Meet the Rising Stars 4.0 Regional Winners: Northern Ireland’s leading early-stage scaleups

Kane Fulton, December 2, 2021 5 min read

One year ago, we launched our inaugural ‘The 12 Days of Scaleups’ campaign to unveil our Rising Stars 3.0 Winners. This December, we’re revisiting the festive theme to announce and celebrate our Rising Stars 4.0 Regional Winners from across the UK as part of our latest 12 Days of Scaleups.

Now into its fourth year, Rising Stars remains the UK’s only national early-stage tech scaleup competition. It is once again fully virtual and our judges have selected not one, but five winners from each region.

Visit our 12 Days of Scaleups Map to discover more Rising Stars 4.0 Regional Winners as they are announced

Yesterday, we announced the competition’s Regional Winners from Scotland. Today, we are excited to announce the Northern Ireland Regional Winners of Rising Stars 4.0: CropSafe, Ecko, Kairos, Kinva, and Overwatch.


Belfast-based CropSafe aggregates weather and satellite data to provide better and more accurate guidance for farmers who want to fix on-farm issues. With the power of satellite data, CropSafe makes insights and financing easier to understand and helps farmers make more profitable decisions. CEO and cofounder John McElhone tells us more.

How does it feel to be a Rising Stars regional winner?

At CropSafe, we’re aiming to help bring digital tools and the benefits of modern-day technologies such as satellite or weather data to the tens of millions of farms worldwide, to those who need and benefit most. We’re incredibly grateful and humbled to take part in Tech Nation’s Rising Stars this year as a stepping stone along our journey to change the future of agriculture.

How has your region supported you in your journey so far?

Gary Davidson, the current Investment Lead for entrepreneur engagement at Tech Nation has been one of our biggest supporters from day one. In the days when we had a tiny website and scrappy code, he still cheered us on. Between that time and now, that infectious energy is something that has always pushed us and we see it across the entire Tech Nation team.


Hailing from Antrim, Ecko is a first-of-its-kind collaboration platform that allows its users to monetise their sessions as NFTs. Ecko promises to empower and connect music creators through transformative technology. CEO John-Paul McCorley tells us more.

How does it feel to be a Rising Stars regional winner?

It’s amazing to be part of Rising Stars 4.0 and to elevate the artistic among us, highlighting their importance to society. We exist to liberate artists – initially music creators – from the shackles of ineffective, overcomplicated and unfair technologies. Our mission is to empower artists to create their best work more often and help them connect more deeply with their fans through the latest emerging technologies.

We’re creating a future where artists will be able to sustain themselves on a core community of 1000 true fans, freeing them to live as independent creators and earn a healthy living while making what they love. For the first time in forever, artists can be excited about what the future holds for them and we, as both artists and fans, can look forward to connecting more deeply with them.

How has your region supported you in your journey so far?

We are very fortunate. The ecosystem that exists here around music, technology and entrepreneurship has been an incredible support and a guiding light. The generosity of the community, and their willingness to help, has shown us what is possible and encouraged us to be both pragmatic and ambitious in our goals.


From Belfast, Kairos is a central communications hub for elite sports teams. The online web app and mobile platform allows teams to seamlessly and efficiently manage all aspects of team communication including; scheduling, messaging, subjective data collection, travel, and u18 guardian communication. CEO Andrew Trimble tells us more.

How does it feel to be a Rising Stars regional winner?

Technology is only getting more critical in each professional environment and we’re here to play our part in the development of world-class planning and communication tools for elite sports teams across the globe. We’re really pleased to be a part of Tech Nation’s Rising Stars 4.0 competition, and we’re delighted to be recognised in this way and be among some amazing young companies that share our ambition and drive.

How has your region supported you in your journey so far?

Tech Nation’s Gary Davidson has been a fantastic help in getting us up and running with Tech Nation – and we’re looking forward to working closely with them in the future.


Kinva is a game-changing digital platform connecting health therapists and their clients. Through one-to-one support and tailored plans, the Lisburn-based company creates a healthier future for patients, connecting them with health therapists and improving the effectiveness of therapy. Cofounder and CEO Michelle Connor tells us more.

How does it feel to be a Rising Stars regional winner?

Our mission is to make health therapy provision more efficient, effective, and accessible to all. Waiting lists are their longest in history, added to rising energy costs and deteriorating population health. Kinva helps by allowing therapists to securely manage their caseload and provide clear, joined-up multidisciplinary care to reduce the need for clinics. More therapy practices are realising the cost savings, client engagement and retention, in addition to the improved outcomes that Kinva brings.

How has your region supported you in your journey so far?

Northern Ireland punches well above its weight for homegrown, high-calibre tech talent. All of our team members are based in NI – without their skills and expertise, there would be no Kinva.


Based in Belfast, Overwatch is an all-in-one software used by pharmaceutical companies to assist with developing drugs for some of the world’s most critical illnesses including cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. By aiming to reduce the high failure rate of clinical trials in the pharmaceutical industry largely caused by poor quality preclinical data, Overwatch’s software greatly increases the reliability of data and eliminates errors experienced in commonly performed studies by 100%. CEO Chris Armstrong tells us more.

How does it feel to be a Rising Stars regional winner?

We are delighted to be recognised as a Rising Stars 4.0 regional winner. This has been a game-changer for other businesses in previous years and we are excited for the opportunity that lies ahead for Overwatch.

How has your region supported you in your journey so far?

We have received great support from Tech Nation Northern Ireland in the form of general startup support and introductions to investors.

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