StartUpBuzz



At AIN, we celebrate connecting investors to back the great businesses of tomorrow, whatever they do. With this in mind, our latest round up includes a new form of property marketplace, a platform using AI to reinterpret education and a company making new types of soup!

Soupologie

Soupologie

Whilst you may think there isn’t much to differentiate soup, Soupologie would beg to differ. Soupologie makes award winning soups and ready meals that are driving a number of innovations including: the world’s first ‘5 a day soup’ and ‘first free from the 14 main allergens soup’. 

Capitalising on the plant based movement, the company has achieved strong growth and has even released two cookbooks. With an exit focused management team and strong revenue growth, the company is on a fantastic path.

Key Facts

– On track for £3.2m revenue in Y/E May 22

– Products sold at Waitrose, Tesco, Ocado and leading supermarkets 

– Over 21k+ followers on social media  

“Soupologie have steadily built a strong business core around an innovative product range. Alongside executing the fundamentals of the business brilliantly, they amplify the brand exceptionally well through wide reaching media campaigns and an enviable following. The combination is powerful and we knew it was something that our network would be keen to see” Sam Louis. 

Find out more about Soupologie here.

Vesta

Vesta

Vesta is a marketplace for buying and selling rental property, and has sold over £50 million of property since it’s launch in 2018. 

It’s the leading marketplace of it’s kind covering buy-to-let, student accommodation, and portfolio properties for example. The properties often come with a tenant in place – if you buy a property with a tenant in place, the tenant is happy as they don’t need to find somewhere else to live, and the buyer is happy as they have an immediate rental income. 

Key Facts

– The rental market is expected to be £1.7 billion by 2025 

– Vesta has a growing pipeline currently worth £100 million.

– Revenue currently > £20k a month

“This is a space that has been of interest to me for some time and Vesta clearly sets out what the investment options and how much I can hope to generate from the moment I buy the property” Xavier Ballester.

Find out more about Vesta here.

Habitat Learn 

Habitat Learn

Habitat Learn is an ecosystem of products designed to remove the barriers of learning. With the ethos that ‘when online learning works better for all students; all students work better.’

Habitat Learns comprises a suite of products easily integrating into existing education technology. This includes: 

– Video conferencing software, designed specifically for education, as well as providing high quality live stream content, there is AI captioning and translation, and digital watermarks to safeguard IP. 

– Advanced analytics including everything from live recording, invoicing and student attendance records

– An option to get notetakers to take notes remotely. 

Key Facts: 

– Projecting £3m revenue in 2021, (£600k: 2020)

-185 customers (universities and colleges) including Harvard, Yale and Cornell

– Experienced team founding multiple successful startups 

“With lockdown Edtech has seen a real surge but I also looked back to my uni days where I spent most lectures frantically scribbling and missing half of what was said… Oh to have had Habitat Learn!” Xavier Ballester. 

Find out more about Habitat Learn here.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

Emerging from the pandemic – Startup sentiment in the UK and USA

Angel Investment Network, the world’s largest angel investment platform, surveyed the views of startups in the USA and UK to see how they have responded more than a year and a half after the pandemic first hit. This involved interviews with 1,205 startups in the USA and 667 in the UK. The key findings in the overall report we have published are:

1) Confidence returning
Similar numbers in both territories are now positive about the next 12 months. In the USA 76% of respondents are now confident about the next year, with 72% confident in the UK. However more US startups are very optimistic about the future, 52% against 42% in the UK. This could of course be down to a naturally more upbeat mindset but the research also reveals some particular challenges in the UK – for example the impact of Brexit. Meanwhile 70% of respondents in the USA are confident about the country retaining its status as a ‘startup hub’, versus 65% in the UK.

2) Networking and bootstrapping have been ways of mitigating stalled investment
62% of US startups have seen growth negatively impacted with 59% in the UK negatively impacted. The research also reveals the similar approach to mitigating the impact of stalled investment. The top strategy adopted in both countries was focusing more on networking. Other strategies adopted included delaying launch plans, holding back on marketing and hiring and  bootstrapping businesses as far as possible..

