Tech Nation exists to fuel the growth of game-changing founders, leaders and scaling companies so they can positively transform societies, economies and outcomes.
We champion the founders, leaders and companies that have stood up and stand out, helping them to collaborate in building, backing and boosting the technological innovation that will improve the future for the UK and beyond.
Tech Nation’s mission is to unlock the growth potential of 1,000 scaling tech leadership teams across the UK by 2022. We will have supported 800 scaling tech companies on 29 programme cohorts by the end of February 2021, in addition to the 1,300 companies on our early stage national Founders Network. This end of year report demonstrates the impact of our work and provides some additional insights across our individual programmes from the past year.
Over the past five years, our programmes have engaged nearly 2,000 businesses and since our first Future Fifty cohort we have generated up to £457m GVA for the UK economy*.
This document is designed for policy-makers, the tech sector and other interested parties to better understand our value add. Except where referenced, all data comes from the information Tech Nation collects from businesses that participate in our programmes.
*All Gross Value Add (GVA) calculations are based on Frontier Economics methodology (2020) unless otherwise stated. DCMS and Tech Nation commissioned Frontier Economics to conduct an independent impact evaluation of Tech Nation’s activities over the past 8 years.
A world in which anyone with vision and drive can access the skills and support needed to scale and succeed as a game-changing leader.
To fuel the growth of game-changing founders, leaders and scaling companies so they can positively transform societies, economies and outcomes
To unlock the growth potential of 1,000 scaling tech leadership teams across the UK by 2022.
This is how we do it:
- Our growth stage programmes target the rising stars, fast movers and new leaders. Supporting them on the journey of starting up, skilling up and growing up.
- Our sector programmes double down on the UK’s USPs. Uplifting companies operating in financial services, cyber security and artificial intelligence.
- Our visa programme fast tracks the acquisition of exceptional people in digital technology. Enriching the UK’s entrepreneurial workforce with global talent.
- Our academy provides the know-how needed to start, join or grow a digital business. Levelling the playing field to diversify the technology landscape.
- Supported 800 tech companies through our growth programmes, who have now collectively raised over $20 billion
- 2,100 companies supported overall
- Seen 20 unicorns through our programmes
- 500+ alumni companies which have seen 9 IPOs and 30 M&As
- 3,500+ Tech Nation Visa (Tier 1) applications processed
- One in seven companies we work with advance to a higher stage growth programme
- 52,000 budding entrepreneurs on our Digital Business Academy
- 1 in 9 Upscale companies have joined our prestigious Future Fifty programme
- 1 in 4 Future Fifty companies IPO, merge or get acquired
- Published more than 70 impactful reports into the state of UK tech
- Delivered up to £457m of Gross Value Add (GVA) to the UK Economy
- Delivered more than £91m of Gross Value Add (GVA) to the UK Economy
- Supported 163 companies through Growth and Sector Programmes
- Run 6 cohorts of our Growth and Sector Programmes
- Launched two new nation-wide Sector Programmes - Cyber and Applied AI
- Created the online Data Commons resource which gives a 360-degree view of the UK innovation economy (datacommons.technation.io)
- Engaged 900+ companies through Founders Network Added 24 new courses focused on scaleups to the Digital Business Academy (DBA) and supported over 11,000 learners on the platform
- Appointed to deliver a strategic vision and work programme with the Lawtech Delivery Panel to support the digital transformation of the UK legal sector
- Received over 2 million Tech Nation Website page views
- Processed 900 Tech Nation Visas
- Delivered impactful reports including A Bright Tech Future on national tech jobs and skills, Tech for Social Good and the Tech Nation Report 2020, our annual state of the nation report
- Completed our National Network of 11 Entrepreneur Engagement Managers
*Unless stated, all figures come from Tech Nation data.
The impact of Tech Nation’s programmes is routinely, independently assessed for gross value add to the UK economy.
In 2020, evaluation of Tech Nation by Frontier Economics estimated the economic benefits associated with cohorts of companies joining programmes as gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy. Overall, Tech Nation has generated up to £457m GVA* for the UK economy.
*All Gross Value Add (GVA) calculations are based on Frontier Economics methodology (2020) unless otherwise stated DCMS and Tech Nation commissioned Frontier Economics to conduct an independent impact evaluation of Tech Nation’s activities.
