This week Contracts Director, Nicola turns to the business pages and uses Our Week in Digital to delve into the investment and funding space. 

In brief, we learn that London is enjoying more US investment than ever before, with fintech investment leading the pack.  Although the “-tech” of the moment may top the podium, it’s exciting times for everyone. There has been notable investment across the entire tech, digital and data ecosystems. 

Highlights include significant funds going to autonomus car developmemt, cyber security, AI and of course fintech! 

Read on for more!!

investment, ignite, tech news, OWID, banking, funding, money

US venture capitalist firms look to the UK tech sector.

Despite the UK sitting in political limbo, US venture capital firms are showing a strong appetite for investing in London and UK companies. The latest data from PitchBook shows that 2019 is already a record year for US VC investment into British businesses.

According to the research, American investors have been involved in $4.4bn worth of deals into UK companies this year. Capital-based businesses has accounted for 77% ($3.4bn) of all US VC investment in 2019.

Just a few highlights include:

These numbers have heralded from Silicon Valley, Palo Alto and New York respectively.

London is attractive to investors. It has all the elements needed for success says Sherry Coutu CBE, co-founder of SVC2UK – (Silicon Valley Comes to the UK Series).

“It [London] is home to world-class talent and an abundance of innovative companies – especially in areas such as Fintech, Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence”.

Endorsing this assertion is David Hornik, General Partner at Silicon Valley-based investment firm, August Capital. He adds;

 “The UK and Silicon Valley share strengths in technology and innovation. As an investor, I always like to keep an eye on what’s happening in London as it is a truly global centre for business with a large pool of companies building breakthrough technologies.”

US, funding, money, fintech, london

The fintech investment boom

Looking into the research a little more deeply, Fintech, in particular, can be identified as particularly attractive. It has incited many large deals across 2019. Separate research by Innovate Finance and London & Partners recently revealed that London has received more Fintech VC funding than New York and any other European tech hub. It is second only to Silicon Valley.

London homed online money transfer platform, WorldRemit received a $175m Series D investment involving Accel Partners. A $75 million Series E round for online payment service, GoCardless was secured as well as a $40m Series E round for online international money exchange platform, CurrencyCloud. Both the latter were led by GV, the venture capital investment arm of Alphabet Inc.

In the wake of Brexit, trade relationships between the US and the UK remain strong. Some of America’s largest and most influential tech firms have plans for significant and long term investment into London. This has secured its place as Europe’s leading tech hub.

Among these are Apple, which plans to open a new London campus at Battersea Power Station in 2021. Google will open a large new HQ in Kings Cross set to house up to almost 5000 staff. While earlier this year, LinkedIn moved into its new Farringdon UK HQ.

Interestingly, these findings have been released to coincide with this week’s Silicon Valley Comes to the UK event series. This event works to bring together investors, entrepreneurs and CEOs from the UK and the Bay Area. Its designed to bring together some of the best minds from the UK and Silicon Valley. 

Aforementioned co-founder, Sherry Coutu identifies this event as pivotal. It is providing “lots of opportunities for companies and investors to do business across both regions.” 

EV, Autonomous cars, driving, drivers, driverless

Wayve raises $20 million to give autonomous cars better brains.

U.K.based startup, Wayve has raised $20 million in a Series A round of funding. The round was led by Palo Alto venture capital (VC) firm Eclipse Ventures. Balderton Capital, Compound Ventures, Fly Ventures, and First Minute Capita also participated. Several notable Angel investors also participated in the round. These include Chief scientist from Uber, Zoubin Ghahramani and UC Berkeley robotics professor and pioneer of deep reinforcement learning, Pieter Abbeel.

This investment is considerable news. It is rare for a Silicon Valley investment firm to look to Europe to invest in such an early-stage self-driving car startup.  

So what sets Wayve apart from other European startups? Eclipse Ventures partner Seth Winterroth has remarked that it is a combination of the tech, the vision and the location which make Wayve such an attractive investment proposition;

 “Wayve’s differentiated approach to autonomy builds on timely advances in the fields of reinforcement learning, simulation and computer vision.”  

He goes on to say that the London location is attractive and throws the company into the coalface of autonomous vehicle development;

“…by locating the company in the U.K., the team has access to an extraordinary talent pool and numerous complex testing environments.”

The tech

In terms of the tech, Wayve is developing artificial intelligence (AI). The AI teaches cars to drive autonomously using reinforcement learning, simulation, and computer vision. It is these things Wayve believe are the pivotal elements in the future of autonomous driving.