3) Raising investment is biggest challenge goingforward
Raising investment remains the biggest challenge going forward and there is a firm belief in both countries that government has a key role in making the conditions more favourable through tax relief. The report also looked at the biggest bugbears for startup founders. Number one in both countries was investors demanding too much of a stake in the business. Time consuming due diligence was also a pressing concern as were very slow rejections.

As we look forward, startups in the US and UK can be the engine room of economic recovery in both countries – nurturing their growth is vital.

Here is the full report

#BehindTheRaise with Euclideon Holographics

Derek Van Tonder shares the story of Euclideon Holographics and the key learnings from taking it through multiple rounds of funding, including the importance of benchmarking your company for investors and building meaningful relationships:

Tell us about what got you into start ups: 

Euclideon Holographics was founded because we tried out traditional Virtual Reality helmets and we really didn’t like them – we hated the cord, the screens in front of our eyes were awful because we couldn’t see anything, and most importantly, they gave us motion sickness. So we decided to solve that problem by removing the screens in front of your eyes and moving them onto the walls around you to solve all these problems with VR, and Euclideon Holographics was born.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Our products have been very successful and many customers even purchased them before they were properly finished (in beta) – we are using this success to prove to investors that their funds can make a good profit when we use investment money to set up warehouses and showrooms around the world. 95% of our customers have seen our holograms in person before committing to purchase, so it makes sense to put showrooms closer to our customers, and that requires investment capital. We are also using fundraising as a way to network with new partners. Many of our investors end up working with us in the business, for example by becoming a representative for our products in a far-flung region of the world that we normally would not easily be able to access. Since they are shareholders, they are passionate about our company and it works very well.

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

Be careful of scammers, using a service like Angel Investment Network greatly reduces the number of shady people you will have to deal with. Make sure that you understand your market very very well – investors don’t just want to know how much you could sell if only 1% of the market bought your products – they need better and more realistic estimates than that. Ideally, you should have proved that people want to buy your product/service before raising investment. Investors may love everything about your company and technology but could be scared away by the risk factor – you have to be absolutely transparent about risk with investors. If you have debts, disclose those. If you are at all cagey about disclosing financials, many investors will see this as a big red flag. The gold standard is to have an independent, 3rd party accountant sign off on a copy of your balance sheets before you raise capital. Every serious investor will ask for this, and rightly so. Investors also like you to be very clear about what’s in it for them – you should not give “pie in the sky” and overly optimistic projections and forecasts. Instead, try to find companies similar in size and scope to your own and use them as a benchmark for comparison purposes. For example, we use the company Tritium, they are literally in the same street as our HQ, with a similar number of employees, and they are also an Aussie technology manufacturer with their own factory. Because they are very similar we can show them to investors and talk about their great success story.

What attracted investors to your company?

Shareholders of Euclideon Holographics are interested in a long-term pre-IPO Intellectual Property play, they are investing with us because we have a lot of unique IP and patents, we have proven that customers want to buy our products, and we are offering new Hologram products not seen before that solve a lot of the problems with Virtual Reality. And we also support popular 3D simulation engines like Unreal and Unity. Manufacturing our products in Australia is also seen as a big advantage to our customers, particularly with regards to our military clients, Australia is seen as a “safe” and friendly country by military buyers. Australia is viewed favourably as a hi-tech and very stable Western democracy so that also helps us.

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

At first, only emailing investors and not touching base with them in other ways. You should reach out to them on LinkedIn, send text messages, phone them, everything possible – otherwise you will never know whether your important email got stuck in their spam/junk filter. The absolute gold standard is to have a Zoom call with every investor. Investors like to invest in people. You need to meet them somehow, ideally in person if you can.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

AIN has consistently delivered quality investors to us over the years as we have expanded our operations. We now have an excellent shareholder list and many of our shareholders are actively involved in helping us distribute our products and find new opportunities and clients all over the world.

What has the funding enabled?