Future Fifty is the UK’s leading late stage growth programme with approximately 25 new businesses selected to join each year. One of the longest and most successful accelerator programmes for late stage tech companies in Europe, Future Fifty is a programme designed to deliver community, connections and cut-through. It provides access to functional peers, policy experts and proven founders and is designed for Series B+ or £5m revenue generating tech companies.
In our latest cohort, Future Fifty 8.0, 28 more companies are joining the incredible network of over 150 alumni, including Deliveroo, Farfetch, Skyscanner, Bulb and Funding Circle.
“Being part of Future Fifty not only provides us with direct benefits, such as peer-learning, but ensures that our experiences help shape the wider scale-up ecosystem.”
Rhydian Lewis, CEO, RateSetter, Greater London, Future Fifty 3.0
“We are delighted to have been named as one of Tech Nation’s Future Fifty amongst a group of brilliant businesses that we stand alongside at the forefront of innovation. M Squared has carved out a niche as the UK’s leading developer of photonic and quantum technologies. Collaboration has always been at the heart of science and part of M Squared's DNA, and we look forward to working with a new network of tech companies for the betterment of society.”
Graeme Malcolm, MSquared Lasers, Glasgow, Future Fifty 7.0
- Businesses in Future Fifty 8.0, raised £51m and had 201 employees on average
- Future Fifty companies have seen 9 IPOs and 30 M&As in the last 7 years
- 25% of Future Fifty companies have so far either IPO’d, merged or been acquired
- The average growth rate for the Future Fifty 7.0 cohort was 379% over the past year
- The top three challenges listed by Future Fifty 7.0 were: Finding Top Talent, Increasing PR and Scaling Internationally
- The Future Fifty programme had a GVA £60m since its inception in 2013*
*Frontier Economics evaluation of programmes run by Tech Nation
Upscale is a six month programme designed to deliver coaching, community and connections for Series A founders and leadership teams. Businesses learn from scale coaches who’ve navigated the peaks and pitfalls of growth; solving crucial scaling challenges such as international expansion and hiring and retaining talent at pace.
In 2020, many of the latest Upscale 5.0 cohort are using technology to address important societal issues around health, waste and education.
“It’s absolutely the bees knees. If you're a founder, and you're either in dire straits or doing a perfect lap, you'll learn so much you didn't think about. Regardless of sector you'll benefit.”
James Hadley, Immersive Labs, Bristol, Upscale 4.0
"Upscale is a truly unique and hugely valuable programme. It's hard to get in and you have to commit time to get the most out of it, but the investment is well worth it. The advice we've received and the friendships we've made have been invaluable"
Hayden Wood, Bulb, London, Upscale 2.0
“Upscale was one of the only programmes which we felt could deliver true value in terms of rapid scaling, and improving our awareness of projects, initiatives and opportunities not currently on our radar. We are at the forefront of a huge wave of Legaltech innovation in the UK and globally, so Upscale gives us the chance to unlock further opportunities in a dynamic market.”
Tim Pullan, ThoughtRiver, Cambridge, Upscale 5.0
- Businesses in Upscale 5.0 raised £7.2m and had 46 employees on average
- A third of companies in Upscale 4.0 were based outside of London, including Immersive Labs and Open Cosmos
- Average revenues of the Upscale 4.0 cohort have grown by 64% over 3 years, while the average number of employees has risen by 48% compared to previous cohorts
- 80% of Upscale 5.0 companies listed International Expansion as one of their top scaling challenges in 2020
- Almost a third of Upscale 5.0 companies have a female founder
- 1 in 9 Upscale companies go on to be selected for Future Fifty
- The Upscale programme had a GVA impact of £15m since its inception in 2016*
*Frontier Economics evaluation of programmes run by Tech Nation
In 2018 we launched our first Fintech cohort of bridge-stage B2B fintech companies and in the past year we successfully ran a second cohort. Support for these companies comes in a number of ways to provide the best possible springboard for expanding and partnering. Cohorts benefit from a focused foreign trip, gaining insight from some of the UK's biggest fintechs on how to expand into overseas markets. The programme encourages previous Tech Nation members to help mentor the next generation of founders.
