and aerospace, and technology sectors. This includes the largest ever AMP deal secured by the business in its history.

Ross Gray, CEO of Cloudsoft, said: “This is a pivotal time for our business, and for the tech sector as a whole. The role of technology in helping businesses ensure stability and agility has never been clearer, fuelled by changing working models because of Covid-19.

“Our growth has stemmed from more clients seeking better value from their tech investments and embracing digital transformation without being slowed down by legacy systems.

“We’ve built on this growth by almost doubling our staff numbers this year and are continuing to actively recruit. We are seeing increasing traction from major global enterprises in financial services and beyond for Cloudsoft AMP driven by compliance and innovation agendas.

“We are also continuing to work closely with our strategic partners, including AWS and Fujitsu, and are aiming for premier AWS partnership status. Thanks in no small part to the work our team has put in, we’re tracking ahead of our targets for the year and it’s looking like it will be a standout year for us.”


Fanbase

Fanbase

Edinburgh-based startup Fanbase has secured £500,000 seed investment from a number of high-profile business figures and entrepreneurs.Investors in the software startup, which provides mobile ticketing and fan experience for sports clubs, include Steve Pankhurst and Tim War, co-founders of Friends Reunited.

Serial entrepreneurs and angel investors Nick Telson and Andrew Webster are also named among the latest backers.

The Fanbase platform, which is branded for individual sports clubs, enables mobile ticketing, memberships and subscriptions, as well as a range of other content for fans.

At present, the platform has 40 football clubs signed up, and the firm aims to have more than 300 UK football clubs on the platform by 2023.

Commenting on the investment, Alasdair Crawley, who serves as CEO, said: “Our technology gives every sports team a tool they’ve been priced out of until now and allows them to connect with fans like never before.

“We have focused on lower league football clubs to date, who play a fundamental role in their communities and because we’ve been able to make great strides with the product, we’re now having conversations with some of the top-tier clubs in Scotland and across the UK.

“It’s also our ambition to make an impression in the North American sports market.”

Read more in the full article here.


Deals and Partnerships

Soar

Soar

Glasgow-based digital banking platform Soar will use Experian’s Decision Analytics solutions to support its work in the community banking market.

The new partnership will see Soar clients utilise Experian’s SaaS PowerCurve Customer Acquisition platform to help automate lending decisions, transforming their digital onboarding and customer application journey.

Incorporating affordability and eligibility insights based on Experian bureau data, anti-fraud checks, and advanced data analytics all within one cloud-based solution, Soar clients will be given a clear picture of their customers helping them to access the most appropriate lending for their circumstances.

Typically, organisations like Credit Unions and Community Banks have relied upon manual application processes, leading to customers waiting up to a week – and sometimes longer – for their application to be reviewed and completed.

Andrew Duncan, CEO of Soar, said: “The community banking market has traditionally been underserved when it comes to technology advancements. We’re committed to changing that, giving organisations the chance to provide their customers with the best digital offering possible.

“The breadth and accuracy of what Experian software can offer will be central to us in meeting that ambition and modernising the ethical banking sector.”

Read the full article here.


Frog Systems

Tech wellbeing company Frog Systems has netted a national sports organisation as a new client.

The British Basketball League (BBL) has chosen the company’s pioneering software to launch a nationwide platform to support its community with their mental health and physical wellbeing.

Earlier this year, Frog Systems helped Sussex Cricket become the first top tier sports club to launch a mental health and wellness platform.

The BBL platform was developed in response to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which the league believes has hit its fanbase particularly hard.

Andy Webb, Chief Operating Officer of the BBL, said: “This is a proud moment for us to be the first national sports body to launch a platform like this to support our community. The past year has been tough for everyone – players, fans and administrators alike – and this puts us in a great position to move forward and make a positive difference.”

The platform contains bite-sized video clips from players and officials from clubs in the BBL sharing their own experiences and highlights organisations where the basketball community can go to get help. Users can search for information about mental and physical wellness, diversity, equality and inclusion, and personal development and financial management. They can also look for community programmes and volunteering opportunities with the sport in their area.

Phil Worms, CEO of Frog Systems, said: “This is another example of how sport can be used to deliver important messages around mental health and wellbeing. We have worked closely with the BBL to produce a platform that will help them make important decisions about where they direct their support and resources in the future.”


Inoapps

Inoapps, member of Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) achieved Oracle Managed Service Expertise (MSE) in Oracle E-Business Suite to Oracle Cloud in the US, EMEA and ASEAN.

This makes it one of the first partners to hold this accreditation in EMEA and ASEAN and hold the accreditation across all three regions simultaneously. The company is also one of the first Oracle partners to achieve Managed Service Expertise in Oracle Cloud Platform Data Management in EMEA and ASEAN.

Oracle Managed Service Expertise recognises partners with the skills and expertise to build, deploy, run, and manage both Oracle and non-Oracle workloads in the Oracle Cloud. Achieving the standard enables Inoapps to extend its cloud management offering to clients across Software as a Service (SaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) delivery models.