We use our funding for expansion and to fund R&D on new products. For example, our first foray onto AIN netted us $700,000 (AUD) of investment, which we subsequently used to refine and commercialise our Hologram Table product, which is now our 2nd most popular bestseller.

Keen to hear more?

Listen to Derek in the extra video for #BehindTheRaise:

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

Majority of US startups very optimistic about the next 12 months

A majority of US startups (52%) are now ‘very optimistic’ about the next 12 months, despite 62% seeing business growth negatively impacted by the pandemic. This was a key finding of a new study of US startup sentiment 18 months after the start of the pandemic, by Angel Investment Network (AIN). The study of 1,205 US based startups found 76% expressed optimism overall with 19% quite optimistic and 52% very optimistic, versus just 24% who were pessimistic. It followed on from a similar survey we conducted of UK startup sentiment last month.

The results show the extent to which confidence has returned to early stage businesses Stateside, who are emerging strongly from the downturn. Of the 62% of respondents who revealed they had been negatively impacted by COVID, 37% had been ‘very negatively impacted’. Meanwhile 63% of those who had been planning to raise funds said they had delayed a raise as a result of COVID.

Top strategies to mitigate the impact of stalled fundraising were: Focusing more on networking, favoured by 46% of respondents, holding off launch plans (38%) and bootstrapping instead (32%), with a similar number delaying marketing.

Entrepreneurs were also asked what their biggest challenges were going forward. The top result given was raising investment (84%), hiring/recruiting the right talent (22%) and product development (22%). Ongoing COVID issues were a problem for 13% of those polled. 

US startups also believe more Government action is needed to encourage investment and help startups flourish. 57% favour making tax relief more generous to boost angel investment, 32% making R&D tax relief more generous and 22% lowering corporation tax. 70% of respondents are confident the US will retain its place as a startup hub.

AIN has seen surging growth on its platform with connections between entrepreneurs and investors up by 23% since the start of the year. Meanwhile revenues have increased by 40% to a new record, indicating the huge pent up demand from startups now seeking funding. 

According to Mike Lebus, founder of AIN: “It is encouraging to see how US startups have shown their mettle to ride out this really difficult period and emerge battle tested and with high levels of confidence. Many have been negatively impacted but have used their time wisely to build up their pipeline of contacts and bootstrap their businesses as far as they can go. RaIsing investment remains the biggest challenge going forward and as the world’s largest angel investment platform, we have been encouraged by seeing a record number of connections between investors and startups.” 

How did you respond to the pandemic?

  1. Focused more on networking: 46%
  2. Held Off launch plans: 38%
  3. Bootstrapped instead: 32%
  4. Delayed marketing: 32%
  5. Held off making hires: 27%
  6. Had to let staff go: 20%
  7. Relied on business loan: 19%
  8. Pulled back from R&D: 12%

What could the Government do to help?

  1. Make tax relief more generous to boost angel investment: 57%
  2. Make R&D tax relief more generous: 32%
  3. Lower corporation tax: 22%
  4. Offer more clarity on COVID restrictions: 14%
  5. Make it easier to provide VISAs for recruiting the right talent: 13%

What are your biggest challenges going forward?

  1. Raising investment: 84%
  2. Hiring/recruiting the right talent: 22%
  3. Product development: 22%
  4. Ongoing COVID issues: 13%
  5. Consumer sentiment: 12%

Behind the Raise with eleXsys Energy

Richard Romanowski is co-founder and Executive Director of eleXsys Energy. eleXsys has developed a unique, international award-winning, enabling technology that will drive the transition of global energy grids to a clean energy future.

Tell us about eleXsys and how you came up with the idea?
My co-founder, Dr. Bevan Holcombe, was a senior engineer at an Australian distribution utility with 30 years’ experience and was working on how to decarbonise the local suburban grid.  I was a cleantech angel investor, looking for fabulous ideas.

