This week, we are looking to the December headlines. Stories include Fintech disruptors Sonovate reach a major milestone, Syndicate Room announces their list of “The UK top 100 fastest growing businesses” and ELLIS launch a $220m scheme to keep AI in Europe.

Keep reading for more December headlines. 

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Tines raises $11m to automate repetitive cybersecurity tasks.

Our first of our December headlines this week is Cybersecurity startup, Tines has added a further $11 million to its series A funding round. Just 6 weeks ago, the company announced an initial $4.1 million Series A investment. This fresh cash investment takes the total raised in this round to $15.1 million.

The Tines platform enables companies to pre-build what it calls “automation stories”. These “stories” perform an unlimited number of steps that would normally have to be carried out manually. For example, this could be something such as to log threat and intelligence searches. This may help establish whether a security alert requires further action.

Most organisations today have a team of security professionals dedicated to detecting and responding to cyberattacks. These businesses will also employ a myriad of third-party tools to thwart attacks; Firewalls or antivirus software for example. However, these tools can create a lot of noise and false alarms. Human intervention is then needed to dig a little deeper, identifying those triggers that need further investigation.

This is where Tines step in. Tines hope to reduce the pressure on human cybersecurity personnel by automating the manual, resource-heavy processes required after an alarm is triggered.  

The product

The Tines product is rather like a canvas style storyboard. Users can access agent templates to build their automation stories and can be combined in any number of ways.  

In many ways, Tines offer an IFTTT (If This Then That) for enterprise cybersecurity. It is entirely customisable and can be used in a variety of ways. It can create security-focused chatbots, respond to phishing emails, run vulnerability scans, contact on-call engineers automatically in the event of a security alert, and even onboard new employees.

On its customisability, cofounder Eoin Hinchy has remarked:

“The analogy we sometimes use is that of a carpenter who has a toolkit with a hammer, a saw, a drill, chisel, etc…regardless of the job — building a roof or making a table — [the user can] just use those tools in slightly different ways.”

Tines’ core selling point is that its software agents are designed to be easily configurable, with no coding experience. It can also be integrated anywhere with minimal fuss. It does not require pre-built integrations to interact with third-party systems and services and integrates with any tool that has an API.  

The other tools available

In contrast, many similar automation tools are limited to a set number of integrations that have been pre-built by the software maker’s engineers. Should customers want to do anything more, they would need to ask the software vendor to build something or use internal resources to figure out a solution.  

Although Tines remain focussed within the cybersecurity realm, they have disclosed that many of their customers are using their product for other workflows across IT; DevOps for example and HR. Perhaps this is a nod to the future, but for now, Tines are firmly focused on the security realm.

Hinchy has said that the intention is to remain within security for the next 18 months to 2 years. Following this, the company will decide if they should move into additional verticals or remain where they are. 

Over the last 12 months, Tines have nabbed some big-name clients; Box, Auth0, and McKesson, for example. This latest round was led by some of the biggest names from the venture capital world; Accel, Index Ventures and Blossom Capital. These weighty names will only help to add more significant clients to the list. Accel alone has backed Facebook, Slack, Spotify, and Dropbox.

With this additional $15m in the bank, Tines said that it’s now well-positioned to expand its cybersecurity automation platform across its existing markets in Europe and the U.S.

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New Data reveals the UK’s fastest-growing companies.

The second of our December headlines is this week, the online investment platform Syndicate Room announced the launch of a new report entitled “Top 100: Britain’s Fastest-Growing Businesses”.  

The study is in its third year and features a league table of private UK companies that have increased the most in value since 2016.

For the second year on the bounce, single-tariff renewable energy supplier, Bulb has been identified as 2019’s winner. Since 2016, Bulb has increased its value by a huge multiple; 318 times.  

Coming in second and third are Fintech challengers, Revolut and Nutmeg. They have grown their valuations by 239x and 135x respectively. 

The report has also uncovered a pleasing trend. Since 2017, the number of fast-growing companies founded by women has doubled from 7 to 14.  

The change in trends

Controversially, the research has highlighted some numbers that contradict other stats regarding startup trends. This particular piece of research has found that London has taken a downward turn as the home of fast-growing startups across 2019. 60 of the Top 100 companies in this year’s report are homed in the capital, compared with 71 three years ago.

Instead, the East of England is on the rise.  

Graham Schwikkard, CEO at SyndicateRoom commented that the east is home to 12 of the UK’s fastest-growing companies. This is a huge growth when compared to just five in 2017. The stats suggest that seven of the Top 100 companies are based in Cambridge….known among the tech community as Silicon Fen. He goes on to say that “The university city has built an impressive cluster of medical and deep-technology companies.”

Independent research firm, Beauhurst has provided the data used in the report. Henry Whorwood, Head of Research & Consultancy at Beauhurst believes that the research identifies a uniquely exciting cohort. He believes that these are businesses who have raised multiple rounds of investment. In turn, they are achieving their ambitions to such an extent that they can scale at a rapid rate. In short, their investors are willing to pay a lot more for a stake in them.

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Sonovate reaches £1bn funding milestone.

The third of our December headlines is Sonovate hitting the £1bn funding mark. Sonovate was created to challenge the traditional invoice finance products on offer from the legacy banks. Since its creation, Sonovate has become a backbone of the UK freelance economy. It has helped companies using contingent workers access the cash flow they need to scale and grow.  

