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TMCNet:  Tech Monthly: UK TECH STARTUPS

[January 12, 2014]

Tech Monthly: UK TECH STARTUPS

(Observer (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Brighton Bohemian types, students and a vibrant arts scene all come together to produce a town with creative ideas It has been unexpectedly sunny in Brighton in the last few years - at least as far as its tech scene is concerned. After a long period of underperformance, the city's digital sector seems to have been galvanised by the recession.


According to a recent report conducted by Wired Sussex and local universities, the average digital firm in the area is growing by more than 14% a year, while the sector in Brighton is experiencing jobs growth at more than 10 times the rate of the wider UK economy.

Recent success stories such as Brandwatch (the analytics company profiled below) have shown local tech entrepreneurs that you don't have to move 50 miles north to London to make your business flourish: it can be done very nicely here on the south coast, in more laid-back circumstances with lower costs of living, a wellconnected community and good creative energy.

The crossover between technology and Brighton's vibrant arts scene is part of what makes the city special, according to Wired Sussex's CEO, Phil Jones. "If you want to understand whether there's real value in bringing together learning from the arts and technology, then Brighton is the place to test that proposition." STORYSTREAM Alex Vaidya co-founder and CEO Neil Witten co-founder and CTO Founded 2012 Headcount 14 What is it? An audience-driven storytelling platform for brands.

How did it come about? Vaidya worked at Porsche, where he created an online TV series for the brand, before founding StoryStream. "Brands are recognising the opportunity to bring together what the audience is saying and blend it with their own message," he says.

How does it work? The platform collects relevant content from social networks and across the web, curating it for brands so they can use it to create stories around their products.

How are they doing? Vaidya has maintained his connection with Porsche - "Using our technology, they were able to bring in instant audience reaction around their new car and build that into their microsite" - and the company is also working with Nokia and Getty Images.

BRANDWATCH Giles Palmer founder and CEO Founded 2006 Headcount 160 What is it? A social media monitoring and analytics platform.

How did it come about? With the rise of social media in the mid-2000s, Palmer, who was running a tech agency in Brighton at the time, recognised the need for a search engine to help brands understand how they're being talked about online.

"We codenamed it Brandwatch and never came up with a better name," he laughs.

How are they doing? The company started out with the capacity to monitor 25,000 websites; now it has a reach of 80 million. Brandwatch has offices in Berlin and New York but is still headquartered in Brighton, where it employs nearly 100 people.

BRILLIANT NOISE Jason Ryan co-founder and COO Founded 2011 Headcount 19 What is it? A digital strategy and innovation agency.

How did it come about? The three co-founders were senior members of Spannerworks, a Brighton digital marketing company which was acquired by iCrossing in 2007. "At a certain point, we realised there was a huge opportunity for a strategic digital agency," says Ryan. "Hence Brilliant Noise." How are they doing? "We expected it might take us a bit of time to get going, but within the first three months we were winning strategic work for global brands including Nokia and EDF," says Ryan.

FREEDOM OF THOUGHT Arjo Ghosh mentor and investor Founded 2011 Headcount one What is it? Business planning and consultancy support to founder-managed organisations Background: Ghosh moved from London to Brighton 17 years ago and co-founded the search marketing agency Spannerworks, which was bought by US agency iCrossing for more than pounds 10m in 2007. He stayed on at the company until 2010.

What is he doing now? Since leaving iCrossing, Ghosh has been investing in and mentoring startups in Brighton. He is non-executive director at Brilliant Noise and video production company FatSand, and sits on the enterprise panel at the University of Sussex.

Why Brighton? "It's a very open-minded, friendly scene. About half the startups I see here are aiming to be a social enterprise, they want to make the world a better place." STUDIO GOBO Paul Ayliffe co-founder and art director Founded 2011 Headcount 26 What is it? A boutique games developer.

How did it come about? When Black Rock, a major Brighton games studio owned by Disney, closed down in 2011, a number of smaller companies formed out of the ashes. The original founder, Tony Beckwith, and three other senior Black Rock members joined forces to start Studio Gobo.

