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Thirty-five technology scaleups have been selected to join entrepreneurial network Tech Nation’s second Libra cohort, a programme designed to support underrepresented startup founders.
The six-month long, government-backed Libra programme was created to tackle the tech sector’s lack of racial diversity, and aims to act as a springboard for underrepresented founders looking for support while they scale.
In November 2020, an analysis of UK venture capital (VC) investment by Extend Ventures showed that, between 2009 and 2019, three-quarters of all VC investment went to all-white founding teams. In contrast, 23% went to startups with multi-racial founders, and only 0.24% went to all-black founding teams.
Open to any scaleup with at least one founder from the UK’s black, South Asian, East Asian or Arab communities, the second iteration of the Libra progamme will also focus on startups where the founders have had little or no access to capital or commercial networking opportunities.
The companies accepted include &facts, a startup from the West Midlands developing an insights platform to help e-commerce businesses make better product decisions; Bendi, which is developing an online browser extension for sustainability comparison data; email security provider Cyberodane; and ethical onboarding and sustainable payment firm Fintelly.
“After the success of the inaugural Libra programme last year, I’m delighted to welcome a new cohort of inspiring companies to the table,” said Abi Mohamed, Libra programme lead at Tech Nation.
“These companies are working across a wide range of sectors – from finance and e-commerce to education and healthcare – but what they have in common is enormous potential and drive, and the right to be given equal opportunities to grow and scale. I can’t wait to help another pool of inspiring underrepresented founders break through the glass ceiling and achieve the success they deserve.”
Out of the companies accepted, 21 (or 60%) are based in London, with a further four from East England, three from the South West, and two each from the North West, South East, and West Midlands. Only one scaleup is based in Scotland.
Between them, the 35 scaleups collectively employ 172 people, and have raised just more than £10m in VC investment. The majority of companies this year (63%) also have at least one female founder.
“The Tech Nation Libra programme exists to level the playing field, but we are not yet at the point of equality, and diverse founders historically haven’t been given the space and capital required to succeed. It has been great to see so many amazing businesses led by diverse founders apply to the Libra programme,” said Chenelle Ansah, an investor at Cornerstone Partners and a judge for the Libra 2.0 programme.
“I want to see market leaders led by diverse founders and founding teams, and I think that there is real market leader potential in this cohort. With the talent in this year’s Libra programme and the resources available through Tech Nation, I’m confident these startups will scale and succeed.”
On the same day as the Libra 2.0 cohort announcement, a report from the Open Political Economy Network (OPEN) found that despite the funding difficulties faced by startups with ethnic minority founders, their businesses are having a significant impact on the tech industry.
According to the report – which was sponsored by Unilever, Meta, IBM and AstraZeneca – these businesses have a combined turnover of at least €570bn across Europe, account for at least 4.7% of all businesses (800,000 businesses) and employ at least 2.7 million people.
It added there are now six tech minority-founded unicorns (businesses valued at over $1bn) in Europe, while the UK has eight.
To help high-growth startup businesses attract talent from around the world, the UK government launched a Scale-up visa in August 2022, although industry figures expressed concern that the sponsorship requirements could undermine its effectiveness.
An introduction to the rest of the Libra 2.0 cohort:
Alice Camera is an artificial intelligence (AI) camera that offers the experience of a smartphone with the quality of a DSLR, and allows creators to share content seamlessly. The camera combines professional quality optics with AI-accelerated hardware and computational photography algorithms driven by deep learning.
Boltzbit has created the first Foundation AI platform that allows its users to build multi-tasking continuous-learning AI from multimodal data (including images, audio, text, code and many other types of data) without a single line of code. Boltzbit’s AI solutions have a wide range of use cases in financial services and digital marketing. Solutions cover not only NLP but also computer vision, reinforcement learning and many other AI domains.
Bloom creates technology to help growing communities save for the future. Bloom Money provides a modern take on an old tradition, the ROSCA, or Rotating Savings and Credit Association. ROSCAs help entire communities prosper, but managing them can be tricky. Bloom takes the hassle out of setting up a savings club, providing customers with a safe, convenient way to send and receive money.
Coyosy develops electronic audio hardware for upgrading and repairing electronics hardware. It is reimagining personal everyday tech using modularity as the driver for profitability at scale.
