UK Tech Roundup - May 2021
We review the biggest news stories that affected the UK tech’s greatest innovators in May.
Data released in May confirmed a strong decade for the UK's greatest innovators, with a tenfold expansion of the UK’s tech industry over the past ten years. Venture capital investment into the sector increased from £1.2bn to £11.3bn between 2010 and 2020, according to research from the UK government’s Digital Economy Council and Dealroom.co.
The tenfold increase in investment drove a similar multiplication of the number of UK tech unicorns - private firms with $1bn+ valuations - from eight, to 81.
London drove the expansion, and is emerging as one of the world’s leading tech hubs, coming in fourth behind the Bay Area, Beijing and New York for the number of startups and unicorns it has produced.
Fintech was the most prolific subsector behind the rise, producing 32 of the UK’s unicorns and attracting £3.2bn investment in the past year. Wise (formerly TransferWise) is one of UK fintech’s most successful unicorns and looks set to IPO imminently at a potential £5bn valuation.
Another UK start-up approaching a public debut is Manchester-based auto data startup Wejo, which seeks to raise $330m through a reverse-merger with Special-Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) Virtuoso Acquisition Corp. The deal could value Wejo at $800m including debt.
A SPAC is a financial vehicle that lists with a remit to then merge with a private company. They can be particularly attractive as a means of bringing companies public at an earlier stage than the traditional IPO process.
The deal is expected to close in the second half of the year and will see Wejo trade on an as-yet undetermined stock exchange under the ticker WEJO.
Wejo, a contraction of “We journey,” uses embedded modems to collect data from around 11 million vehicles for clients including General Motors, the company’s largest investor at present.
Google has partnered with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to offer free online tech scholarships to 9,500 Universal Credit claimants.
While the UK’s unemployment level has fallen in four successive months, it still stood at 4.7% in April. At the same time, research published in May by Future.now highlighted that the UK’s tech skills gap, especially in basic computer literacy, was widening, with an estimated 17.1 million adults, or 52% of the workforce, lacking essential digital skills.
The Google scheme seeks to address this imbalance, with training offers at jobcentres throughout the country. Jobseekers will be able to access courses including IT Support, Data Analyst, Project Manager and UX Designer, without prior qualifications or experience. Training can take anywhere from three weeks (full time) to six months, and graduates will be granted a Google Career Certificate recognised by tech employers including Google.
Google also announced grants to the Prince’s Trust and INCO Academy to upskill 1,500 young people from underrepresented and disadvantaged communities.
Cambridge-based Agile Analog is set to double its headcount across Europe, North America and Taiwan, with a focus on development engineers for its Cambridge HQ, according to UKTN. The recruitment spree will be driven by a $19m (roughly £13.5m) Series A funding round, led by OMERS Ventures.
Agile Analog stands out in the chip design market for its customisable design, allowing its clients to create the IP they want with flexible chip design functionality.
“This successful funding round marks the start of the next chapter: the technology and process are proven with a range of customers from OEMs to Tier 1 semiconductor companies,” said Pete Hutton, executive chairman of Agile Analog. “Everyone is looking to shorten development cycles, increase integration, improve die area utilization and enhance system performance. By configuring analog IP the way the customer wants it and on any process node, we can enable them to gain all these benefits.”
Preston-based supplements start-up YourZooki is creating twenty tech roles in Paddington.
The London tech hub will bolster YourZooki’s existing tech capabilities through data analytics, digital marketing and web development. The hub will also house customer success officers.
YourZooki’s ecommerce business model has seen 430% growth since April 2020, including an increase of over 300% in its monthly subscriptions.
The company, which was founded in 2017 and stocks in Holland and Barrett, Wholefoods and Selfridges as well as having recently secured a contract with Boots, has secured £2.85m funding over the last 14 months.