Five Northern Ireland tech start-ups shine bright in Tech Nation competition

2 Dec 2021

Image: © NeoLeo/

Overwatch Research, Ecko, Kinva, CropSafe and Kairos were regional winners in Tech Nation’s Rising Stars competition.

Five Northern Ireland tech start-ups were named regional winners in Tech Nation Rising Stars competition, which singles out the UK’s most promising early-stage tech start-ups.

This is the fourth year Tech Nation has held the competition, and the five Northern Ireland companies join 50 other regional winners from 10 areas across the UK.

Northern Ireland’s winners are health-tech start-up Overwatch Research, agritech player CropSafe, sports-tech business Kairos, therapy platform Kinva and music-tech company Ecko. These five early-stage tech companies have an average of five employees and have raised an average of £1.18m in investment to date.

Three of the companies – Ignite NI accelerator 2021 participant CropSafe, Kairos and Overwatch Research – are from Belfast, while Kinva is from Lisburn and Invent 2021 finalist Ecko is from Antrim.

According to data from Tech Nation, Northern Ireland’s fast-growing technology sector is home to two tech unicorns and companies have received $34.5m in VC investment funding this year. This represents a 49pc increase on the $23.1m received last year. Tech job creation is also growing rapidly in the region, rising by 306pc in the past year.

Esme Caulfield, competitions lead at Tech Nation, said it was “amazing to see so many inspiring companies innovating to change our world for the better”.

She said the 2021 Rising Stars competition had seen a record number of applications. “This year’s regional winners represent the brightest and the best of UK tech and talent, and I’m excited to see what they do next,” Caulfield added.

The regional winners will join Tech Nation’s alumni network. Andrew Moffett, head of marketing at Kairos, said he was pleased to be a part of Tech Nation and “delighted to be recognised in this way and be amongst some amazing young companies that share our ambition and drive”.

Chris Armstrong, CEO of Overwatch Research, said the competition had been a “game changer for other businesses in previous years” and that he is excited for “the opportunity that lies ahead” for Overwatch.

“We have received great support from Tech Nation Northern Ireland in the form of general start-up support and introductions to investors,” he added.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.