The biggest issue to local decarbonisation is that the grid was designed as a one way grid. Bevan was trying to find a way to solve this problem, that is, the very limited grid hosting capacity of renewables due to the one-way grid design. He could not find a solution anywhere so in 2012 we decided to team up and started a company now called eleXsys Energy to solve this problem.

eleXsys in simple terms turns the one-way grid into a two-way grid in a cost effective manner enabling a huge increase in local renewables that the grid can host or accommodate in each suburb.

When we started eleXsys, Bevan and I had a vision that discovering a way to turn the one way grid into a two-way grid would be our contribution to saving the Great Barrier Reef by speeding up global distribution grid decarbonisation.

Over the last 9 years eleXsys developed a unique, international award-winning, enabling technology that will drive the transition of global energy grids to a clean energy future.

Why did you decide to raise investment?
The co-founders, Bevan and Richard, are the initial high net worth investors.  We invested over $7.5 M USD of our own money.  Then some friends and close associates also invested almost another $4.0 M USD.  We had developed an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and a few field demonstrations and planned a slow organic and affordable commercialisation, starting in Australia. Then slowly going global as we knew Australia was a few years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of grid hosting capacity problems due to so much rooftop solar we have Down Under.

Then we won the World Energy Council (WEC) global start up award in 2019. When we won the award, the WEC Secretary General at the time (Christoph Frei), challenged us as follows, he said:

“This technology is game changing; you need to think 100 time bigger” …. that is, we need you to help speed up global decarbonisation and fast!

Since 2019 that is what we set out to do, and in that vein, we needed much more investment to speed up commercialisation and go global faster.

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?
It’s never easy, the 1st time or the 10th time. Be prepared to spend a large amount of time raising funds and listen and learn from every pitch. If they say no, ask why. Always be raising and expect to pitch to 50 or more before you hit any jackpot.

What attracted investors to your company?
The IKEA flagship project in Australia which helped investors realise how eleXsys can radically speed up global decarbonisation in the local suburbs.  The IKEA project represents a microgrid at up to 10 times bigger than what current Smart Invert technology and grid constraints would allow.  So up to 10 x greater energy savings for the tenant, up to 10 x more rooftop rent for the landlord, plus up to a 10 x larger $ project for the asset owner (e.g. solar and battery power plant) to earn a secure, uncurtailed ROI over 20 years.

My biggest fundraising mistake was…
Not listening at first to potential investors.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?
A very supportive, understanding, and innovative group with a focus on ESG (Environmental – Social – Governance) investing. We are now raising our Pre IPO round.

What has the funding enabled?
The main focus was fine tuning our global expansion plans through our planned licensing model. Licensing allows us to scale global quickly as opposed to originating, developing, and building microgrid projects ourselves, which would be a very slow and cumbersome process.

Through licensing our vision is that eleXsys becomes the “Intel Inside” of the global local renewables supply chain.  That is, almost everyone is using eleXsys in their local suburban renewables projects to speed up global decarbonisation.

Did you know that filling every roof with solar could generate > 120% of Australia’s total electrical needs? Same should apply across the global sunbelt ≈ 75% of world’s population.

Cannot be done – local distribution grids will not integrate this much distributed energy due to grid physics limitations (curtailment) due to one-way grid design

Grid curtailment of DER (Distributed Energy Resources) begins to occur when the utility hits ≈ 15% of customers with DER, making projects non bankable .eleXsys cost effectively solves this fundamental problem one-way grid problem.

So far, we have one Master Licensee MOU signed and are negotiating with four more. Plus, established a few Alliance Partners licensees within Australia to be the sales channel and EPC of projects.  Some of the Alliance Partners are global multinational using Australia as a test bed eleXsys licensee, with the intention to then become a global licensee.

Plus the funds are being used to enhance our manducating capability along with recruiting more staff to support the faster growth.

Matching Diverse Talent With Fast Growing Startups

At Angel Investment Network, we strive to partner with pioneering organisations that support startups in ecosystems around the world, Silicon Roundabout have a mission to help get more young people into work at exciting startups, whilst helping unblocking some of the challenges in hiring that startups incur. 

