17 brilliant Bristol start-ups to watch

22 Feb 2018

Bristol cityscape, skyline and River Avon, as seen from Valentine Bridge. Image: ExFlow/Shutterstock

Bristol is one of the UK’s foremost tech ecosystems, with some amazing young companies that have the potential to become global brands.

The most recent Tech Nation report identified Bristol as the most productive digital cluster in the UK, with more than 35,924 digital jobs and 225 start-ups, and accounting for 17pc of the UK’s high-growth firms.

As mentioned in our Bristol focus series, the city has an impressive concentration of international tech firms including supercomputer player Cray as well as Just Eat, Sony, Amazon and Oracle.

Bolstered by a strong university ecosystem that includes the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, as well as the nearby University of Bath and Bath Spa University, the city is a magnet for tech investment and skills.

The University of Bristol sees more than 5,000 software engineers and other computer science-related students graduate every year.

Notable workspaces include Engine Shed, SETsquared and Webstart.

Useful meet-ups include Venturefest, TechSpark, and High Tech Bristol and Bath.

Bristol has also been chosen by Oracle to host one of its new global Startup Cloud Accelerators. A new lab space and science incubator, Unit DX, has also been established in Bristol.

The city’s heritage in the aviation industry was acknowledged by Airbus’ decision to launch a £40m Wing of the Future centre while Bristol Robotics Laboratory is now the UK’s leading academic centre for robotics research.

Here are 17 start-ups we believe are worth watching.

Blu Wireless Technology

Blu Wireless Technology is a silicon IP company already demonstrating its 60GHz technology to meet the emerging WiGig standard. Founded by Henry Nurser, Mark Barrett and Ray McConnell, Blu Wireless has raised £12m in funding, including a £10m venture round last year led by ARM.


Brightpearl is a multichannel retail management platform founded in Bristol, with offices in the US. It supplies a cloud-based inventory management and retail business platform to SME independent and wholesale retailers. The company, which was founded by Andrew Mulvenna and Chris Tanner, has raised $45.2m to date, including an $11m round of financing in 2016, with funding from investors including Eden Ventures, MMC Ventures and Notion Capital. This financing is supplemented by a loan from Silicon Valley Bank and Columbia Lake Partners, as well as a $1.6m debt financing round in 2017.


Duel solves the lack of emotional connection and social proof in clinical-looking online shops with the rich, trusted and informative experience that buying in store provides. Founded in 2015 by Paul Archer, Duel provides a visual testimonial platform for e-commerce brands and retailers, aimed at boosting conversions and driving high-value traffic in order to sell more online.


FiveAI is a Bristol and Cambridge start-up that uses AI and machine learning to help accelerate the development of autonomous vehicles and public transport, and ensure that autonomous vehicles can safely and accurately navigate in complex environments, especially urban areas. Founded in 2015 by Ben Peters, John Redford, Simon Walker, Stan Boland and Steve Allpress, FiveAI has raised $37.7m in funding so far, including a $35m Series A round led by Lakestar in September last year with participation from Notion, Kindred and Amadeus Capital Partners.

Fusion Processing

Fusion Processing was founded in 2012 with the aim of utilising radar and machine-vision expertise, together with in-depth knowledge of leading-edge processor technology, to provide a step change in automotive and transport-related products. It has been named as part of a UK consortium that has signed a £30m deal to supply 200 driverless cars to South Korea. Led by Jim Hutchinson, it has also signed a deal to supply CycleEye to a European truck company and is already supplying First Bus in Bristol.


Graphcore is creating the AI chip of tomorrow. It is building intelligence processing units (IPUs) and, according to the company, its IPU can improve the performance of machine-intelligence training and inference workloads by a factor of 10 to 100 compared with current hardware.

Founded in 2016 by Nigel Toon and Simon Knowles, the company recently secured $50m in a Series C round led by Silicon Valley venture capital titan Sequoia. Other investors include: Amadeus Capital Partners, Atomico, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, C4 Ventures, Dell Technologies Capital, Draper Esprit, Foundation Capital, Pitango Venture Capital and Samsung Catalyst Fund.