“At Kani we're always looking to learn from others' experiences, be that other founders, or experts in the field - Tech Nation's Fintech programme looks to be a fantastic mix of both. Having been involved in other Tech Nation events prior we have full faith in the team, and after hearing great reviews from scheme alumni we're excited to get started!”
Ben Wigham, Kani, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Fintech 2.0
“Tech Nation is the leader on awesome initiatives to enable companies to grow and learn through recognised programmes that are adapted to a variety of sectors. incuto is excited to be part of the Tech Nation Fintech programme and hopes to connect to others disrupting financial services.”
Andrew Rabbitt, incuto, Ilkley, Fintech 2.0
- Businesses in Fintech 2.0, raised £4m and had 22 employees on average
- 35% of both Fintech 1.0 and 2.0 are from outside London
- At least a third of companies have had female founders
- In an international first, our Insurtech Board released the Insurtech Standards, a suite of free-to-us legal documents to help insurtechs launch and settle partnerships with incumbent businesses
- The Fintech programme had a GVA impact of up to £5.4m in 2019/20
The goal of the Cyber programme is to provide the UK’s most promising and ambitious cyber security scaleups with curated workshops, mentorships, guidance and networking. Over six months, the cohort is given the help they need to navigate fundamental growth challenges such as company culture, recruitment and scaling businesses overseas.
As part of the programme, the members took a trip to the US to meet with investors, customers and the US Government. The trip’s design reflected the need to target Wall Street as a financial services hub (the sector most desired as customers by the cohort) and Washington. The US government is the single largest procurer of Cyber Security solutions in the world so together the two cities reflect the best chance to grow high value contacts.
“Tech Nation Cyber 1.0 has helped us define a much more refined marketing & sales strategy, has given us new contacts and has generally provided us with a metaphorical springboard from which we can scale-up rapidly.”
Daniel Lewis, Awen Collective, Caerphilly, Cyber 1.0
“We've been able to really appreciate the learning here, sharing information in a non-judgemental environment. The advice from those who are a bit further along has been so valuable. I foresee us being able to tap into the experience and brains in this room, and sharing our expertise with those in the room, on the next stage of our scaleup journey.”
Peter Syzsko, White Bullet Solutions, Surrey, Cyber 1.0
- Businesses in Cyber 2.0, raised £3m and had 18 employees on average
- 45% of Cyber 1.0 cohort was based outside of London
- Since finishing the cyber sector programme, alumni have seen a number of successes, including 15m, raised by four companies including
- White Bullet doubled annual recurring revenue and expanded into Asia.
- Red Sift - raised $8,8m Series A finance and expanded into the US market.
- iProov - £5m of fundraising and featured in The Regtech Top100 of 2020
- Crypta Labs raised £2.7m of funding from institutional investors in June 2019, helping them to develop the IP portfolio for their Quantum Random Number Generation. In 2020, they were named one of the three winners of Zenzic’s £1.2m fund to develop cybersecurity for Autonomous Driving in the UK.
- Awen Collective, a Welsh company, won a MoD contract, extending their Dot product into the military and defence domain and increased five fold their incoming work orders from the previous financial year.
- Novastone expanded operations in NI following an introduction to Invest Northern Ireland and are using the services and products of at least other companies from the same cohort.
- The Cyber programme had a GVA impact of up to £4.1m in 2019/20
Applied AI is Tech Nation’s first growth programme for Artificial Intelligence to help the UK’s most promising founders who are applying AI in practical areas and to create real-world impact. We do this through peer-to-peer support and the shared experience of later-stage founders, all curated under the values of honesty, intimacy and trust. Supported by the UK Government Office for AI, these companies are using machine learning for use cases such as the earlier detection of brain cancer, combating climate change, and tackling online disinformation. They are backed by top UK seed funds like LocalGlobe, Entrepreneur First and Seedcamp.
Our six-month programme focuses on providing founders and leaders of the sector with invaluable skills, a powerful network – including peers, investors and potential clients – and the ability to implement changes that will help their companies grow. Last year, the inaugural Applied AI 1.0 cohort consisted of 29 companies.
