Despite the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a significant increase in the number of UK company registrations, particularly in the latter half of 2020, with more than 95,000 new businesses recorded between July and September. This is not wholly surprising if we consider that many successful enterprises have emerged during a recession, including Burger King, FedEx, Farfetch, Microsoft – in fact, over half of Fortune 500 companies were founded during a downturn.
UK tech startups, in particular, are already showing promising signs of recovery; changing consumer habits have led to a boom in eCommerce platforms, food delivery apps, fintech, cybersecurity tools, and much more. Here, we take a look at five rising tech startups that are thriving despite the pandemic:
1. The outside-the-box thinker: Moneyed
Fintech startup Moneyed empowers employees to take charge of their financial health with an app that lets users view all their finances in one place, from current accounts to pension pots, savings builders to mortgage schemes. This helps those who can’t afford a pricey financial advisor to reach important milestones, be it buying a house or booking a holiday, with good money management and planning.
Having quit their jobs at the start of the pandemic, founders Sam Short and Phil Jones promoted the brand without any marketing budget by encouraging large media platforms to link to a mortgage calculator they built to create a buzz around the brand.
2. The adaptor: CleanedUp
When the pandemic struck, Hugo Tilmouth had to quickly pivot his mobile charging business, ChargedUp. Originally designed to allow individuals to charge their phones while on the move, the startup transformed its charging stations into hand sanitiser dispensers in the space of just 5 days.
Using their pre-existing network of distilleries to find anti-bacterial suppliers, CleanedUp stations found new homes in transport hubs, food production plants, care homes, shops, and NHS facilities. By adapting their services to fit with changing needs, Tilmouth could bring all staff back from furlough, and even create twelve new jobs.
3. The timely one: Hopin
Hopin, founded by Jonny Bourfarhat back in 2019, has been recognised as one of the fastest-ever growing UK startups. The virtual events platform allows attendees to recreate the kinds of social interactions that are essential to business networking, like visiting a booth or chatting ‘backstage’, that are so often missing from online experiences. Hopin has undergone incredible growth and is now valued at $2.1 billion, making it the UK’s fastest ever double-unicorn.
4. The problem-solver: COVID Symptom Study
Developed in partnership with Kings College Hospital, health startup Zoe launched the ground-breaking COVID Symptom Study (C-19) app allowing the public to report any symptoms relating to coronavirus. In response to the rapid spread of infection in the UK, and concerns that NHS services would be overwhelmed, the C-19 app was produced to collect data to help the medical community allocate its limited resources. Within just 24 hours of going live in March 2020, the app received an impressive 750K downloads.
5. The one to watch: Queue Pay
In October 2020, young entrepreneur Ellis Heighes launched Queue Pay, an app that allows customers to order and pay for food and drink from their table to reduce the need for face-to-face contact.
Queue Pay was first made available to local businesses for free to support them amidst the pandemic, a move which led to a collaboration with the local council to develop Virtual High Street, an online platform encouraging consumers to shop locally during the lockdown.
Support for Startups
The UK’s road to recovery is set to be a long one, and the same is true for most budding entrepreneurs. There is plenty of support available for UK startups and tech companies during this time, such as:
1. Government Grants
The latest Budget announcement had a particular focus around support for young enterprises. The new Future Fund: Breakthrough is just one of the new government schemes that will provide much-needed funding for small businesses and startups. The £375 million scheme, set to launch in early summer 2021, will offer investment to a limited number of promising tech scale-ups to help them reach their full potential.
2. Alternative lenders
Where commercial banks are often limited in their offering to startups, alternative lenders can be a great source of funding as they tend to take a more flexible approach to lending decisions. These funds can come in the form of grants, angel investors, crowdfunding, or startup loans. Flexiloan Lite, one of Fleximize’s latest product innovations, is a great option for startups who have been trading for 6 months or more.
3. Commercial banks
Commercial banks have traditionally been wary of lending to startups due to their lack of trading history, but they can provide alternative types of support in the form of business advice, community groups, and learning resources. RBS, for example, offers a free digital tool with online learning modules and support.
4. Business coaching
There are many business coaching and mentorship services available to serve different price points. These services are there to help you work out your goals and how to achieve them by getting access to experienced entrepreneurs and their influential networks in the business community. Check out UK-based provider Business Growth Coaches Network to find out more about their coaching and training.
Online learning is a great way to expand your skills base, which can be vital if you’re working as part of a small team and without the budget to outsource projects. The new Help to Grow program is set to become available in late 2021, but there are many alternative business schools and course providers. General Assembly, for example, offers a range of classes and workshops covering many different topics.
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