Graphcore has already attracted investments from many of the biggest names in machine intelligence, including: Demis Hassabis, co-founder of DeepMind; Zoubin Ghahramani of Cambridge University and chief scientist at Uber; and Pieter Abbeel, Greg Brockman, Scott Gray and Ilya Sutskever from OpenAI.

Green Hedge

Green Hedge is a developer of low-carbon electricity generation systems. It develops, realises and operates large-scale, grid-connected and behind-the-meter battery energy storage projects across Britain. Last July, private equity fund Zouk Capital invested £30m in Green Hedge to support the development of a series of battery energy storage projects.

Kets Quantum Security

Kets Quantum Security is a pioneer in integrated quantum photonic devices that will define the next level in infosec. Quantum key distribution and random-number generation offer such benefits as eavesdropping detection and passcode randomness. Kets was one of the first three start-ups to be admitted into the UK Telecom Infra Project Ecosystem Acceleration Centre, based at BT Lab facilities in London’s Tech City and Adastral Park, Suffolk.

Mongoose Energy

Mongoose Energy is a spin-out from Bath & West Community Energy, which was established to develop and manage locally owned energy. It has successfully helped more than 12 megawatts of community-scale energy projects to come to life. Mongoose was established in response to demand from other community energy groups looking for help to bring their own projects to fruition. It now has 48MW of green power pumping out of projects across the UK, enough to provide for about 15,000 homes.

Open Bionics

Open Bionics is a robotics company creating affordable 3D-printed bionic hands for amputees, researchers and makers. It is developing the perfect medical-grade materials to give hands the right strength and grip, and to make them last. Founded in 2014 by Joel Gibbard and Samantha Payne, Open Bionics has raised $2.9m so far, including a £435,000 seed round.

Reach Robotics

Reach Robotics is the creator of a family of four-legged crab-like machines that combine robotics with gaming and AR. As a result, video game characters can be brought to real life. Founded in 2013 by Chris Beck, Silas Adekunle and John Rees, Reach Robotics last year closed a $7.5m Series A investment that was co-led by Korea Investment Partners and iGlobe.


Trackener is developing an intelligent horse-monitoring technology to help the horse owners detect and prevent health issues. Its product is composed of a device worn by the horse 24/7, and of an app where the user can have access to the alerts and get all the information they need to know about their horse’s health and behaviour. Trackener was founded in 2015 by Jeremie Charlet and Pauline Issard.


Ultrahaptics is developing a system that uses ultrasound technology to project the sense of touch onto a user’s skin. This could have powerful implications across a range of VR and AR applications, and enables users to receive tactile feedback without needing to wear or touch anything. Founded in 2013 by Sriram Subramanian and Tom Carter, it has raised £28.6m in funding so far, including a £17.9m Series B round that includes IP Group, Woodford Investment Management and Cornes.


Xmos makes voice capture solutions for automated speech-recognition systems and its technology features in products such as the Amazon Echo. It also features in platforms such as Google Home and Microsoft’s Cortana. Xmos is backed by some of the largest names in high-tech venture capital, including Amadeus Capital Partners, DFJ Esprit, Foundation Capital and Robert Bosch Venture Capital.


YellowDog is a cloud supercomputing capacity provider whose technology harnesses and monetises underutilised computer power. The company’s first market of choice is in the area of CGI rendering. Founded in 2015 by Gareth Williams, it has raised £1.2m in funding to date, including a recent £600,000 in equity crowdfunding.

Zeetta Networks

A spin-out from the University of Bristol, Zeetta Networks transforms networks into interactive programmable platforms to manage a range of wireless, optical and IoT devices as well as automate manual activities. Zeetta Networks has been nominated for the Best Network Software Breakthrough GLOMO Award at the 2018 Mobile World Congress.


Zenstores is a platform designed to propel e-commerce resellers in the right direction. Its Dispatch shipping software and Insights sales reports help e-commerce businesses to get running faster, smoother and profitably. Founded in 2014 by Robert Ashcroft and Thomas Palmer, Zenstores recently raised £400,000 in a seed round led by Downing Ventures.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years