“The Applied AI programme’s MO is to truly help you, the customer. We valued its style and approach, which fitted well with Cervest’s own culture. Tech Nation was collaborative and extensive: it understood our deep challenges and worked with us accordingly. Tech Nation may not have the answers to everything but it has the environment to help you think things through, and to whom to go speak with. We are now clearer on who our customer is. We have sharpened our proposition into something defendable and inspiring. 20% of our high quality prospects have come as a direct result of being on the programme.”
Mark Hodgson, Cervest, London, Applied AI 1.0
- Businesses in Applied AI 1.0, raised £1.9m and had 12 employees on average
- 45% of Applied AI 1.0 have one female founder and 24% have a female CEO
- 35% of Applied AI 1.0 were based outside of London, including Bournemouth, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Gateshead and Glasgow
- Applied AI 1.0 cohort businesses had raised an average of £1.9million
- The Applied AI programme had a GVA impact of up to £3.7m in 2019/20
Rising Stars is a national competition providing the stage for seed companies with the potential to scale. It offers exposure, access and elevation. Investors and corporates are present for the Grand Final of the competition, with 20 finalists each having three minutes to pitch their company, before the judges chose the winners.
In February 2020, Rising Stars 2.0 saw ten more winners announced, building on the success of the first cohort. One of the winners of Rising Stars 1.0 was SeedLegals, who were recently announced on our Upscale programme, for the fastest mid-stage scaling companies in the UK.
“With Rising Stars we have increased our profile significantly, met potential investors and secured additional locations ready to deploy our solution.”
Revannth Murugesan, Carbon Performance, Leeds, Rising Stars 1.0
“Off the back of Tech Nation Rising Stars, we secured our first commercial customer and raised a further £100k.”
Amy King, People Matter Technology, Hampshire, Rising Stars 2.0
- 91% of companies in Rising Stars 2.0 were based outside of London
- Rising Stars had a GVA impact of up to £2.4m in 2019/20
Founders’ Network is the UK’s leading peer-to-peer support network for entrepreneurs with ambitions to build and scale their businesses, and it’s free to join.
In the last year, Tech Nation engaged 889 companies through Founders' Network - creating a single community aiming to connect ambitious companies across the country and to foster peer-to-peer sharing and learning.
"I love Founders' Network because it's people who are doing, or have done, exactly what I want to do, with different software. The shared experiences are priceless."
Gareth Everson, Co-founder Connectably, Leeds
“Having access to a free but priceless resource like Tech Nation's Founders’ Network is gold.”
Chi-chi Ekweozor, Founder, Assenty, Manchester
- Founders' Network’s membership increased by 189% in the last year
- 71% of Founders' Network are based outside London
- 50% of survey respondents have indicated that using the Founders' Network helped them achieve their objectives
- 1314 Members since the Founder's network began.
- Founders Network had a GVA impact of £6.9m since its inception in 2018*
*This GVA calculation is based on SQW methodology (2017)
Tech Nation now has 11 Entrepreneur Engagement Managers (EEMs) in place across the UK, expanding the opportunities that our network of growth programmes, events, skills and data resources provide to all corners and clusters of the UK. EEMs are having a noticeable effect in increasing the number of applications from each region between 2018 and 2019 - last year saw an increase of 175% on applications to our programmes from companies based outside of London.
Across all regions and nations, demand for our programmes has increased substantially.
Tech Nation is the authorised endorsing body for the Digital Technology category of the Global Talent Visa. The ‘Tech Nation Visa’, as it is also known, is the first tech visa of its kind in the world, enabling the brightest and best unparalleled flexibility to work across the UK tech sector, fast tracking the acquisition of exceptional people and with the life-changing possibility of leading to permanent residency.
Over the past 4 years, demand for experienced and highly skilled people to work in the digital and tech industry in the UK has grown dramatically, demand for jobs rose almost 3x as much as the financial services industry. Technical and business backgrounds are eligible, from all digital tech sub-sectors, with Talent and Promise categories catering for a range of experience levels.
Without this visa and the flexibility it offers, the opportunity to attract exceptional tech talent to the UK would be greatly restricted. We are enriching the UK’s entrepreneurial workforce with global talent.