Wayve’s core premise is that the big breakthrough in self-driving cars will come from better AI brains rather than more sensors or “hand-coded” rules. The company trains its autonomous driving system using simulated environments before transferring that knowledge into the real world. It then emulates how humans adapt to conditions in real-time.

Wayve’s systems learn from each safety driver intervention to understand why the driver had to intervene. This bypasses HD maps, lidar, and other sensors that have become synonymous with the burgeoning autonomous vehicle movement.

Indeed, Wayve insists that it can build a safe and effective self-driving vehicle system using end-to-end machine learning, basic cameras, and GPS navigation. In April this year, Wayve claimed a “world-first”. It demonstrated its technology being used in a vehicle using cameras and satellite navigation (SatNav) in never seen before, complex urban environments. 

Wayve co-founder and CTO Alex Kendall has remarked that; 

“We learn from attentive human driving, which already eliminates the 98.3% of human road errors due to inattention / ineffective driving. We then further improve beyond what humans are capable of with reinforcement learning, by providing feedback to our system.”

Wayve has previously raised $3.1 million. With an added $20 million in the bank, it plans to launch a pilot fleet of autonomous Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV cars in Central London, replete with safety drivers.

fintech, finance, technology, tech, ignite, digital, talent, OWID

Funding Xchange closes $8m funding.

Digital decisioning fintech, Funding Xchange, has announced the closing of an £8 million funding round this week.

This startup’s tech has enabled financial institutions like MoneySuperMarket, Monzo and Experian to offer their customers instant access to personalised transparent quotes for business funding.

Through its mediation platform, businesses can access personalised funding in minutes rather than days. It is estimated that quotes can take as little as four minutes with businesses being able to receive funds within 10.  

The company has also integrated access to finance into payment solutions and cloud accounting software. This revolutionary approach offers a seamless experience for small businesses.

This round has been led by Downing Ventures and Gresham House Ventures.  

Of the funding, Funding Xchange Co-founder and CEO Katrin Herrling said ;

“We are delighted that Downing and Gresham House have joined us on our exciting journey to help reshape a sector that is rapidly adopting digital solutions using new data sources to enable the delivery of seamless, instant access to finance. This is creating the opportunity to provide small businesses with the same transparency and ease of access to finance that consumers have become accustomed to”.

Investment, Fintech, finance, phone, banking, app, ignite, digital, talent

What are the plans for the investment money raised?

With the round, Funding Xchange will work to speed up the delivery of the next model of the data and decisioning platform. With this next-gen product, banks and lenders will instantly be able to transform their customer proposition. They will do this through digitised customer interfaces and decisioning models. This will facilitate personalised and transparent access to their lending products and referrals to selected third party lenders.

In support, Daniel Cheung from Downing Ventures added that Funding Xchange is delivering digital solutions which respond to some of the biggest challenges that banks and SME lenders are facing as the market undergoes a period of significant change. The space is being disrupted by new lenders and their solutions changing the dynamics of the market. On top of this, businesses are having to contend with the increased availability of new data. As well as higher levels of regulatory scrutiny.  

It also helps to build a level playing field. Partners like MoneySuperMarket can instantly give small businesses transparency of funding solutions and ensure that their customers are always treated fairly.

Zec-Ops raises $10.2 million to automatically detect and remediate cyberattacks.

San Francisco startup, Zec-Ops has raised $10.2 million in seed funding. The seed round comes from several sources. These include CEAS Investments, Evolution Equity Partners, KPN Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, Stormbreaker Venture Group. In addition to this, angel investors also contributed.  

It is has been confirmed by CEO, Zuk Avraham that the capital infusion will further advance the company’s platform and be used to grow its team around the world.

Born in 2017, Zec-Ops’ mission is clear. The company aim to detect mistakes made by attackers which typically go unnoticed by all the other defence controls in place. Zec-Ops’ product gives organisations an immediate view on who is targeted and which assets are already infected. It can then automatically generate threat intelligence on the attacks.

Specifically, it exploits mistakes made by attackers to pinpoint affected machines and generate threat intelligence.

It has been designed to extend the Internet of Things devices without requiring any sort of recertification. Additionally, because it is “agentless”, on average, it only takes minutes to deploy.

ZecOps’ product suite impressed the First International Bank of Israel, which is among its first customers. Other signed up private-sector agencies include managed tech service provider Trace3; telecommunications companies KPN, SmarTone, and Swisscom. Zec-Ops has some large undisclosed public sector contracts, including government and defence agencies across North America, Europe, and Asia.

Cybercrime

There is a market for it. Statistics highlighting the growth of cybercrime are alarming.

