Reflections on a year in the North East

Kate Patton, June 14, 2021 4 min read

When I took on the role as Entrepreneur Engagement Manager for the North East one year ago, it was two weeks into the pandemic. I was told upfront that the role – which in normal circumstances would involve more than half the time spent networking within the North East tech community and having in-person meetings – would be 100% virtual.

I couldn’t have asked for a better reception from all the stakeholders and founders I have been so fortunate to meet on Zoom or by email along the way. There have been some incredible stories over the last year which showcase how resilient the region has been, and more importantly, the trajectory of where it is going.  I have chosen 12 companies, one for each month on the job, that I believe are true beacons for this small but mighty region. 


In 2018, founder Pete Cheyne set up the company. Pete is ex-Partnerize and a stalwart advocate for all things North East. Bottlepay wants to take the confusion out of cryptocurrency by making micro payments accessible for everyone. They have received £12m in funding, part of which was the largest seed round in the North East. In May 2020 they launched its feature of sending bitcoin in a tweet; social media payments have become a reality. The company has huge aims to tackle the international market and already is well on their way. 

Kani was founded in 2018 by Aaron Holmes. It solves pain points in payment reconciliation and reporting. In 2019, Kani was invited to be part of Tech Nation’s Fintech cohort.  Since then, Kani has gone from strength to strength, growing their team, widening their customer base, and most recently winning a huge contract with the world’s largest quality of life services company, Sodexo Group  


Wordnerds was spun out from an idea the co-founders Pete Daykin and Stephen Erdal hatched over a couple of pints. It uses AI in a linguistic-first approach to truly understand all the nuances of human language, providing an accurate understanding of what customers are really thinking. Wordnerds was on Tech Nation’s first AI cohort with Pete being a wonderful champion of the North East and continuing supporter of all things Tech Nation.

SoPost was set up with the express aim to make product sampling more powerful. Their business analytics tools allow for the entire online brand experience to be smooth yet powerful. SoPost was on Tech Nation’s Upscale program and is now one of the inaugural companies to take part in the partnership Tech Nation has brokered with the Department of International Trade. SoPost has aims to tackle the Australian market and Tech Nation/DIT are there all along the way to make it as successful as possible.

Industrial innovation

Tharsus has long been known for its industry-leading manufacturing expertise but four years ago it decided to pivot and become more innovative by incorporating robotics, process automation and machine learning into its core. It now has won huge contracts with Ocado, BT, and 3M. They have also won awards for innovation, engineering, and Covid-19 detection/protection product design. They are representing the North East on Tech Nation’s latest Future Fifty cohort.

Everflow was just named number three in the Financial Times fastest growing companies in Europe list. In just under four years they have taken their revenue stream from €3m euro to almost €50m, all on the fact that they make utilities services simple with their innovative tech.

Ones to watch

This app was created by a young, intrepid founder, Mike Davies, who felt the traditional way of recruiting for tech roles was outdated and poorly managed. He wanted to put power back into the hands of the jobseeker and match them on smart criteria using data and analytics. The app is fast, powerful, and transparent. In one year they have won investment of £1m to continue to win new business partners and expand the power of the platform.

Okkulo is a cutting-edge sport training system that uses innovative technology – specialized light waves – to improve reaction and timing for enhanced performance in top tier athletic disciplines. Okkulo was a Tech Nation Rising Star nationwide semi-finalist. They have a number of football clubs as customers, and UFC fighters. They are now looking at expanding into the American market through a few key contracts. 

Established in 2020 by Tim Ward and Bill MacGregor, Opportuni allows businesses to find and win public sector bids. Another Rising Star regional finalist, this company has been on a fast ascent, recently securing £1m.

Grid Smarter Cities has set out to create greener, better connected and innovative city centers by using patented technology to reduce time, consumption and waste that is often present in traditional delivery models. 

Settld was founded by a mother and daughter team who, after facing the death of a loved one, found that it was beyond arduous to close all the deceased’s accounts and other administrative tasks. This led to the idea of Settld, a free online platform that takes the guesswork and admin stress out of closing down accounts during the bereavement period. Settld just secured its first investment of half a million.

SaferDate was founded by Elaine Parker in 2020. After experiencing a horrific and terrifying ordeal in the online dating world, she decided that there was an ever-growing menace in online dating. No provider did a detailed ID or background check on its members. SaferDate is the only online dating platform in the UK, if not the world, that by partnering with DBS does a full check on all potential members. No one is allowed onto the site unless they have passed the check. This takes the fear, stress, and uncertainty out of online dating to allow for real, honest communication and connections. SaferDate has been profiled on the BBC and is garnering attention from multiple news sources for its revolutionary approach to online dating.

Northern Voices, North East