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Driving investment for the UK’s AI and machine learning startups

Posted 3 Dec 2019

Despite an increase in the number of early stage investment funds and angel investors, fundraising remains one of the main challenges faced by startups, alongside building a team and customer acquisition. Venture capitalists have become more aggressive in the race to find the $1bn unicorns. American funds have started deploying more of their funds to European startups, without requiring them to move to Silicon Valley (something definitely interesting to watch).

Digital Catapult helps startup community raise investment

Ninety of the startups that Digital Catapult has worked with over the past two years have raised a combined total of over £130M investment, including the recent $40m raised by Immersive Labs, a company that’s part of our Cyber 101 programme. Digital Catapult worked very hard in the past three months to put together an investment ready programme for the startups on our AI programme, Machine Intelligence Garage, and piloted three full days of investment related workshops and office hours in the build-up to our investor showcase.

These sessions discussed the essentials of raising a seed round, delved into best practices for an EIS/SEIS round, looked at the metrics to get from seed to series A and what it means to raise from international investors.

As part of the programme the 60+ Machine Intelligence Garage startups were offered the opportunity to meet a variety of seed and series A funds, including Playfair Capital, MMC Ventures, Octopus Ventures, Passion Capital, Nauta Capital, InreachVentures, Syndicate Room, SpeedInvest, IQ Capital, Forward Partners, Startup Funding Club and Beringea.

“Digital Catapult’s investor day was one of the best I have been to this year – high quality founders using cutting edge AI, computer vision and other technologies to build companies right in our sweet spot “ says Playfair Capital.

Machine Intelligence Garage investor showcase

This year’s showcase included an investor panel that discussed the learnings from previous years of Machine Intelligence Garage, the sales cycle and the numbers that investors should look at. For the first time, the showcase encouraged the investors to consider the ethics of their investment, namely considering what the person buying a product would do with the technology. Lessons from the past included dismissing the hype behind machine learning, instead paying close attention to the actual capability of the product and opportunities of investing in AI technology products.

Cohort companies looking for investment

Eleven companies presented their solutions in healthtech, construction, proptech, market optimisation, manufacturing, waste management and more. These companies are:

  • Abtrace uses AI to extract clinical meaning from healthcare notes building advanced decision support tools to reduce variation in care across the NHS.
  • Barendler Engineering takes people out of dangerous environments and replaces them with industry leading roboticised inspection systems that improve what humans can see and do.
  • Using 3D computer vision and big data analytics, the AI-based analytics platform that Contilio built fully automates the critical construction progress and quality reporting processes.
  • is an artificial intelligence and machine learning open banking platform that aims to democratise banking data for the benefit of consumers and small businesses.
  • Greyparrot provides AI-based computer vision solutions to power the next generation robotics and smart systems for the waste management industry, a $530 billion market by 2025.
  • Machines with Vision provides accurate and reliable positioning in urban environments by mapping the ground surface and using this like a fingerprint to identify vehicle location.
  • The community based platform for open AI, Remo, provides a place to share, access, develop and deploy the latest AI research.
  • Singular Intelligence is automating commercial decisions in the consumer goods industry.
  • Smartia is unlocking billions of pounds of industrial productivity through the power of artificial intelligence and the internet of things.
  • Using AI to transform the way knowledge is shared globally, connects businesses to experts with pinpoint accuracy, providing the insights needed for intelligent product development, market research and investment analysis.
  • Unlocking the full potential of female athletes – WILD.AI is an AI-based coach for active women, providing them with knowledge and personalised and adaptive recommendations.

After last year’s showcase, ChAI, an AI platform forecasting tool for commodities, closed their first £200K equity investment rounds.

“We raised our first angel round as a result of the investor showcase at Digital Catapult. The training and connections we made there as part of that process have led us to the conversations we are currently having in relation to a much more substantial seed round – which are hopefully close to concluding. This is the path that Digital Catapult / Machine Intelligence Garage put us on almost a year ago, not just through the pitching training / event, but also in many other areas. So we are very grateful and doubt very much we would have reached this stage without Digital Catapult’s assistance.” says Tristan Fletcher, the CEO and co-founder.

The Machine Intelligence Garage investor showcase was packed with investors looking at finding the next big UK tech success story and generated lots of exciting conversations – for these eleven companies the fundraising game has begun..