While the media has a tendency to fawn over San Francisco’s “disruptive” startup darlings, Silicon Valley is far from the end-all, be-all of global tech startup hot spots.
In recent years, the United Kingdom has stepped up to become a major player in the tech startup scene. From London to Leeds to Wales, there are some pretty incredible companies emerging from this part of the world — and they’re shaping the future of how we learn, work, play, and pay.
Below are a few UK-based “techtrepreneurs” building game-changing companies and social enterprises in industries like finance, education, and retail.
Changing how we learn
When founders and were students in medical school, they found themselves drowning in a veritable ocean of information. It dawned on them that traditional methods of studying — flash cards, etc. — were seriously antiquated.
“We were expected to remember a huge amount of information in a short space of time — and we weren’t really told how to do it,” says Gupta. The conundrum led to a lightbulb moment for the duo, who decided to engineer a new method of studying in order to get through exams. “When [the platform] gathered tens of thousands of downloads from students and professionals all over the world, we started to realise we’d tapped into something with a lot more potential,” Gupta explains.
Flash forward a couple of years, and Synap, an online study aid that employs a powerful memory technique known as Spaced Repetition to help students learn more in less time, secured £200,000 from 141 investors on Crowdcube. The successes keep accumulating for the Leeds-based company: Last year, one in four medical students in the UK used Synap.
In London, serial techtrepreneur has also turned his attention to the education and learning space. Riese, who founded his first company at the age of 13, decided to start to tackle a “broken” education system.
Up Learn uses algorithms, neuroscience, AI, interactive videos, and thousands of digital resources to build an optimised learning experience for each user. Today, more than 24,000 students use Up Learn, and the company is valued in the millions.
It’s testament of the power of techtrepeneurship to not only innovate, but also to have a tangible, meaningful impact on people’s lives.
But, says Riese, the company’s financial success “pales in comparison” to its biggest win, which is the impact that the platform has upon countless students’ lives.
“When exam results come in each year and we find out how many of our students’ lives have been changed, or when [users] achieve grades they never dreamed of and offers to universities their teachers had told them were ‘out of their reach’… it’s a testament to the power of ‘techtrepeneurship’ to not only innovate, but also to have a tangible, meaningful impact on people’s lives.”
Changing how we work
Serial entrepreneur has dedicated his career to improving workers’ creativity and productivity levels. His company, , pioneered the brainstorming and project-planning software as well as the visual task-management app . Today, more than a million people use these tools to hone workplace and leadership skills.
“There was a worldwide need for intuitive digital apps to enhance cognitive brain functions, and I was determined to find the solution,” says Griffiths. “I have always been fascinated by technology’s ability to enhance our brain’s creative thinking patterns… I had a vision to create a digital brainstorming software that included all the characteristics proven to stimulate creative thinking behaviours.”
Earlier this year, OpenGenius became the first-ever Welsh company accepted into the London Stock Exchange’s ELITE programme.
“Wales is finally getting the recognition it deserves for its home-grown talent, which is creating innovative technology that’s changing lives all across the world. I am over the moon that we are one of the companies paving the way to Wales’ bright future,” says Griffiths.
Changing the way we play
, cofounder and games producer of London-based indie-game startup , has been a gamer for more than two decades. Her educational background is in interactive media with a focus on UX design. As such, she has witnessed firsthand both the gaming and tech industries’ frequently lackluster record of inclusiveness.
“We believe the games industry, like any creative industry, would be better with more diversity and representation, and we hope our games will show this. We aspire to keep the studio inclusive, and we especially want to encourage more girls to enter the games and tech industries,” reads DinoByte Labs’ website.
“The games industry is a pretty tough one to break into. It’s certainly been a difficult journey, but games are our life, so even though we often work 12-hour days and weekends, we still love the work we do,” Leolin told Mashable.
One of the most challenging elements of building DinoByte Labs was sticking to the plan to be self-funded. This, Leolin explains, meant she and co-founder Christian Lovdal had to take on a huge amount of client work in the company’s nascent years in order to fund passion projects, such as the company’s self-published game , which is currently live on KickStarter.
“We have been blown away by the positive feedback we have gotten, especially as Midli deals with some deeper themes such as mental health. Hearing people excited because they understand those struggles and want to see more games explore them has been one of the most meaningful rewards for our studio so far,” says Leolin.
Changing the way we pay
Even those who are barely familiar with the tech world today are likely aware of the rise of cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum and Bitcoin. and David Hoggard have turned the trend into a thriving business through , a physical card that enables online payments, PoS transactions, and ATM withdrawals using ERC20 (Ethereum) tokens. The end goal is to explore applications of Ethereum within consumer finance.
“For me, the motivation behind TokenCard was twofold: On the one hand, there is this awesome technology out there (Ethereum) and these amazing assets (tokens), but no easy way to access them. On the flip side, people who do hold tokens struggle to use them in any meaningful way. The motivation was a natural response to fundamental barriers within the space,” explains Hoggard.
“We’re constantly looking for people who are passionate about our product and who resonate with what we’re trying to build. The resulting foundation at TokenCard is a group of individuals who are motivated to build something amazing,” he adds.
is another company tackling consumer payments in an increasingly digital, globalised world: The startup, based in the UK, focuses on international payments, making it easier than ever before to send money to more than 195 countries around the globe. The platform supports more than 60 different currencies, and completes transfers within hours. Users can send money to any bank account, more than 300,000 cash pick-up locations, and all major mobile wallets.
Changing the way we shop
started transparent supply chain organization out of frustration with how little consumers tend to know about the things they buy. The platform helps businesses share in the origin, journey, and impact behind products ranging from food products to clothing.
I can easily sort products in ecommerce stores by brand, even colour and consumer reviews — so why not by location of production or social impact?” says Baker. “I passionately believe that we all have the power to make the world in which we live more inclusive, just and sustainable — and one of the ways we can do that is by buying products with a positive social and environmental impact.”
Ultimately, she adds, the company hopes to make data about where a product is made as common as customer reviews.
Changing the world
While extravagant valuations and boosting the bottom line are certainly motivation for the majority of entrepreneurs, has a different impetus: Social impact. His organization, , unites a nonprofit community of creative tech agencies who wish to use their expertise for social good.
“In 2016, the design agency I cofounded set out to do something socially impactful,” explains Applebee. “We failed because we didn’t understand the problem we were trying to solve well enough or have access to the right networks. Meanwhile we could see that charities, NGOs and social impact projects needed creative and technology expertise. Super Global was born to bridge that gap.”
The company helps social organisations formulate ideas, as well as enlist the right resources to build successful partnerships.
“We’re on a mission to make collaboration between agencies and social ventures so easy that we make ourselves obsolete. Agencies learn social impact on the job. Charities, NGOs and social ventures learn tech. The whole world wins,” says Applebee.
The entrepreneurs above are just a few of the visionaries defining the UK as a region synonymous with trailblazing technology. Driving global impact from their respective corners of the world, these individuals are taking “techtrepreneurship” to new and exciting heights.