3 min read
Rising Stars 2021: what happened next?
While many business activities ground to a halt over the pandemic, the last six months have been a flurry of events for the winners and finalists of Rising Stars 3.0. With this year’s competition for early-stage scaleups officially open for applications, we look at what’s changed for some of the high-fliers since they impressed our judges at the showcase in February 2021.
Jonathan Lloyd, co-founder and CEO of Manchester-based platform CGHero, has noticed a real step change in fundraising leads since winning Rising Stars.
“We’ve already been approached by investors who saw us in the 12 Days of Scaleups showcase,” he told us in a recent update. “Usually we are the ones chasing them!”
The company, which has developed a platform connecting businesses with computer graphics artists, has clearly been working hard behind the scenes too. It’s hired a number of new employees even in the midst of a pandemic, including a new investment director role – presumably to manage all the interest!
We’ve been approached by investors who saw us in the showcase – usually it’s us chasing them!
Just a month after winning Rising Stars in February 2021, Scotland-based food awareness app LiberEat announced a crucial partnership with The Vegan Society to use their Vegan Trademark to highlight vegan-friendly products and meals on the app. The company has also grown its headcount significantly and appointed a technical director and chief marketing officer in May 2021 to support its growth.
As of June, the fast-growing company is raising £1m investment to expand its user base and roll out more technology features to detect allergen errors in food product information and restaurant menu items
In August 2021 it was announced that Rising Stars winner, healthtech company Elemental Software, would be acquired by healthcare software company Servelec. The Derry-based scaleup retains its headquarters in Northern Ireland, with the CEO of Sheffield-based Servelec saying that it would support Elemental to accelerate its growth plans.
According to Elemental, its social prescribing products saw increased demand over the Covid-19 pandemic, and the acquisition will help embed its software into wider healthcare systems.
B2B pricing tool Bubo.AI announced its international expansion strategy soon after becoming a regional winner at Rising Stars in February, with plans to win clients in South America, Asia-Pacific and continental Europe. In March the company revealed it would enter the Nordic market and open an office in Sweden, having already moved into a bigger office in the North East of England to accommodate its growth.
CEO Alan Timothy directly credits Rising Stars for raising the company’s profile and enabling important client wins. “Being announced as a Rising Stars Regional Winner directly led to us making two sales – out of a total of 8 sales to date,” he said.
In August 2021 Bubo.AI raised £250k follow-on funding specifically to support its global expansion and market entry. Among the number of new hires, the company appointed a chief data scientist to further develop its AI-driven offering.
Being announced as a Rising Stars Regional Winner directly led to us making two sales – out of a total of 8 sales to date
London-based lawtech Definely completed a company rebrand in the six months since winning Rising Stars, where it competed under its former name Define. The scaleup also appointed a head of technology as it continues to develop its legal contract drafting tools. Like other winners, Definely managed to avoid a pandemic-induced downturn, and actually grew its headcount over the half year period.
The Welsh finalist and fintech winner made headlines in April 2021 when Welsh bank Hodge made a ‘landmark investment’ in its mobile payment platform.
CEO Sina Yamani reflected that “winning the awards has meant a lot of new business opportunities, partnerships and even helped with organic recruitment as our brand and company profile is more known”.
To harness the increase in opportunities, Yoello has since appointed a VP of digital integrations and partnerships, and a head of strategic partnerships.
Winning the awards has meant a lot of new business opportunities, partnerships and even helped with organic recruitment as our brand and company profile is more known
Edtech company Supply Well secured an equity fundraising of £500k during the pandemic, led by Liverpool-focused fund manager MSIF. The company plans to quickly expand both its operations and national uptake of its digital recruitment platform.
The Liverpool-based scaleup has added a head of engagement and a strategy director in the last six months.
Jessica Jones, CEO of Welsh career tech startups Iungo Solutions, highlights the informal benefits the company has experienced since participating in and being named a regional winner of Rising Stars.
“Taking part in Rising Stars helped us meet investors, gain useful feedback and learn about the investment process,” she explained. “I’ve grown my peer network and formed great relationships with other companies in the competition. Rising Stars has really helped us be taken seriously by the Welsh government, leading to investment through their initiatives.”
Rising Stars has really helped us be taken seriously by the Welsh government, leading to investment through their initiatives