Inoapps Global CEO Andy Bird said: “Oracle MSE accreditation underlines Inoapps’ commitment and investment in achieving one of the highest levels of technical and engineering expertise across all aspects of our business. It progresses the business to a higher level, further enhancing our close relationship with Oracle and enabling us to extend the cloud management services we deliver to our growing global client base.”


Logan Energy

Hydrogen technologies company Logan Energy has unveiled plans to create up to 100 skilled new roles in Scotland as part of a strategic partnership with clean fuel specialist Element 2.

The initial three-year partnership will see Logan Energy design, manufacture and maintain hydrogen refuelling stations on sites developed by Element 2 who plan to deploy over 800 pumps onto the UK network by 2027 and 2,000 by 2030.

As the leading national provider of design and services for hydrogen refuelling development, the Scotland-based company was chosen for its strong track record in delivery.

The partnership will triple Logan Energy’s current headcount, creating up to 70 new roles over the next two years with further positions to follow by 2025.

Bill Ireland, CEO of Logan Energy, said: “This collaboration offers Logan Energy the opportunity to use its industry experience to deliver the widespread hydrogen infrastructure sorely needed across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“Scotland has a long and successful relationship with hydrogen energy that is unparalleled. We have the expertise to deliver renewable technologies at pace and this programme will help create dozens more skilled opportunities for those looking to work in the hydrogen sector.

“Our partnership with Element 2 underlines our growth plans in the UK for the coming decade and will provide confidence for potential investors looking to support the drive to net zero.”


Codeplay

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technology company Codeplay has won a second key contract with the US Government and is now looking to grow in the UK and internationally as demand increases for its software.

The Edinburgh-based business was selected by the US Department of Energy’s (DoE) National Labs to supply its software to a second supercomputer called Frontier, one of the highest performance computers in the world today.

Frontier will be used by researchers working in diverse areas such as medicine, alternative energy, environment, high-energy and nuclear physics, advanced computing, materials science and chemistry.

On the back of this success, and strong demand from some of the largest tech companies in the world, Codeplay is expecting its team of skilled software developers and computer scientists to increase from 80 to over 100 over the next year.

Charles Macfarlane, Chief Business Officer at Codeplay, said: “Having won our first contact with the National Labs in February, a second prestigious contact to support one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers is an incredible endorsement of Codeplay and our technology.

“Much more than an important commercial win, this engagement from the Argonne and Oak Ridge National Laboratories in the US will further enhance our already strong reputation enabling supercomputers. Significantly it shows that our software is portable to almost any hardware – our first engagement with the National Labs was on Nvidia processors – while this is for use on AMD processors.

“Enabling artificial intelligence and supercomputers are the most progressive technologies today and bring the toughest software challenges to overcome.”


Swipii

Cashback app Swipii is seeing an increase in brick and mortar venues looking for ways to leverage tech in an effort to bounce back and compete with online businesses.

Freddy & Hicks, Zinfandel and Viva Ristorante are just some of the high street businesses signing up to the Scottish startup this month after the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Swipii helps local bars, cafes and restaurants attract, reward and retain customers with its instant cashback app, which helps to level the playing field between small local brick-and-mortars and large online retailers. The smart technology means customers and business owners don’t have to deal with traditional points and reward systems (or paper punch cards for that matter).

Glasgow shoppers can earn cashback simply by spending with their normal bank card thanks to Swipii’s card linking technology, meaning it’s not only simple but safe for staff and the public to utilise.

Commercial Director Richard McCandless said: “Local businesses across the entire UK have been continuously disproportionately affected throughout this pandemic. Online businesses have been lapping up exponential growth whilst brick and mortar establishments lay victim to ever changing and confusing restrictions. It’s our mission to level the playing field for these valuable businesses ensuring they have all the tools they need to bounce back from the last 12 months.”


BlackArrow

EY Attractiveness Survey BlackArrow

Australian artificial intelligence start-up BlackArrow has announced the move of its global base to Glasgow.

The firm has received a £573,000 grant from Scottish Enterprise to move operations to the city, where it says it will create 45 new software developer and technical support positions.

BlackArrow looks to further develop its financial planning app at its existing office in Glasgow, which opened in 2019. Additionally, the company will offer consultancy services to banks and building societies.

Commenting on the announcement, Scottish Government Business Minister Ivan McKee said: “Scotland will become the centre of BlackArrow Financial Solutions’ global operations, and this represents a massive vote of confidence in our recovery from the pandemic.

“Artificial intelligence technology promises significant opportunities for Scottish businesses and their customers and BlackArrow is creating exactly the kind of high-value and innovative jobs we need here.

“Scottish Enterprise has a lengthy relationship with the company and this agreement is another tangible step towards post-Covid-19 prosperity.”

For more, read the full story here.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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