Franceso Perticariari, Managing Partner of Silicon Partner Ventures explains more in the guest blog post below:

At Silicon Roundabout we are working with the UK Government to help youngsters from all backgrounds and who are eager to break into the startup industry to get their feet off the ground and venture into their dream career.

As part of the programme, we help companies by offering a diverse pool of junior staff, aged 16-24, at no cost for 6 months, whilst helping these candidates gain work experience, so they can get their foot in the door in the tech world.

Our mission is to help increase diversity in tech by being the pathway for young people from all walks of life and varying backgrounds to find work with cool tech startups and develop the skills needed to build a career in today’s digital market.

We would all like to see an exciting, diverse tech industry! 🙌

Here are the jobs we currently train for:


– Junior Marketing Executive

– Junior Business Developer

– Office Executive

– Junior Graphic Design and Video Editing

– Junior Programmer

– Junior Bookkeeper

– Junior Project Manager

– Junior Data Analyst

Business qualifying will be able to apply for and hire candidates through our new, easy to use, platform and receive 6 months worth of wages for them! This includes NI & minimum employer contributions.

What happens at the end of the 6 month placement? Businesses have the opportunity (but not the obligation) to offer the junior employee a job at their company.

We already have 300+ employers on board and have successfully delivered the scheme to help 100+ youngsters with little to no experience and from all backgrounds, gender, and beliefs get training and join these employers. In fact, we’ve recently hired four junior members of staff ourselves who went through this very same process and training, which we designed as startup founders ourselves for startup founders. So far everyone is enthusiastic about the results and we really think this can have a profound impact for both companies and people.

Startups can sign up to Silicon Roundabout’s here .

The T&CS:

Companies will need to pay these junior employees through their own payroll. We will then refund them using the Government funding after only 4-6 weeks from each payroll paid. No claiming needed. As long as the candidates are paid via the company’s payroll, We will automatically receive funds from the Government and transfer them over to them.

During the first month of our 6 month programme, candidates will be trained through our top digital bootcamps, which are also funded through the scheme.

#SixtySecond StartUp with Telbee


Nicholas Phair shares why he thinks online voice messaging is the future in this month’s #SixtySecondStartUp.

  1. What does your company do?

Online voice messaging. We help businesses build trust with their audiences using the most powerful tool they have… their voices. Our online voice recorders can be added to websites, workflows, social media and more, and used in online and offline campaigns to hear from customers, followers and fans and engage in two way asynchronous voice conversations. 

  1. Why did you set up this company?

    To go back to basics. Voice has always communicated far more than typed text alone – emotion, emphasis, connection – and we saw an opportunity to bring the same ease and utility of voice messaging found in consumer apps such as WhatsApp and FB Messenger to help businesses better engage with their own customers.
  1. How did you get your first customer? 

By asking them to pay! It seems like an obvious point but it’s a lot harder than you think. Believing in your product means putting a price tag on it, and asking people to pay. Thankfully our first customer, a prominent podcaster in the US, saw the value immediately.

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

… we received this early testimonial: “I’m just massively impressed with this entire thing. I’m kind of shocked that it doesn’t really exist to this level, and we can see this being extraordinarily helpful for us.” 

Reading these words, after months of hard slogging in product and planning was golden. When our next 10 customers signed up organically and mirrored the above, we knew that if we kept going we’d succeed.

  1. Our business model: 


Freemium self-serve SaaS with consultative sales to the enterprise. In short: people sign up free on www.telbee.io to experience what voice messaging can do for them and their businesses. We limit the amount of voice messages that can be sent and received to 60 minutes per month and the service remains free (forever) until you decide you need more features, or want unlimited messaging minutes. And for larger businesses and enterprises we offer custom white labelled solutions and integrations specific to their needs. 

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Hands down it’s been word of mouth – which shouldn’t be a surprise since we’re all about speaking and listening! 

  1. What we look for when recruiting:

We ask why they want to work with us, and listen keenly to the answer. When the whys are strong enough the hows take care of themselves – or so the famous saying goes. We look for people that want to build something truly unique and grow personally and professionally with the business. 

