Over the year, we have had some exciting accomplishments in the Startup Funding Club Alumni community. From awards and product launches to closing substantial funding rounds, our Alumni are wrapping up 2019 on a high note.
The year began strong with 3D CGI production platform CG Hero, data security company Torsion IS, and snack producer Olly’s Olives successfully completing their funding rounds. Several other SFC Alumni closed rounds over 2019, but none raised as much as sales platform Cognism and driverless tech company Humanising Autonomy, which received $10m and $5m in their respective Series B and Seed rounds.
This year also brought plenty of new products and partnerships, especially for our food and drink Alumni. Gut heath experts TrooFoods partnered with Carbiotix to provide a gut tracking kit through a one-time test aimed at individuals interested in better understanding their gut health. Naturelly, creator of gelatine-free jelly juice for young kids, was selected to go on the ETHIAD Airlines menu. Flying high as well is Olly’s Olives, which can now be found on board of all EasyJet flights. Additionally, all these food and drink companies – TrooFoods, Naturelly, Olly’s Olives – and Hunter & Gather can now be found in Holland & Barrett. To top it all off, Kineta launched its new Organic Matcha Energy Bars and Hope & Glory released its brand new packaging as well as an online tea shop.
Humanising Autonomy, also had a hugely successful year. Beginning by being featured on TV as part of Deutsche Welles’s report on Autonomous driving and AI’s biggest challenge, the team pulled in $5M to aid the development of its human-centred tools that aim to define how autonomous systems interact with people and was named one of the U.K.’s Most Exciting AI Startups by Forbes. Humanising Autonomy wrapped up the year in the best way possible – with two well-deserved wins. The team was awarded $15,000 and given global recognition as winner of the 2019 Top Ten Automotive Startups Competition and won Digital Catapult’s Platinum Awards, which celebrate the UK’s brightest stars and the most impactful digital technology startups and scaleups.
Moving away from AI, 2019 has also been great to SFC Alumni Hunter & Gather. The real food startup launched the world’s first 100% pure bovine collagen peptides protein powder in plastic-free packaging and secured 1 of 14 places on The Seed Fund programme. The company also hit a winning streak this year – it was the overall winner of the Best Great British Product and was one of only six brands shortlisted to deliver a three-minute live pitch at Bread and Jam Festival’s Pitch to Win. Hunter & Gather was crowned the winner and took home the coveted prize, which included over £30k in sales support, a branding makeover, legal advice, six months of mentoring with Pip&Nut founder Pippa Murray, and much more.
In a world that is increasingly aware of the need to introduce environmental friendly practices, it is only natural that more Startup Funding Club Alumni as Hunter & Gather are opting for sustainability. Breakfast toppers startup Two Birds Cereals, with one of its core values being sustainability, recently partnered with Parkside to launch its new compostable packaging, while tea company Hope & Glory introduced 100% recyclable packaging. At the head of our portfolio in the field of sustainability is, of course, Wales-based Transcend Packing. The company, which produces eco-friendly packaging and has been supplying paper products to fast food giant McDonald’s since 2018, was named Welsh Startup Of the Year at the Welsh Business Awards.
Transcend Packaging was not the only Welsh SFC Alumni to get an award. Our regional startups keep demonstrating how you do not need to be in London to succeed in the UK early stage scene, as air quality monitoring solution provider Vortex IoT did back in June, when it was named Best Startup at the Wales Online Digital Awards. Another SFC-funded startup to receive an award was e-bike company Swytch, which earned the top prize at the Mayor of London-backed CleanTech Awards. On top of this, this year, it was not only our companies that got recognised, but our investors too! Amanda Dyjecinski, investor in film finance platform Big Couch, took home the Best Woman-led Investment in Innovation award at the UKBAA Awards. Also at these prestigious awards, Big Couch founders Irina Albita and Maria Tanjala, and MeVitae and Tapoly co-founders Riham Satti and Janthana Kaenprakhamroy respectively, were all nominated for Best High Growth Woman Founder, while Cognism was running up for Best Scale Up Team of the Year.
Finally, 2019 has seen more SFC Alumni reaching a very coveted step amongst startups: acquisition. Pension pot tracing and consolidation company MyFutureNow was purchased by insurance provider Legal & General. These are great news for the business that Startup Funding Club first backed in 2016, and also for the investors that supported its team and will soon receive the returns on their investment. Last year, we started seeing some of our portfolio companies exiting – such as fintech platform Albert, which was acquired by Santander – and we hope 2020 will bring even more successes.
All of the accomplishments from our Alumni this year have left everyone at Startup Funding Club thrilled about what is to come in 2020. Exciting news from the SFC portfolio have started to reach the team, such as those from Sceenic. The co-viewing platform will be partnering with LaLiga, Spain’s most prominent football league. On top of this, in 2020 we will be welcoming many more companies to the SFC Alumni Network, which shall bring even more accomplishments to the table!
By Caroline Moore & Alex Batlle