UK tech startups to watch in 2022
Fintech, AI, mixed reality and a remote onboarding specialist make up IT Pro's list of small businesses to watch
The UK's tech sector continues to attract significant investment from around the world.
According to reports from Tech Nation, a record-breaking £13.5 billion of venture capital came into the country over the first six months of 2021.
A large portion of this has gone to London-based startups, particularly in the fintech sector, which is an area the country specialises in. However, the pandemic has influenced a number of entrepreneurs and founders to create startups focused on remote technologies and hybrid work environments.
With so many startups breaking out of the UK, we've compiled the best of the best - the ones we feel are destined for the big time.
The pandemic may have changed how we work forever and that includes onboarding people into new jobs.
HR software company Humaans has been on this mission since 2020, as one of many remote-focused startups to be conceived during the pandemic. It offers a software package that helps businesses hire, onboard, and manage all employees without the need for "clunky and oppressive" spreadsheets and paperwork. Instead, the firm uses a simplistic dashboard with AI capabilities that handles the majority of the administrative burden.
The service is still in its early stages, having raised a funding total of $5 million from around 15 investors, but it already has a large customer base spread across Europe, Asia, and the US.
When Facebook became 'Meta' in 2021, it reignited global interest in technologies that deal with mixed reality. And, although this is largely seen in the gaming and entertainment industries, there is a growing demand for enterprise use cases. This is where Brighton-based Fracture Reality hopes to make its fortune.
Founded in 2016, this startup offers bespoke applications for mixed reality. The company, and its co-founders Rob Minson and Mark Knowles-Lee, aim to encourage more widespread use of mixed reality by building collaboration tools.
Its services range from design and engineering to multi-user holographic experiences, with tailored applications for Microsoft's HoloLens2. Its flagship product is JoinXR, an augmented and virtual reality meeting system. With JoinXR, users can browse and manipulate data, such as architectural plans, product designs and even medical scans in a 3D environment.
Tractable is a London-based fintech firm that was the 100th tech startup in the UK to reach unicorn status - a valuation of £1 billion - according to Tech Nation. The firm was founded in 2014 and surpassed the milestone with a $60 million funding round in June 2020.
The company offers service to help insurers manage accident and disaster recovery, using AI software to build predictive tools. As an example, the firm is working on a service that assesses the condition of a car so that users or potential buyers can understand vehicle damage down and its impact on individual parts for a more informed decision about purchase. This basic idea will also be attributed to homes, offices and other products that can be insured.
With lots more people working from home, hackers are seeing more opportunities to infiltrate businesses. Securing multiple IoT devices at home is now a big priority of cyber security firms. This is where London-based startup Zobi has found success.
Zobi uses AI to map out a customer's home, registering all internet-connected devices - no matter the brand - so it can build an anonymous profile. It uses this to spot unusual behaviour that may be attributed to a cyber attack.
The firm was recently selected by Tech Nation as one of its 'Rising Star' candidates. The initiative looks for the most promising startups in every region of the UK, and Zobi made the list of five in the London category.
ANNA, which stands for 'absolutely no-nonsense admin', is a Cardiff-based fintech startup aimed at small businesses. The company offers business accounts for freelancers and SMBs via an app, although they're perhaps best known for featuring quirky red characters, such as a miaowing cat, on the front of their bank cards.
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As the name suggests, it prides itself on no-nonsense banking – customers are able to set up an account in just three minutes, and services are free for those just starting out. It also lets users take a picture of receipts to sort them digitally.
This is one of a number of rapidly growing fintech firms based-outside of London, where hubs are taking off in places like Newcastle and Cardiff. ANNA strengthened its partnership with Mastercard in the middle of 2020 and the company is set to benefit from broader access to the financial giant's services and expertise.
There are a number of startups trying to offer alternatives to email, or even kill it off entirely, but London-based Loop wants to make the legacy service even better by incorporating more modern, Slack-like features.
The app is a plugin for Gmail that imports AI-based tools to improve collaboration and productivity. In this golden age of remote working, it's a solution that takes away the need for more services, placing everything you and your team use into the email account you'll probably have by default. It replaces email chains with instant messaging and creates a shared dashboard with the rest of your team – essentially it is email and Slack combined.
The idea is not exactly new, with the likes of Hey and Superhuman promising the same for US users, but with email still very much at the centre of our lives after decades, there is a growing call for cloud upgrades to the legacy messaging system.
Recently selected in Microsoft's 'startups for good' cohort, language app Chatterbox uses remote technologies and AI to empower refugees in their quest to learn and teach foreign languages to individuals and businesses.
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Co-founder Mursal Hedayat (pictured, above right) started the company after watching her family of lawyers and doctors struggle to regain employment after becoming refugees. The company's mission is to use technology to give those fleeing conflict and hardship a route into employment, and help teach you or your entire business to speak another language in the process.
Hedayat reportedly started Chatterbox to challenge the narrative that refugees are a threat or a burden. Its business model is seen as a potential tech-based solution to the challenge of integrating cultures across Europe.
Fintech startups usually dominate 'unicorn' lists and there are a number of different companies hoping to follow in the footsteps of Monzo and Starling. Wagestream is a London fintech hoping to eradicate paydays by offering users an app through which they can access their pro-rata earnings whenever they need them.
It's not quite a lending bank in the traditional sense, as the person's salary is earned in real-time and the only cost payable by the employee is a processing fee of £1.75 per withdrawal. The firm is aiming to eliminate overdraft fees, credit card debt and payday loans – and ultimately financial stress caused by traditional pay cycles.
Since they were founded last year, the company has raised £44.5m across two funding rounds and recently signed a deal with Visa to expand into Europe. If it gains traction, the approach could prove disruptive.
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