Two Startups To Watch

I was recently asked which two U.K. startups I would invest in. They needed to be U.K. based and at Seed or Series A stage.

I should make clear I have zero 💰 to be investing myself, so all this is very much hypothetical. But I’m publishing my answers for anyone as excited by startups as I am - those who share an interest in businesses that may have a bright future ahead of them.

‘Cocoa Runners’

Cocoa Runners is a subscription 🍫 start-up that delivers premium quality bean-to-bar chocolate to subscribers every month.

Why invest?

Chocolate is a large and growing market. Sales are $98bn globally and over £4bn in the U.K. Premium chocolate, Cocoa Runners’ U.K. market segment, is growing at 8.4% YoY too.

The founders are talented, with eCommerce and FMCG experience. Founder backgrounds include COO of and a VP of

The business model is disruptive, with consumers moving towards subscription models for FMCG. Examples are abound here; from Dollar Shave club’s $1bn sale to Honest Company’s $1.7bn valuation.

Fast growing U.K. startups in FMCG include Honest Brew with 🍺, Pact Coffee with ☕ and Cure & Simple with bacon*.

All of these startups differentiate in their respective categories by offering premium products, with strong branding alongside a subscription revenue model.

The reoccurring revenue model, which Cocoa Runners employs, has a few benefits; namely increased revenue stability and predictability, whilst reducing inventory cost means less capital outlay and risk. This makes it a much more attractive investment.


Trail provides hospitality operators a daily checklist ✔️, allowing frontline staff to record administrative tasks. The product is a web-based app for use on tablets and phones.

Why invest?

The hospitality market is large and ripe for innovation; 4.49 million people👵👴👽👧👩 are employed in over 180,000 U.K. hospitality businesses.

Checklists ️are a large part of these employees’ jobs. In an industry suffering 35% annual employee turnover, hospitality businesses use checklists to standardise processes and improve productivity.

Trail’s web-based approach allows real-time task visibility, task accountability, instant audits and trend analysis.

Initial customers include Itsu and Enterprise Inns, both advocates of the minimum-viable-product Trail has built.

The founders have technical backgrounds and hospitality experience too; from IT with Fourth Hospitality and Pret, to 9 years of agency-led User Experience design.

Competitor products don’t share the same focus or features (Canvas, Device Magic and Jolt) only offer industry agnostic, self-build solutions which require lengthy use-case tailoring.

To summarise Trail has a USP, in a large market with a strong product need. Competition is weak and they have built a successful MVP with paying Plc customers.

If you’ve got a startup you’d rather invest in I’d love to hear about it. Drop it in the comment box below or DM me, here or twitter @joshbarbour.

*Still waiting on Unicode 9.0 for that bacon emoji 🤓.