12 tech start-ups making it in Manchester

21 Sep 2017

Image: Shahid Khan/Shutterstock

Considered the home of the industrial revolution of the 19th century, Manchester is carving out a new future for itself as a major tech hub for the 21st century.

Manchester’s digital credentials are solid. According to Wired, the city has almost 52,000 tech workers, which gives it the largest tech workforce of any UK city outside of London.

Tech City UK’s Tech Nation 2017 report revealed that Manchester has the fourth-highest digital turnover in the UK, at £2.9bn.

While all of that is impressive, what needs to be appreciated is Manchester’s cultural impact, especially on the late 20th century.

Yes, people can bang on about following Manchester United or cosying up in front of the fire for a dose of Coronation Street on any autumn evening but, for me, the impact of Manchester has been its music scene.

From Joy Division and New Order to The Chemical Brothers, The Charlatans, James, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, Morrissey, Oasis, The Smiths or The Stone Roses, an entire mixtape narrative of my life growing up came out of Manchester.

The ‘Madchester’ years of the 1980s and 1990s will forever live on in music industry lore as well as infamous nights at The Haçienda that are now the stuff of legend.

For me, Manchester always had a certain independent, industrious, DIY ethic that informs creativity, design, sound and spirit.

The city showed its resilient spirit this year in the aftermath of the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in May when it rallied and showed the terrorists they would never win.

As the lyrical tradition gives way to the digital, The Smiths were right all along: there is a light that never goes out.

1. Auden

Auden is a for-profit social enterprise intent on changing the face of consumer finance in the UK. Built on an ethos that the companies of the future will profit by doing the right thing, the fintech company has built its own proprietary platform. Its first product is a short-term loan service that aims to be an ethical take on the payday loan.

2. Wakelet

Based on Quay Street, Wakelet has devised a social web application that gives users the freedom to organise the web the way they want it. It allows users to create richer, more relevant stories or collections, called Wakes. The start-up, founded by Jamil Khalil, has raised £1.1m in seed funding.

3. Cubic Motion

Cubic Motion makes technology that is used in video games, film production and animation, with clients including EA, Activision and Sony. The company recently raised £20m in investment from NorthEdge.

4. Intechnica

Intechnica helps businesses to improve website and application performance, significantly reduce hosting costs, and maximise sales revenue. Its TrafficDefender product helps businesses to manage high and variable traffic demands. Earlier this year, Intechnica raised $900,000 in angel funding.

5. Push Doctor

Push Doctor describes itself as Europe’s largest digital health brand. It enables patients to arrange a doctor’s appointment in just six minutes by connecting them to a smart network of thousands of UK-qualified GPs. Push Doctor recently raised $26.1m in a Series B round in July.

6. Peak

Peak is a company that provides data analytics as a service. Its technology automates the implementation process, generates insight and guides business decision-making. The platform claims to have saved retail giant Morrisons £1m in food-waste reductions through better demand forecasting, while also ensuring a 97pc increase in active users for Leaf through customer retention and churn analysis. Peak recently raised £2.5m in a Series A round led by MMC Ventures.

7. AccessPay

AccessPay works with businesses and banks to adopt next-generation payment services. It aims to transform the traditional nature of bank-customer-business relationships. In 2016, AccessPay was awarded £1m in funding from Barclays. Investors include Clydesdale Bank Growth Finance, Route 66 Ventures, True Ventures and Yorkshire Bank.

8. VST Enterprises

Fintech security player VST Enterprises is hellbent on revolutionising financial transactions on the internet. Its VCode technology allows genuine users to authenticate themselves across a variety of online transactions and interactions. The company recently raised £11.4m from private investors including Chris Lightbody and KPMG’s Guy Weaver, valuing it at £220m.

9. DigitalBridge

DigitalBridge combines VR and computer vision to help people visualise new home decor designs in their homes. Founded in 2013, the start-up has raised £1.45m from investors that include retailer John Lewis.

10. LadBible Group

Based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, LADbible Group said it is followed by half of all UK men aged between 18 and 24, and a fifth of women in the same age group. The digital publishing enterprise’s brands include SPORTbible, Pretty 52 and Joyride. It now employs 140 people with a second office in Shoreditch, London.

11. Radio.co

Radio.co wants to guide radio into the digital age and make radio relevant again by living happily alongside podcasts. The platform has more than 2,500 radio stations and allows users to record shows and syndicate their content to various podcasting platforms. Radio.co is playable online and on DAB.

12. BeyondComparison

BeyondComparison focuses on affinity and aims to bring the comparison market to any established brand that has high-traffic websites, call centres and consumer-led businesses. The company raised £200,000 in seed funding from the Greater Manchester Loan Fund last year.

Updated, 9.15am and 3.45pm, 21 September 2017: This article was amended to provide updated information on Wakelet’s location and funding. It was also updated to remove a start-up called DueCourse, which has gone into administration, and has been replaced with Auden.

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