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Best funded start-ups in the UK

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A ‘start-up’ refers to any new business that is under five years old and that intends to grow beyond its founder. Even the world’s most valuable companies began their lives as humble start-ups. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk, all began their enormously successful business careers as hardworking start-up directors with a small but unique product paired with passion, dedication, and a big vision.

The UK has the third-highest start-up creation rate in the world, which is an impressive statistic when you consider that above it are only the USA and India, two of the most populous countries. The UK’s high ranking in start-up creation is reflective of the fact that 64% of UK workers say they have dreams of starting their own business. There was a rise in the creation of start-ups in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic as business-minded people were not deterred by an increasingly unstable economy. A combination of low interest rates, government support, and more online shopping encouraged many entrepreneurs to take the plunge and begin their startup dreams.

However, despite the high uptake, the statistics around start-ups are sobering. A staggering nine out of ten start-ups will eventually close, with 50% closing shop within the first five years and 70% dissolving within a decade, by which point they are technically no longer start-ups.

But what about the successful start-ups, the start-ups that stand out above the rest and persuade investors that they have something new and innovative to bring to the market? Cloud accounting company Ember researched and analysed new businesses in the UK between 2020 and 2021 to find out which were the best funded UK start-ups in those years. We are going to look at what their research revealed and the companies they found to be among the best funded start-ups in the UK.

What are the best funded start-ups in the UK?

Ember’s research revealed Inigo Limited, a specialist insurance company, to be at the top of the list with $800m of funds invested since their founding in 2020. In second place was the London-based insurance firm Ki Insurance with $500m in total funding. The third highest-funded start-up of 2020-21 was the industrial-scale bitcoin mining operator Genesis Digital Assets, also based in London.

To conduct their research, Ember analysed Crunchbase data to discover companies founded at the start of 2020 through to the summer of 2021 and identify those with the highest total funding since their inception. Commenting on the findings, a spokesperson for Ember stated: “It is thrilling to see that, even in spite of the recent pandemic, start-ups within various sectors are receiving substantial funding in order to conduct their business. The top ten businesses have generated more than $1.8 billion in funding, so it’s clear that the British start-up scene is in rude health.”

So let’s jump in and take a look at the details of what Ember found.

Where are the best funded start-ups in the UK?

On average, an incredible 700,000 start-ups are founded each year in the UK and almost a third of these are started in London. In 2019, for example, 681,704 new businesses were founded in the UK and 221,373 of these were based in London.

Although Inigo – the top-ranking start-up based on Ember’s research – is based in Bracknell, the majority of the best funded start-ups in the UK were found to be based in London, with seven of the top ten firms on the list being based in the capital.

With such a large population and high financial potential, London is the place where most budding entrepreneurs head to seek their fortune.  

What are the best industries for start-ups?

The list compiled from Ember’s research shows that five of the top ten companies focus on finance and insurance. Despite half of the companies on the list being dedicated to one industry, there is still considerable variation in the types of businesses that generate high levels of funding. Alongside the finance and insurance companies are others in fields as diverse as food delivery and nanotechnology. 

The findings and analysis made possible by this research follow further research carried out by Ember, which revealed retail to be the UK’s best industry in which to start a business. Retail came out on top of the overall industry rankings thanks to one of the highest survival rates, and a healthy ratio of companies being started compared to businesses failing.

Surprisingly, finance and insurance came very low in the rankings of industries most likely to result in business success, despite half of the list of best funded start-ups being comprised of finance and insurance companies. This perhaps shows that when finance and insurance companies succeed, they succeed greatly, but they are still highly unlikely to find success.

How much is invested in UK start-ups?

The levels of investment in the top ten best funded start-ups vary significantly. Inigo Limited at the number one spot received $800m and Primer at number ten had $24m invested. So within the list, there is an incredible range of $776m of investment.

This is representative of a general disparity in start-up investment. It is estimated that each year less than 1% of start-ups receive investment from venture capitalists or angel investors. Investment into the majority of start-ups comes from personal funds or from family and friends.

Let’s now jump in and take a look at the details of some of the top ranking start-ups.

Inigo Limited

At the top of the list of best funded start-ups of 2020 and 2021 was specialist insurance firm Inigo Limited. Inigo is a Bracknell based start-up that has received $800m in funding since its founding in 2020.

Inigo Limited offers specialist insurances in several areas including property, shipping, energy, and terrorism and political violence. They received the majority of their staggering $800m investments from a group of blue chip global investors.

Ki Insurance

In second place in the list of best funded start-ups in the UK was Ki Insurance, based in London. Ki insurance has been labelled as “the first fully digital and algorithmically driven Lloyd’s syndicate”. Brokers access Ki through the digital platform and within three clicks they get an automated offer in real-time.

Originally announced in March 2020, Ki Insurance offers subscription-based, algorithmic underwriting for a variety of risks. Since its inception, the company has gained $500m in total funding. The majority of their investments have come from two large investment companies.

Best funded start-ups in the UK

Genesis Digital Assets

The third highest funded start-up in the UK between 2020 and 2021 was the Bitcoin mining operator Genesis Digital Assets, also based in London. The firm recently released its Q2 reports, highlighting what it referred to as the “emerging role of Ethereum and Decentralized finance (DeFi)” in the industry. As of July 2021, Genesis Digital Assets claim to be running 2.6% of the Bitcoin network.

The start-up launched in May of 2021 with funding of $125m since its inception. Much of the investment into Genesis Digital Assets came from a single private equity firm.

Summary

The list compiled by Ember represents the best funded start-ups in the UK between 2020 and 2021. This means that the companies have persuaded investors to put large amounts of money into a product or service that is relatively new. The level of investment does not guarantee success, but it does suggest that the company has been deemed to have something significant to offer from people with high levels of business acumen.

So if you are considering setting up your own business, take a look at the companies on the table compiled by Ember. When it comes to starting a business and thriving in a competitive market, they seem to know what they’re doing.

Full table

RankCompanyCompany LocationTotal FundingSector
1Inigo Ltd.Bracknell$800,000,000Financial Services, Insurance
2Ki InsuranceLondon$500,000,000Insurance
3Genesis Digital AssetsLondon$125,000,000Bitcoin, Blockchain, Information Technology
4ZappKent$100,000,000Delivery, Delivery Service, Grocery, Internet, Retail
5Cominds InternationalLondon$69,000,000Business & Management Services
6HeroesLondon$65,000,000E-Commerce, Internet, Marketplace
7Purespring TherapeuticsLondon$62,000,000Biotechnology, Medical
8Smart Nano NIBelfast$58,000,000Nanotechnology
9FinternLondon$44,000,000Banking, Consumer Lending, Financial Services, FinTech, Personal Finance
10PrimerLondon$24,000,000E-Commerce, FinTech, Mobile Payments, Payments

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