Jun 10th 2019

You don’t have to be in London to be a successful tech start-up

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London start-up: “If you aren’t based in London – do you even start-up bro?”

Every other start-up: “Well, actually…”

Sound familiar? Thought so. It’s a bit of a problem that the start-up community seems to have, no matter the country. If you aren’t based in the capital or the traditional Tech Hub (i.e. Silicon Valley), then you “don’t even start-up”.

London is on track to seize the crown from San Fran for fintech unicorns, and surely that means it’s the best place for a start-up, right? Well, at the risk of sounding like I’m from West Virginia or somewhere like that, that’s just plain stupid. Of course, you can start-up if you aren’t based in the capital. In fact, Manchester, Liverpool, Cambridge and Brumington *ahem* I mean Birmingham, all have their merits and are doing quite alright thank you very much. This is without even bringing Bristol into the mix.

Luckily London knows this, and every year London Tech Week gives start-ups and established players a chance to get together in one place and meet each other and talk shop. Conveniently, dear reader, during that time, Babel is also hosting a start-up PR clinic, which you are more than welcome to attend! The reality is that many innovative and fascinating companies are founded outside of London, and continue to remain there, gathering up momentum and making their mark on the world-stage.

With this in mind, I thought I’d list a few that I think are pretty snazzy, and prove that you don’t have to be London-founded or London-based to make it in the world of tech. We don’t work with these companies; this is purely an exercise in what I think is cool (even though I’m not a cool person). Without much further ado…

Cheltenham – PixelPin

Given its proximity to GCHQ, the Malverns, and Brize Norton, there is something about Cheltenham and the surrounding area that has an allure for security focused start-ups. I’m a bit biased because I live here, but it seems to me to be a smashing place to start a business. PixelPin is one of those businesses that has launched and subsequently expanded into London and Tokyo, but still have a base here. I mean, replacing password logins with pointing to a specific place on a picture is pretty snazzy – so much so that it nabbed £1.5 million in Pre-Series A funding. Very nice.

Bristol – Graphcore

Graphcore. No, they don’t make graphs, and it isn’t some kind of new parabolic and cartesian equation-driven metal music genre. It’s a company that makes processors specifically for AI applications. Recently it secured £200 million in funding, which is a nice chunk of change if you can get it.

Bristol (again) – Open Bionics

Affordable, 3D printed bionic hands for amputees, researchers and makers. In January they raised $5.9 million in their Series A. Need I say more? I mean come on, affordable bionics!

Manchester – The LAD Bible

The Manchester Evening News reported that tech start-ups in the region have almost doubled in number since last year – excellent! Now, as for one that I think is quite good, love it or hate it, I’m choosing social media content Vikings: The LAD Bible. For all it’s silliness of sharing dog videos, it also does a lot of campaigns for good – the sunscreen/skin cancer awareness one was a particularly great example, as was the “U OK M8?” mental health campaign.

Cambridge – Audio Analytic

Described by Bloomberg and then in the Cambridge Independent last year as “The Shazam of real-world sounds”, this Cambridge based company is quite something. Imagine, you hear a sound, then have to describe it to a computer? It would be quite difficult right? After all you are not an oscilloscope. Instead, Audio Analytic uses tech to teach AI driven machines what sounds…sound like. This has huge implications for the smart assistants market, and could also influence the future of sound-monetisation, building an industry potentially as lucrative as the music sector. Fascinating stuff. By 2018, it had raised $8.5 million in funding too – not to be sniffed at. *crash, bang, wallop*

Now, I’m of course not saying there aren’t any cool start-ups in London that I wouldn’t want to work with (Elliptic, AimBrain, and Automata are a few that stand out), but there are loads outside of the capital, and that can really provide food for thought when it comes to investment. Look beyond London, see what the rest of the UK holds, it may be your best decision yet.