This week it has been revealed that Sonovate has reached a major milestone. It has now provided over £1 billion in funding to businesses funding contract workers since its launch.

Looking back to 2014, Sonovate provided £1m in funding to businesses across the UK. By June 2018, this figure had reached £500 million, and currently, Sonovate is funding over £1m each day.  

Sonovate have enjoyed a very steady growth trajectory since those early days. It started off life with a team of 12. Now, team numbers stand at over 100 across both its Cardiff and London sites. Sonovate work with 2,700 companies (Ignite included!) and has paid over 18,000 contingent workers across 39 countries since their inception. 

Sonovate’s year

2019 has been an exciting year for this disruptive Fintech. Back in September, Sonovate secured £110million debt and equity finance. The round was led by M&G Investments, MXB Holdings Inc, Dawn Capital and Rocket Internet SE. 

In the autumn, Sonovate disclosed that this latest cash injection would allow the company to advance its core product offering and reach into new international markets; Germany, the Netherlands and America included. They also intend to optimise finance for SME and mid-market businesses.

Talking of this week’s milestone, Sonovate co-CEO, Richard Prime, said:

“The world of work is changing rapidly and the freelance economy is absolutely booming as a result”. He goes on to say that Sonovate is “transforming the entire contingent worker market”, and that this latest £1bn funding milestone is a testament to this. Sonovate will use 2020 to build on its aspirations to “make funding even faster and easier for more people across the world”. 

They will fulfil their vision of securing payment so that people can get paid when they need it.

The product

The Sonovate product has indeed facilitated the growth of recruitment and consultancy business globally. Any businesses working with contract workers must pay their contractors multiple times before receiving payment from their clients. Depending upon the payment terms agreed between the agency and end client, this can sometimes be up to 90 days later.  

This delay has the potential to severely impact cash flow and can pose a huge threat to business. The Sonovate product removes this burden and risk altogether.

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ELLIS launches $220m initiative to keep AI in Europe.

The fourth of the December headlines that caught our eye is the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS), has announced the selection of 17 cities across Europe and Israel where it’s establishing projects which they hope will grow into AI research institutes keen on societal impact.

Sites include Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Tel Aviv, and Zurich. Each location will launch with about half a dozen AI researchers. In addition to this, they will have a secured level of funding of at least €1.5 million a year for the next 5 years.

The funding will allow these smaller corporations to compete with the tech giants. Researchers can earn comparable salaries within an industry renowned for aggressively hiring top talent. Indeed the goal of ELLIS is to attract and retain top European AI talent and increase the impact of AI research by European authors. Although Europe writes more AI research papers than any other region, their work is not cited as often as that of researchers elsewhere in the world.

Thoughts on the matter

AI researcher and ELLIS board member Nuria Oliver disclosed that in part, it was a concern over the fact that Europe is lagging behind the US and China in AI development that was the catalyst for the creation of ELLIS. 

She says:

“The reality is that Europe is lagging behind China and the U.S. in [research] impact,” 

In addition to keeping the salaries competitive with the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft, ELLIS has identified that teaching load is a barrier for top scientists. It is common practise for them to have to teach each week instead of advancing their research career.  

ELLIS has also identified that Europe has rigid attitudes about enabling scientists to engage with industry. Academics within the learning space are not encouraged to create their own company, for instance. Instead, teachers are pressurised to focus their attentions on teaching.  

Oliver goes on to say;

“Because we want both the scientific excellence and the societal impact, and a big way to get societal impact is through companies or through startups, another criteria is that the people in their units will have the flexibility to engage with industry or spin-off their own company while still being an active researcher,” 

The units will begin operations in Spring 2020, and ELLIS hope these will act as ‘seeds’; ones that will develop and grow into institutes over time.  

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And Finally…

What do The Rugby World Cup, Game of Thrones and Caitlyn Jenner all have in common?

Answer: They all top Google’s “most searched for” lists of 2019.

This week, in maybe our favourite of the December headlines, the globe’s most used search engine has released its UK “Year in Search” results. Not only do the results highlight the topics, trends and events that have captured the interest of the UK population, but Google offers an insight into the public zeitgeist.

Google Trends expert Kirstin Wright says;

“The 2019 Year in Search lists not only reveal the most popular trends from the past 12 months but also give insight into the biggest events in the news, politics, sports, entertainment and even the latest lingo”.

2019 has been dominated by sporting events. The top two trending queries have been the Rugby and Cricket World Cups. It is thought that these have been driven by the success of the UK teams this year.

Just like in previous years, trending TV and film have bulked out the rest of the list alongside the odd celebrity and major event.  

Google also revealed the top ‘How to’ and ‘What is’ searches on its platform, as well as the most popular celebrities, news and sporting events, movies, TV shows and musicians.

To read the complete listings, click here for the article in full.

We hope you enjoyed our round-up of the December headlines. Were there any that caught your eye? Leave us a comment below!

About the author: As Client Relationship Director, I am responsible for helping grow the new and existing client base of Ignite Digital. I work as a “trusted connection” with my clients and candidates aiming to deliver the best service I can to connect talent to opportunity.

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