“This visa is beyond helpful because it gives talented people who are passionate about tech the opportunity to add value to the tech ecosystem in the UK in so many different ways while having complete flexibility.”
Issam Abu-aisheh, Whitespace Ventures Ltd, Global Talent Visa alumni
“The Tech Nation Visa opened doors in the UK within the technology sector, including mentors and business connections. It also connected me to a network of driven and talented individuals from around the world who helped me along the journey from settling into a neighbourhood to starting a business. I feel lucky to come into a new country and directly into a network that encourages me to pursue my career aspirations from day one.”
Jessica Mendoza, Mondadd, Global Talent Visa alumni
- +44% rise in visa applications between 2018 and 2019
- Since 2014, the visa has received over 3,500 applications, and endorsed over 1,838 visas from over 90 countries worldwide
- The Tech Nation Visa is consistently the most popular Global Talent category by number of applications, with applications rising for six consecutive years
- The top five nationalities for applications are: India, USA, Nigeria, Russia, Canada
Now with over 55,000 learners in the last two years, Tech Nation’s online learning platform provides the know-how needed to start, join or grow a digital business. We create content that aims to educate, motivate and illuminate, levelling the playing field to diversify the technology landscape.
The Digital Business Academy also went through an extensive optimisation this year for accessible learning and Diversity and Inclusion. Diversity and Inclusion is a recognised challenge for every industry, and so is a key priority for Tech Nation across all of our programmes, events, skills initiatives and digital footprint.
“The Digital Business Academy helped me understand what was needed when raising my first investment, I recommend this to first-time founders as this has been essential to the growth of my startup.”.
Chris Gyamfi, Osess, London
“In no time I could take away some focused, practical insights, on topics that were most relevant to me. Without having to wade through endless text or videos. The Digital Business Academy breaks down some of the business language that isn’t always intuitive. I didn’t do a degree in business but the courses gave me the groundwork in things people expect you to understand when you’re pitching your company. Things like finance, balance sheets, profit and loss.”
Kayla Herbert, Branswer, Leeds
- 25% of respondents said the main reason they signed up to DBA was to launch a tech start-up while 11% said it was to grow their start-up
- The average course completion rate is 7.5 times the industry norm
- The interest, understanding and confidence on a range of digital tech issues have been improved amongst DBA survey respondents. More than 60% of DBA survey respondents progressed with a business or business idea, progressed in their digital career or started their digital career – with some attributing their or their business’s progress partly to what they have learnt
- The Digital Business Academy has had a GVA impact of £8.5m since 2018*
*This Gross Value Add (GVA) calculation is based on SQW methodology (2017).
Tech Nation catalyses the 21st Century infrastructure that accelerates the progress of entrepreneurs, enterprises and the economy.
Our purpose is to fuel the growth of game-changing founders, leaders and companies so they can positively transform societies, economies and outcomes.
We do this by providing them with the coaching, content, community and connections to design the future and by crafting the growth platform for technology leaders.
We enable them to develop themselves, their opportunities, their teams and their dreams.
We fill the gaps in growth with powerful programmes, zeroing in to eliminate isolation, enhance education and increase collaboration across the ecosystem.
We provide learning content, insights and analysis, coaching and research.
We bring together a network of purposeful founders and philanthropists, progressive enterprises and policymakers, and influential funds and institutions.
We’re laser focused on delivering powerful inputs, outputs, outcomes and impact.
Collectively, we want to create a world in which anyone with the vision and drive can access the skills and support needed to scale and succeed as a game-changing leader.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank our very supportive board and chair, our sponsorship partners, ecosystem partners and key people and departments in the British Government including DCMS, as well as all the companies we have been lucky to serve on our programs this year. And thank you -- for reading this and following us. Get in touch if you have any feedback.
We recognise the privilege we have, working with the UK's ambitious tech founders and their leadership teams, and look forward to spending 2020 supporting them as they scale.
If you would like to know more about the following, click on the links:
The UK digital technology (“digital tech”) sector is a substantial and growing part of the UK economy. Its success and that of the wider economy are also closely intertwined as digital technologies are increasingly embedded across all sectors. The government has implemented a broad suite of interventions to support the sector, the Tech Nation programme among them.
To better understand the impact of this intervention, DCMS commissioned this impact evaluation.