UK Artificial Intelligence Startups Raised £100 Million in 2017 so far

A new AI company is launched every week in the UK. A government report called for a UK strategy in advancing AI. The subsequent budget included a £270m investment fund for disruptive technologies such as AI and robotics.

AI Generated art (source)

A recent study by MIT aimed to show the hype curve of AI. While the majority of executives across industries predict that AI will have a massive effect on the businesses over the next five years, in practice, actual adoption shows that less than 19% of companies have adopted and understand AI. As the analysis in Forbes CEO Daily concludes:

“For AI to become a prominent feature in future strategies, companies must figure out how humans and computers can build off each other’s strengths to create competitive advantage.”

Doing just that, are the founders and teams of the 16 UK startups below, that have raised a combined £100 million since the beginning of the year. As I mentioned in my post on Machine Intelligence clusters, the UK is *still* the leading AI + ML hub in Europe (Let’s hope Brexit doesn’t f**k it up). So this should be a representative group for AI innovation in Europe. The list may not be exhaustive and feeds mainly from the TCNUK investment tracker.

Lobster: Series A (£1 million), founded April 2013. Lobster enables brands, agencies and the media to search for and license visual content directly from social media users and cloud archives. Buy photos from Instagram, Flickr, audio, videos, and text.

Cytora: Series A (£2.4 million), founded in 2014. Cytora works with re(insurers) to improve the way they understand and price risk by leveraging machine learning and unstructured data.

Starship Technologies: Seed (£14 million), founded July 2014. Starship Technologies is building fleets of self-driving delivery robots designed to deliver goods locally within 30 minutes. The robots drive autonomously 99% of the time to make safe and environmentally friendly curb-side deliveries from a local hub.

Cleo: Angel (£2.7 million), founded in November 2015. Cleo is an intelligent assistant that helps users manage their finances, connecting to Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa and Google Home to enable users to keep up-to-date with their finances.

LoopMe: Series A (£8.2 million), founded in March 2012. LoopMe is the unifying platform for all mobile video ad formats, leveraging algorithms that optimise ad placements in real-time.

Cortexica: Series A (£4 million), founded August 2008. Cortexica’s software creates a “visual search engine” for retailers, allowing shoppers to upload a photo of a piece of clothing and find similar items in stores or shopping centres. More here.

Vivacity Labs: Private Equity (£1.6 million) founded December 2015. Vivacity Labs develops an AI camera to eventually facilitate the regulation of traffic in real-time, facilitating the basis for self driving cars. The company will deploy 2,500 sensors across a 50 square mile radius in Milton Keynes, in an attempt to monitor all major junction points and car parking spaces.

Mogees : Founded June 2013. Raised Seed (£1 million). Combines a vibration sensor with revolutionary music software, transforming any object into a unique musical instrument.

Diffblue: Series A (£17.2 million), founded in 2016. Diffblue is a University of Oxford spin-out that is applying artificial intelligence to software development. It’s the result of a decade’s worth of research, and able to create an exact mathematical model for any code base, after receiving just a few examples to work from.

Sparrho: Series A (£2.33 million), founded in 2012. Sparrho is a search engine and resource website and application for science interests. Sparrho provides access to more than 60 million research papers, patents and publications and claims to have one million users spread out across 150 countries.

Graphcore: Series B (£23 million), founded in 2016. Bristol-based Graphcore is building the chip of choice to accelerate processing of complex Machine Learning models for training and inference. They got the entire “AI Royalty” in the UK as investors in the round.

Sportr: Seed (£0.35 million), founded in 2013. Sportr is a service that curates targeted third-party content for marketing teams, cutting the costs associated with finding and producing content.

Powler.io: Series A (£10 million), founded in January 2016. PowlerIO focuses on behavioural learning and simulation in virtual environments. In other words:

“a principled AI decision-making platform that makes it possible to perceive and affect the ways the likes of vehicles, drones, robots, characters in games and even people interact in complex environments”

SentiSum: Seed (£0.54 million), founded April 2015. SentiSum enables retailers to capture user insights and reviews, enabling businesses to measure and understand their customer experience at a granular level.

FiveAI: Series A (£35 million in two tranches), founded in September 2015. This Cambridge-based AI startup, has a bold mission: building its own autonomous driving system and using its AI-based platform to take on Uber and other transportation services with a fleet of self-driving taxis.

Factmata: Seed (£0.56 million), founded January 2017. Factmata tackles fake news by applying AI to automatically score and verify content. The angel round includes Mark Cuban and Mark Pincus and founder shares the story.


What trends and conclusions can we take out from this list? Perhaps a few observations:

  • London is still the main AI/ML hub in the UK. Of the 16 startups, 12 are based in London, 2 in Cambridge, 1 in Oxford and 1 in Bristol.
  • The startups have taken a while to hatch. This is partly likely because of the relatively large number of academic spinoffs in this space. It would be interesting to see if there’s a correlation between the ‘age’ of the research and the quality of the tech.
  • While I didn’t mention the investors, it’s a diverse group of financial and strategic funds, mainly European. It’s interesting to see how relatively few US funds are cherry picking AI companies in Europe, and how few of the funded startups in this list have gone through accelerators (with a few exceptions).