How are they doing? "Ironically, two years on we're working with Disney," says Ayliffe. "We developed the Pirates of the Caribbean playset for the Disney Infinity game. It's probably the biggest franchise we've ever worked on - it's great for a new company to be partnered on something so big." EVERY1MOBILE Steve Kingswell COO Founded 2010 Headcount 20 What is it? A for-profit social enterprise helping organisations engage with young people in Africa.

How does it work? The company, which also has an office in Cape Town, delivers information on topics such as education and health to 15-to 35-year-olds across Africa using mobile social networks. "Our technology is designed to work with feature phones on WAP because the penetration of mobiles in Africa is much higher than smartphones or computers," says Kingswell. The company also helps brands engage with Africa's growing middle class.

How are they doing? The firm covers 20 African countries and attracts 3-4 million visits per month. Last June, the company raised $1.7m in angel investment.

VALOBOX Anna Lewis founder Founded 2012 Headcount three What is it? A site that lets you search ebooks online and pay as you read.

How does it work? "We are doing collaborations with publishers so we are adding features like gifting ebooks - we want to make ebooks as accessible as a web page because at the moment there is all this content but it is locked away," says Lewis. "You don't need a Kindle because we reflow all of the texts so that it matches the device you are on, whether that's an iPad or phone or computer." How is it doing? They have a catalogue of 15,000 books and 10,000 signed-up users.

Why Brighton? "There's a good mix of creative and technical expertise here, with a bit more space than London," says Lewis.

THE FUSEBOX Phil Jones CEO Founded 2013 Headcount six What is it? A startup to support startups. "We have a space where businesses can come and work and build their products but also a series of support mechanisms to help them do that. We get contributions from the public sector but also the startups themselves," says Jones, who runs Wired Sussex.

Why Brighton? "The tech scene here is incredibly vibrant and they tend to be ones that marry technology and creativity," explains Jones, who says that a lot of people have come down from London to start their businesses in the city. "It's got a strong arts and bohemian scene and bringing that together with a digital scene is what gives Brighton its edge. Plus there are lots of students and that keeps the ideas fresh." TRIBEHIVE Ian Wakeman founder Founded 2013 Headcount four What is it? An app that provides solutions for situations where smartphones have limited connectivity.

How does it work? "When you go to a football stadium you normally can't get a signal for love nor money," says Wakeman. "This app builds the network directly between all the other phones within the stadium, and then whoever has got connectivity pulls down the current live scores and Twitter feeds and travel news and distributes it directly to everyone in the stadium." How did it come about? Wakeman has been a lecturer in computer science at the University of Sussex for more than 18 years. "The idea came about from going to football matches and looking at my phone for signal and realising there wasn't any," says Wakeman. "When Brighton built a stadium next the university it seemed like a good time to do it." Future plans "We want to work with other football clubs and we're also talking to people in rugby union, rugby league and horse racing." 3DIFY Ian Byrne founder Founded 2013 Headcount three What is it? Portable 3D body scanning and printing.

How does it work? People walk into a giant body scanner, which takes a 3D capture of them. They can then buy 3D figures of themselves for around pounds 30. "We want it to be a very immersive experience," says Byrne.

Future plans To make a robust portable scanner (like a photo booth). "There is a huge call for it in galleries but we would like to take it further than that and we are also looking into using recycled materials." CRUNCH Darren Fell co-founder Founded 2009 Headcount 100 What is it? Online accounting software for small businesses, contractors and freelancers.

How did it come about? "I wanted to challenge the world of accountancy because of my bad experiences," says Fell.

"I quickly realised that we needed software that automates as much as possible the running of your accounts, so that you can send your invoices out to your clients and you can record your receipts. It's like having your own accountant on the end of the phone." How are they doing? They now have more than 4,500 customers and have attracted investment from the chairmen of Bebo anbnd Skype.