  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

Putting the cart before the horse, and investing in sales and marketing capabilities before breaching that elusive threshold of comfort in finding product/market fit – and while that threshold keeps shifting, mistakes keep coming, but ultimately they are there to make us grow! 

  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:


Our voice is what makes us human – and in recent times the rise of automation, artificial intelligence, and lockdown-inducing pathogens, have highlighted the importance of building and cultivating real human relationships. We’ve seen an explosion in voice applications across the board, from podcasts, to voice assistance to new types of short and long form voice-based social media. Whilst we are still in the exploratory stage of this nascent sector, what is certain is that businesses everywhere are beginning to see the trust-building benefits of asynchronous voice communication for sales, support and retention. This is only the beginning – and there is so much to be excited about. 

  1. We worked with AIN because:

We worked with AIN because they gave us access to investors globally. As a UK company but with a product relevant worldwide, we knew that part of what we wanted from investors was to extend our market reach beyond our existing network. AIN allowed us to speak with investors from the US and Asia as well as the UK.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY

The US Government recently made a headline-grabbing commitment to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions, while the UK committed to an even steeper 78% carbon reduction by 2035. So the question on everyones’ lips is how to achieve this while ensuring economic growth continues? The solution to marrying a low carbon future with answering our continuing energy needs lies in innovation and the ideas of many brilliant startups now seeking funding.

For our latest in depth focus article, Olivia Sibony, CEO of SeedTribe takes a look at sustainability and the development of startups that have the power to help save the planet. Olivia has recently been recruited by the Government to advise on the impact-focused startups we should be encouraging to set up in the UK.  

THE NUMBERS

Size of market
The global Green Technology and Sustainability market size is anticipated to grow from USD 11.2 billion in 2020 to USD 36.6 billion by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 26.6% according to Report Linker 

On the platform
– Renewables became the 11th most popular keyword for searches in the past year, a rise of 37 places compared to 2018. 
– This trend is being replicated by other popular keywords being used at the moment. During the pandemic Greentech became the 13th most popular keyword, up from 47th two years ago.

What is the reason for the soaring interest in sustainable focused startups during the past year?

I think the change really started snowballing in 2019. The mood music had changed on the back of consumer activism and changes to government policy. From Greta Thunburg to the Extinction Rebellion there was a concerted effort to ensure climate change became top of the agenda. It worked. Governments and businesses suddenly started making dramatic commitments to cutting carbon. While it might have been expected that investors would be retreating from these categories in favour of safer investment opportunities during the pandemic, the exciting news was these businesses are actually generating more interest from investors. 

Concerted government policy worldwide is certainly helping, along with increasing grants from the UK Government to stimulate innovation in this space. In order to hit these ambitious targets, innovation will be critical. Investors know this and so are backing the early stage startups with the vision to help governments and business in general hit these ambitious targets. We are also seeing something of a shift in the investor profiles, with some younger millennial investors coming to the fore who have purpose very much as their watchword. For many investors, rather than a ‘nice to have’ having purpose baked into their business plan is becoming a prerequisite for receiving backing.

What are investors saying about sustainability?

Investors are starting to see ESG measurements and reporting being embedded into listed companies and realising that the more they invest in companies that do this from the outset, the better chance they have of succeeding as they scale. It’s important to note that a lot of investors are interested in this segment but struggling to understand it, as there’s a sliding scale of shades of grey in what the “impact” and investment spaces, ranging from profit-first to impact-first. 

Our belief is that there shouldn’t need to be a compromise, so that profit and purpose are perfectly aligned and inextricably intertwined. The key difference is that it’s important to take a long-term view as some of the growth may be slower, but in the long term it’s more sustainable so has a better horizon for long-term profit. So investors are interested in this space but need help understanding the change in growth curve. When investors understand that growing consumer demand (culture), coupled with an increase in regulation (policy, systemic change) are driving this growth, it’s a clear path for investment for anyone looking beyond a three year horizon for their investments.