Data from Juniper Research suggests that the number of digital records likely to be stolen in 2023 is 33 billion. This is a huge leap from the 12 billion stolen in 2018. Analysts have estimated that the cybercrime economy has grown to $1.5 trillion in annual profits. They estimate damages will reach $6 trillion by 2021.

More broadly speaking, the global cybersecurity market is expected to grow. In 2018 the market was worth $152 billion. By 2023, this figure is set to reach $250 billion.  

Funding figures certainly seem to reflect this. Savvy investors are spotting an opportunity to plough funds into the enterprises looking to address these threats. San Francisco-based Corelight, recently raised $50 million to monitor networks. RedSeal snared $60 million for its suite of cyber-risk modelling software. While Denver-based security operations management software provider Swimlane closed a $23 million round this year. Closer to home too, Bristol-based Cyber skills platform Immersive Labs have just raised a $40million Series B to finance their expansion into North America.  

Nexus FrontierTech closes $3.8 million seed funding. 

London based AI solutions firm Nexus FrontierTech has announced they have closed a $3.8 million seed round. The newly acquired funding will be used to amp up the company’s R&D capabilities. The money will play a key role in an aggressive global growth strategy to help companies accelerate digital transformation. 

Founded in 2015, Nexus specialises in modernising data-intensive processes within the regulatory and compliance realm. It provides configurable and scalable solutions to help businesses streamline operations. As well as tackling the issues of inefficiency and data waste.  

The funding round was led by a family office based in Geneva, Switzerland. It was swiftly followed by several private investors. These include Nick Fry, former CEO of Mercedes AMG Petronas F1, Jennifer Lewis, former Managing Director of GIC, Singapore Sovereign Wealth Fund, and Tom Yoritaka, former Managing Director of Cisco Global Ventures. A number of these investors are also on the firm’s Advisory Board. They are therefore already heavily involved in the company’s expansion and growth strategies.

CEO Danny Goh has remarked that the newly acquired funds will allow the company to extend their reach and connect with more customers than ever before.   

“Our immediate goal is to bring our tested, enterprise-ready technology to as many clients as we can. Having acquired actual implementation experience in deploying live AI systems, we know what our team is capable of. When it comes to compliance, we’re seeing the financial services industry move their focus away from merely meeting regulatory needs to aligning compliance with growth initiatives.¨ 

investment, tech, OWID, funding, cyber, data

Ad-Lib raises $6m Series A.

UK-based marketing technology SaaS platform, Ad-Lib helps global brands manage and automate the production and activation of creative assets in their digital advertising. This week Ad-Lib has announced that it has closed $6million in Series A funding from San Francisco-based, Fog City Capital. 

Ad-Lib will use the money to further strengthen its technology platform. The platform uses AI to streamline creative ad production workflows, automate digital asset creation and optimise creative performance. It can be used across display, video, social, native and mobile.

The company also plan to grow its senior team and expand globally. They will launch its US headquarters in New York and extend their reach across EMEA and APAC. 

Ad-Lib have already enjoyed significant growth. It currently employs 80 staff in offices in London, Madrid, Dubai, Singapore and more. The business is currently growing more than 300% year-on-year. It is driving efficiencies, time-saving and production costs saving for some of the world’s biggest brands such as Nestle, J&J and Virgin.  

Digital evolution

Businesses across every genre are having to evolve digitally, and of course, the marketing space is no different. 

Technology has penetrated the media buying, analytics and ad-serving space. However, for many brands, the biggest challenge is the requirement for creative cross-channel, cross-format and cross-location. Ad-Lib is uniquely positioned to enable brands to improve digital campaign performance through better creative. Ad-Lib’s intelligence platform streamlines digital ad workflows and automates standard processes. Consequently, this reduces the time it takes to build campaigns.

Oli Marlow-Thomas, Ad-Lib’s founder and CEO has remarked that;

“There is no technology infrastructure in the creative space meaning digital ads that reach the biggest audiences continue to be poor quality. With all other aspects of media buying already automated, creative is becoming the differentiating optimisation tool that brands rely on to stand out. The landscape is changing, TV ad views are declining in favour of digital, but the creative is falling behind.” 

We hope you enjoyed Our Week in Digital’s look to the world of Investment. We have a wide range of articles, including more Our Week in Digitals, on our blog.

As always, if any stories caught your eye this week we would love to hear. Leave us a comment!

 

About the author: I manage the recruitment for a range of digital roles for my clients on both a retained and contingency basis. I specialise in senior and confidential appointments, always giving a first class representation of a client’s employer brand.

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