Who is using it? "Freelancers, contractors, locums, anyone operating up to a 14-person business. That is perfect to be done online," says Fell.

LIGHTHOUSE LEARNING Danielle Barnetche and Alex McGregor Stewart co-directors Founded 2012 Headcount five What is it? Apps that are based around learning geometry, designed primarily for primary school children.

How are they doing? "We have released two apps and our next step is to expand the topics we cover to include maths and a whole range of other subjects," says McGregor Stewart.

Why Brighton? "The main thing is it has a thriving digital community and there are a lot of entrepreneurial events," says Barnetche.

"On a personal level, it's a great place to be. I'm from San Francisco and there's something a bit more interesting about Brighton because it's up and coming and you don't have that intense startup atmosphere." TAGPOINTS Jess Stephens director and co-founder Founded 2012 Headcount seven What is it? A mobile phone loyalty app that enables retailers to send messages and offers to the customers' mobile phones based on their location, previous spend and online purchases.

How did it come about? "We saw there was a divide between shopping centres and digital offerings and we thought someone needs to close that gap and a mobile app can do just that," says Stephens.

How are they doing? Nine shopping centres are using it in the UK and the firm is now working on deals in the US and in the UAE.

Why Brighton? "Brighton is becoming a tech hub and there is a nice mix between technical talent and creativity. There is a real strong network of tech savvy, friendly people. It's perfect." MINGLUR Oliver West founder and director Founded 2012 Headcount three What is it? A conference-call service that offers its customers gifts for using it. How does it work? "Everyone pays for their own calls, as opposed to paying a monthly fee," says West.

"You earn points that can be redeemed for iPads and restaurant vouchers and with this reward scheme you can really earn in a matter of months ." How did it come about? "I'd been using conference calling for a long time and found that there were problems with them all, from the quality of the line not being up to scratch to the cost. Plus we found there was no real loyalty to any brand so we thought, let's set one up ourselves that is better." Edinburgh The ancient university city is now punching well above its weight in numbers of thriving startups Edinburgh has been courting the spotlight this last year. In November, 49 years after Peter Higgs identified the Higgs boson particle, the Edinburgh physicist won the 2013 Nobel prize. Last month, the University of Edinburgh climbed to its highest ever place in a global rankings list to be named the 17th best university in the world. Amid such positivity, it is perhaps not surprising that the energetic Scottish capital has also become a hotbed of tech innovation and young startups.

Although a relatively small city - its population stands at half a million - in terms of startups, it is punching well above its weight. The intellectual creativity of an ancient university city has been complimented by generous government-backed schemes, while a successful incubator programme, TechCube , which provides office space, networking opportunities and mentoring support to promising young digital firms, is helping evolve ideas that began as pet projects and distractions from day jobs into commercially robust ventures.

"We host events at our offices, we sponsor tech meetups and we talk at events," says Gareth Williams, co-founder of Skyscanner, the flight search site that employs more than 350 people and is valued at $1bn. "I don't see other startups as competition, really. The larger the number of startups based in Edinburgh the better for all of us." FANDUEL Lesley Eccles co-founder and Nigel Eccles co-founder and CEO Founded 2009 Headcount 62 What is it? A fantasy sports tournament operator, whose customer base is entirely in the US.

How does it work? "Take a fantasy football league, curtail it into one week or a day, pay an entry fee, and at the end of the day you know whether they've won or lost," say Lesley. "It's all about instant gratification, rather than waiting for a whole season." How did it come about? 36 million people play fantasy sports; Fanduel wanted to make it faster and more immediate.

How are they doing? It's growing fast. "We initially operated only from Edinburgh and then two years ago moved the headquarters to New York," explains Nigel. "We go there every other week. Personnel wise, it's a 50-50 split between the US and Edinburgh." QUORATE TECHNOLOGY Nick Rankin co-founder Founded 2012 Headcount seven What is it? Software that makes audio searchable using technology that converts speech into text.