What innovations are most needed to power sustainability?

The three key areas of focus should be circular economy, carbon-capturing technology and renewable energy. We need a big focus on the entire food and agriculture chain where farming needs to capture carbon, food should be produced as close to home as possible, vertical farming practices are further developed, food surplus becomes minimal and a resource to turn into energy. Where water from agriculture is clean and no longer contaminates our waterbeds. We need to focus on trapping heat emissions from carbon and methane in order to slow down the melting ice caps. The quicker the ice caps melt, the more gases and unknown bacteria and viruses will be released and the harder it will be to reverse. We’ve already seen the impacts of one single lone virus and this should be a good incentive for us to not release unknown ones that have been trapped in our ice caps for millennia and have potential to cause incalculable damage. 

CASE STUDIES

Zoï environmental network uses its technology to treat and monitor wastewater systems, especially cleaning fats from public drains and pipes. Their core product is an environmentally-friendly system which doses special bacteria to the wastewater system and degrades the fat molecules in the system. The system prevents the development of fatbergs in the sewer & wastewater systems, allowing cleaner water to flow through our systems. Check out this Video of them.

Bionat Solutions is a Certified organic solution applied in the waxing process of fruits, with the aim of providing a longer shelf life without using fungicides or artificial products. The novelty is in the circular alternative made from the same agroindustry residues to increase the useful life of fruits.

Biohm is a multi-award-winning research and development led, bio-manufacturing company. The company enables the use of healthy, environmentally friendly, circular materials like food waste and transforms it into building solutions which can apply across the design and construction industries. This eliminates the concept of waste, demonstrating how business can equitably and ethically work in collaboration with the natural world, industry, academia, government and community.


Zero Carbon Farms has developed a data-driven system 70x more productive than traditional farmland. It uses 100% renewable energy, 70% less water and reduces food miles/food waste. Not only is the produce consistent quality, highly nutritious and herbicide-free, it is also hyper-local and year-round, specialising in subterranean farming.

Join Olivia Sibony on Thursday June 3rd in the next AIN ClubHouse ‘Business as a force for good’ session where she will be discussing how startups can pave the way to a zero carbon future for food production.

Research & Development Relief: An Overview for Startups 

In this guest blog, James Taylor, Director at Dragon Argent, shares his top tips of how start ups can claim R&D tax credits, a useful relief or rebate from HMRC. Here are the key things that you need to know:

Many new businesses spend the first season of their existence researching and developing a concept or a prototype.  They then prove their product market fit, secure their first customers and start generating revenue.  What some founders don’t realise however, is that any project which advances the fields of science or technology are eligible for tax relief, through its annual corporation tax return. 

This extra relief could be as much as 25% of the cost of the project.  For a loss-making company, a cash rebate of up to 33.5% is available in lieu of tax relief, which is often paid within 4 weeks or a successful claim being made.  

This relief or rebate could make a huge difference to a bootstrapping startup and as HMRC believe that 75% of business who could be claiming R&D tax relief do not, it is too often a missed opportunity.  

Does Your Business Qualify?

You can claim R&D relief up to two years after the end of the accounting period of the expenditure. The following criteria are flags that you could be eligible: 

You are innovating, improving, or inventing processes or technologies which are not currently available on the market.

To your knowledge, at the start of the project you have no clear answer of how the project will conclude. This uncertainty proves the first point that the development is producing new knowledge.

You can document evidence of your research and development, and the expenditure relating to these activities

Eligible Costs 

If your company meet the criteria laid out above, you should endeavour to maintain detailed records of every cost associated with the project, including:

Staff costs associated with the project. Some staff may work entirely on the project. In these instances, it is straightforward. Other staff may work a proportion of their time on this project, or on things associated with the project such as recruiting someone to work on the project. Using timesheets or similar, a log should be kept of this proportion as that might be eligible. For example, a staff member who works 30% of their time on the project while on a salary of £30,000 can be deemed a cost of £9,000 on which extra tax relief is available.