Data Duopoly is building the “waze” for people navigation in venues and destinations. Whether it’s bringing Cornwall’s tin mining coast to life or discovering more about the amazing plants inside the Eden Project’s gigantic biomes, Data Duopoly’s products offer visitors a personalised experience to better discover and navigate venues or areas. Designed to relieve visitor frustrations around queuing and overcrowded spaces, the technology uses GPS and WiFi triangulation to identify potential pinch points in real time, re-routing visitors to prevent congestion.
Dicey Tech is a talent marketplace, built on the currency of “projects”. It builds tools to surface exceptional young talent for the companies that shape the future. The platform enables organisations to create projects that students complete to gain skills and improve employment prospects.
Founded in 2021, FoodLama is an easy-to-use Chrome browser extension that helps discover the foods that suit your preferences, as you shop online. After speaking to and testing with thousands of users, it recently launched the product in beta.
FullSpektrum is a London-based innovation company, providing ground-breaking technologies and services designed to facilitate the full digital transformation of local education and integrated care services for neurodivergent learners, including children and young people with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND). The company also designs and develops specialised ecosystems of new support service frameworks for those who experience acute learning & development hurdles throughout their entire curriculum journey.
Simply put, as digital change-makers, FullSpektrum is dedicated to redesign, redevelop and systematically reform the National Curriculum by utilising a plethora of technological disciplines. This includes elements of applied diagnostic systems, cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), blockchain, data science and artificial intelligence (AI), all combined to holistically facilitate a personalised and inclusive curriculum for SEND learners from all backgrounds.
Using analytics and machine learning, the FutureMatch platform enables organisations to indentify, attract and select early career talent (16 to 24 year olds) into graduate, apprenticeship and early career roles. Its solutions enable organisations to recruit early careers talent fairer and more cost effectively.
Heyr is a preventative mental health (MH) solution that offers users and clinicians accessible, scalable, digital behavioural healthcare. The message-based app allows young adults to access on-demand help and build better mental habits. Heyr uses clinically validated techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy that are designed to help users connect better with their thoughts and build coping skills.
The AI-powered app also offers supportive tools including a wellbeing tracker, journal and mood exercises to help users navigate everyday challenges and sustain long-term behavioural change. Heyr is the world’s first MH app that rewards users for staying mentally fit. Users can “check-in” to earn points, which can be spent on in-app reward marketplace. Heyr is building a new type of currency based on mental wellbeing habits.
Hormonious Flo is on a mission to end period pain naturally. It is digitising the research-backed methodology that health coaches use to address the underlying cause of period pain to make the process affordable. It helps Gen Zs and millennials simplify the process of biohacking their daily lifestyle to achieve and maintain pain-free periods. Its vision is to build a better understanding of the female body to close the data gap in female health care and help to optimise for better wellness.
Husmus is a UK-based insurtech/proptech startup on a mission to shape the future of renting. Insurance is the solution to renting’s risk problem, but there is bias in insurance risk models, the products are not fit for purpose and there is little trust in insurance companies to pay claims. Husmus resolves all of these conflicts by offering tailor-made products priced using our behaviour-based risk model – and users do not pay their premiums upfront.
Hypha is a B2B software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for collaborative innovation. It helps teams to innovate better and faster by bringing together relevant innovation knowledge in one place; connecting and visualising it; applying proven frameworks to make sense of it; and providing engaging ways to collaborate and create. It is designed for innovation, insights, trends, strategy and growth teams – essentially anyone who wants to create something new, and do it better and faster.
Kodobe offers a gamified customer experience and loyalty platform that makes it easy for businesses to embed gamification into their customer engagement and marketing activities so that they can improve key metrics for their customer acquisition and retention marketing activities.
Kweevo is a SaaS analytics platform designed to help businesses generate insights quickly, unlock more value from their data, and make informed decisions. It offers automated and pre-built innovative dashboards to empower businesses with the insights they need and generate more revenue. Kweevo simplifies analytics for businesses and helps them become data-driven organisations.
LMF is the first of its kind hybrid educational and community platform that specifically supports females’ professional development by building their confidence and careers. It offers an accessible subscription service that will offer expert-led masterclasses, downloadable resources, mentoring, career information, community conversations and interactive events around professional and soft skill topics.
Cargoscanner helps hauliers generate more revenue by reducing how often their vehicles travel empty. Its technology automatically matches available vehicles with available loads, saving valuable time and resources for hauliers, and reducing emissions from empty vehicles. Cargoscanner is the only geo-based cargo and empty vehicle smart matching solution on the market.
Manageable helps managers become confident coaches to their teams.