How does it work? "Our system automatically generates a transcript of what has been said in a conversation and makes the audio searchable by key words," explains Rankin. "So for example, we can automatically generate the transcript of a police interview and so if you wanted to find out the bit in the interview that talked about a white shirt, say, you can type in white shirt and find all the chunks in the conversation where it was mentioned." Why Edinburgh? Quorate is a spin-out from the Centre of Speech Technology Research at Edinburgh University. A group of eight researchers spent eight years developing the system. They work very closely with the research team in order to keep in line with all the latest developments.

Who is it for? "Our target markets are policing, defence, aerospace, troops on patrol and air-traffic control, but the technology can be used for anything, webcast meetings, university lectures and much more," says Rankin.

BLIPFOTO Joe Tree CEO and co-founder Founded 2008 Headcount nine What is it? A photo-sharing site that only lets people upload one photo a day. "It's a website, it's an app, it's the full gamut. We've got our fair share of cats , but people tend to record some of the most poignant moments of their lives," says Tree.

How does it work? "Generally, people write about their photos too and subscribe to each other and comment so they form new connections all the time," explains Tree. "We've had at least one wedding that we know of - just from people on the online community meeting each other." How did it come about? "I decided to take a photograph every day. At the end of 2009 it won a Bafta Scotland award and I thought this has to become a thing in its own right," he says.

Who is using it? Users include Scottish MPs and the Scottish police force, who use it to record everything from crimes that have been committed to events they are attending. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has signed up. It has more than 400,000 users in 180 countries.

DISTRIFY Peter Gerard co-founder Founded 2011 Headcount 12 What is it? A film distribution platform. "People see a movie trailer on the web or on a blog and we put a buy button on the trailer so you can click, pay and watch the film," says Gerard.

How did it come about? "I've been producing and directing documentaries for well over a decade," says Gerard, who is best known for his multi-award winning film The Shutdown and the graffiti documentary Just to Get a Rep.

"The idea came about because my co-founder, Andy Green, and I are both film-makers and the problem with YouTube was that people watch it but there is no way to turn them into a customer." Why Edinburgh? Originally from Missouri, Gerard came to Edinburgh in 2000.

"Edinburgh has a strong documentary and animation team and Scotland provides excellent support for new business. There is a really dynamic scene here." TIGERFACE GAMES Kate Ho managing director Founded 2012 Headcount four What is it? The award-winning TigerFace games build collaborative learning games on tablet devices How does it work? "One of the things parents say is their eight-year-old is doing their times tables and the parent wants to help, but can only really look over their homework," says Ho. "With this, they can play the game together. Parents and teachers love what we are doing." Future plans They have just signed a big distribution deal in the US.

Why Edinburgh? Born in Hong Kong, Ho came to Edinburgh to study computer science and has lived there ever since. "I plan on sticking around," she says. "There's always the temptation to go to San Francisco, but the best thing about Edinburgh is the engineering talent - we're as good if not better than them ." SKYSCANNER Gareth Williams co-founder Founded 2003 Headcount 350 What is it? A search site that compares prices on flights, hotels and car hire.

How did it come about? Back in 2003, Williams was travelling a lot in Europe and found it difficult to find the right flights, so he spent a week programming a tool to help. "I decided that it would make a great website for other users," he says.

Why Edinburgh? Originally based in Edinburgh because Williams got married there, the company has been resolutely growing in part because of the links to the computer science department at Edinburgh University. "After the dot-com bust there didn't feel like there was much of a tech scene here, but it's gradually built up," says Williams.

Advice for new startups? "Have a programmer on your founding team," he says.

Ones to watch? "FanDuel and Blipfoto are doing really good things and Quorate could potentially be a mass-market product." RELAYMED Neil Farish managing director Founded 2012 Headcount nine What is it? A software solution for GPs in the US to connect test devices to electronic records to save them having to transcribe patient's test results.

How does it work? "At the moment, if you do a blood test, a till receipt will come out and that will be passed on and transcribed, whereas with this, as soon as you run the test, it is done," explains Farish.