Subcontracted staff. On the same basis as above, the costs associated with subcontractors rather than employees is eligible.

Software associated with the project. If software was bought or licensed entirely or in part to service the project, these costs are eligible too.

Consumables. Any utilities or materials used in the project are eligible for tax relief.

Ineligible costs. These include the costs of distributing the goods produced, capital expenditure, rent or rates, and the cost of patents.

R&D Tax Credit Cap 

As part of the Finance Bill 2021, introduced in April, HMRC have announced a cap on the amount that a loss-making SME can receive in R&D tax credits to stop abuse of the scheme.

Currently, loss-making companies can reduce the cost of their R&D by up to 33%. However this amount will be capped at a maximum of £20,000 plus 3 times the total PAYE and NI paid by the company in the year.

HMRC have maintained that the aim of this legislation is to target those who are seeking to abuse the system, rather than genuine claimants. However, SMEs with very few staff, or with directors taking low salaries, may also be affected by this.

If an SME is loss-making, normally claims around £25,000 in R&D credit but whose only employees are directors being paid a non-tax attracting director’s salary will now only be able to claim £20,000, a loss of £5,000 on their previous expectation.

This means that it may become tax-efficient for the company to increase their director’s salary so that it attracts National Insurance so that 3 times that amount can then be reclaimed through R&D. There will be other implications of doing this so it should always be considered in conjunction with these other factors.

HMRC have also included an exemption for any entity who meets the following two tests:

The company’s employees are creating ‘relevant intellectual property’.

Expenditure spent on work subcontracted to a related party makes up under 15% of the total R&D expenditure

The tax relief an R&D claim results in can often make a big difference to startups and SMEs at a critical stage in their development.  Its sensible to seek professional advice to make the process of claiming as efficient and fruitful as possible and also to ensure the business as a whole is tax efficient in respect to the new R&D Cap. 

Start-up Buzz

If there is one positive from the pandemic, it has been the sheer volume of innovation and exciting businesses that are forming and growing as a result, as markets shift and new trends emerge. 

Each month we’ll select a few start-ups that we see as particularly exciting and worth a further look. Here are some of the current highlights: 

Zero Carbon Farms

Farming needs to evolve. Urbanization, population growth and climate change demand it.

Food supply challenges are well documented – Covid-19 has seen empty supermarket shelves and highlighted the need for secure supply chains, awareness of the damage of pesticides and GMO crops is growing, and extreme weather events are making food production more unreliable. 

Enter Zero Carbon Food (ZCF), a cutting edge AgTech company that builds and operates controlled environment farms, providing a future-proof and sustainable solution for growing. This innovative method allows them to use less water, less space and run on 100% renewable energy. Their first farm? It’s 13 storeys below London in a WW2 air raid shelter.

ZCF supplies brands nationwide including M&S, Tesco Whole Foods and is discussing an international licensing agreement. 

ZCF Pitch

Anatome 

Anatome is an innovative healthcare brand, founded by an exited entrepreneur. Built on the founder’s passion for apothecaries of old and combining it with cutting edge science. It’s already on track to turnover £1.3 million and is playing in the global wellness market,with a total size of $7.2 trillion. 

It’s a digital first platform focused on online sales, but also leveraging real world stores to activate customers in premium locations, including Marylebone, Chelsea and Islington.

On top of this it’s FDA approved, has margins in excess of 70% and has developed partnerships with the Hug group and Space NK.  

Anatome Pitch

ClearWaste

ClearWaste is the first platform of it’s kind offering a price comparison site for household waste – it’s effectively Money Supermarket for household waste. 

Founded by a former EY Entrepreneur of the year, the business has gained traction by helping citizens report where rubbish has been illegally left, and councils link it back to the culprit. Each month ClearWaste submits thousands of reports to local communities. 

ClearWaste has over 500 certified waste removal companies on it’s platform, has hit the top 10 on the Apple app store and is projecting £729k revenue this year. 

ClearWaste Pitch