Some 90% of all business documents are unstructured. Melior AI’s platform makes it easy and blazing-fast to classify, understand, review and find legal and business documents.
Monadd helps people keep their records up to date by introducing visibility, control and AI-powered automation for managing address changes, cancellations and interactions with services. It offers artificial intelligence-powered software that helps anyone discover the services linked to their household and allows them to manage them.
Originally designed to make address updating simple and prevent waste generation from misdelivered items, Monadd aggregates data sources to discover services tied to users’ address locations, making the long process of updating addresses, pausing and cancelling services easier. It helps to improve people’s lives by bridging the gap between offline and online administration while relocating, remote working, and ongoing management of services and subscriptions.
My Social Pulse develops scalable, dynamic and transformational SaaS products for the fintech and regtech industries, enabling full SEC, FINRA (US) and FCA (UK) compliance within the face of a rapidly changing technological and digital world. Its core solution is a robust Communications Surveillance tool, which enables regulated companies to comply with their obligation to capture, retain and supervise communications from their numerous comms channels (email, SMS, MS Teams, Zoom, Slack, etc) in the face of a rapidly evolving non-traditional work environment. The product also addresses corporate cyberbullying, improved customer service and retention and sales and data analytics.
Ocushield has created the first and only medically approved blue light-filtering products. Its products filter harmful light, protecting customers so that they can start feeling better, sleeping better and getting more done.
Resony is an evidence-based therapeutic mobile app helping people manage daily stress and anxiety. It is based on a unique multimodal therapy, combining cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) principles and physiological techniques. This is fully digital and can be used alongside medication or in-person psychotherapy.
Sitigrid is an energy bank, providing a platform that allows customers to buy energy directly from neighbours at a favourable price. It connects renewable energy generators directly with consumers in a local energy marketplace. The platform ensures everyday low prices on energy for consumers and favourable returns for generators as well as a guarantee on the source of power generated through renewable energy certificates.
Softlink.ai is developing software for anyone who has a product or service, wants to drive sales online, can use a smartphone or computer, to build websites, landing pages, shop and accept payment online with inbuilt email marketing and business automation in one place and on their smartphone.
Swapped is a sustainable fashion app that allows users to swap their preloved occasion items by swiping left and right and matching with other users – it’s like Tinder for clothes. It helps customers to consume clothing in a more conscious and circular way and creates a mindset shift around how often customers consume new items of clothing
Tierra Foods is a food tech company turning under-used plants into carbon-negative ingredients. It optimises under-used nutritious plants from the forest in Central America into novel superfood ingredients. The resulting desirable ingredients for the food industry are sold to B2B global food manufacturers. These ingredients help customers achieve their net zero and nature-positive targets. They also get full farm-to-fork transparency and supply chain resilience.
Uome aims to empower small businesses and individuals to enhance client relationships, get paid quicker and reduce financial admin. It provides the tools they need for transparent interactions with their clients and to manage payments securely. With Uome businesses can effortlessly engage with their customers via real-time messaging, including updating customers on a project, chasing a payment or sending a new invoice/quote to a customer. Uome allows small business to provide progress updates to their customers via pictures, videos and messaging which builds trust between them and the customers.
Veriom predicts, analyses and communicates software quality risks related to defects and security issues across the product lifecycle. It collects data points from the codebase, tests, design and production to discover and prioritise quality risks such as: code quality and vulnerabilities cost of quality; test quality; defect leakage rates; defect types; quality gap analysis technical debt ratio; and performance. This allows Veriom to report issues early to customers via its quality analytics tool.
The WealthOS unified platform provides the cloud infrastructure, operational and regulatory features, business logic, external integrations and application programming interface (API) connectivity to build and run wealth products like trading apps and robo-advisors.
Its features include client onboarding, payment management, trading, fees, tax wrapper rules, client comms, regulatory reporting, and so on, enable the product to be run compliantly and efficiently. WealthOS’ feature automation and orchestration eliminates the slow and costly effort required to build digital experiences on traditional platforms.
ZeroCode Cloud is a push-button, drag-and-drop, browser-based platform that enables businesses and individuals to build fully functional enterprise-grade cloud software, without needing to read, write or maintain code. Using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, users can express technical ideas and build secure, scalable, and resilient cloud software and web pages in minutes instead of months.
The platform provides reusable pre-built standards-compliant Lego-like components for building software. This lowers the barriers to technology adoption for SMEs and large enterprises by addressing cross-cutting concerns in the software development process.
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