Why Edinburgh? There are lots of opportunities for government backing in Scotland - earlier this year RelayMed secured pounds 300,000 in public funding to develop the software.

Future plans For the time being they are focusing on the US. "In the UK when you get a test done it gets sent to a lab and you have to wait for the results whereas in the US the tests are done in the doctor's office so there's never any waiting," says Farish. "There, every doctor is like an entrepreneur. They bill the patient or the insurance company or the government and every test costs. Our aim in five years' time, is to be in about 20% of physician practices in the States." FLOAT Colin Hewitt CEO Founded 2010 Headcount five What is it? Cashflow forecasting software for businesses.

How does it work? "Float hooks into your accounting software, lets you set up a bunch of budgets and keeps track of how you're doing against those budgets. It's forward-looking so you always know when you're going to run out of money - or not," says Hewitt. "So many businesses go under because of cashflow and this is an easy way to see how you're doing. " How did it come about? It grew out of Hewitt's bad experiences of running a business using spreadsheets.

Why Edinburgh? "There's such a good startup environment here," says Hewitt. "New computer science graduates are coming in and other startups are really helpful with giving advice ." MIICARD Stuart Fraser CTO Founded 2012 Headcount 13 What is it? A digital verification identity service that lets you prove who you are online.

How does it work? "It's primarily to be used in the buying and selling of regulated financial services," says Fraser. "With use of an identity such as Facebook and Twitter people are used to signing in, but the identity of miiCard is much stronger; we tie you to your accounts." Future plans miiCard is currently doing a deal with a company in the States which will enable you to buy a house and mortgage it purely online.

INSIGHT ARCADE Allan Lloyds founder and managing director Founded 2012 Headcount six What is it? An online platform to connect training providers and organisations for adult learners.

"We're like an eBay or airbnb for training providers," says Lloyds , who has been working on the concept for three years, building the team and working towards the launch next year. Why Edinburgh? "Edinburgh gives us access to the right kind of talented people, access to space and resources and the chance to learn from successful local startups such as Skyscanner," says Lloyds. "Plus there is a real sense of community here." TECHCUBE Jamie Coleman managing director Founded 2012 Headcount 35 businesses What is it? A technology incubator programme that provides office space, networking opportunities and mentoring support to young digital companies. There are now 35 businesses ranging from early-stage companies to really large ones. "Most of them are growing and doubling in size each month," says Coleman.

Why Edinburgh? "Many, but not all, of the companies were started at the university by computer science graduates, and the sorts of graduates that are coming out of here have expertise that are driving the interesting companies that are coming through locally," says Coleman. "We've got the biggest, tightest-knit tech scene in the country -it's not Cambridge, it's Edinburgh." Bristol and Bath Already well-known for electronics and engineering, the region boasts a new and exciting tech generation It would be wrong to call Bristol and Bath an emerging tech cluster. The region is well-established in microelectronics and aerospace engineering and has been a base, in recent decades, for industry leaders such as Hewlett Packard. But now a new generation of smaller tech companies has formed and is building upon existing foundations in diverse and interesting ways. New incubators and workspaces are opening up in Bristol, notably around Temple Meads station, while Bath boasts one of the country's top early-stage tech investors, Eden Ventures.

The two cities are 12 miles apart, but the gap between them has narrowed in recent years: the universities are closely linked through the dynamic SETsquared partnership and their involvement in the Bristol and Bath Science Park , which opened in 2011. Bath-based entrepreneur Glenn Smith notes: "More senior execs in the larger industries in the Bristol cluster are choosing to live in Bath . . . It all combines to form a fantastic base for modern technology companies: experienced management talent with global experience and perspective in Bath, coupled with a hipper technology and media crowd from Bristol." It's a powerful combination.

PERVASIVE MEDIA STUDIO Clare Reddington director Founded 2007 Headcount 147 residents (including 19 companies) What is it? A research lab and community workspace.

How did it come about? The studio grew out of the Watershed, a cross-art-form venue on the harbourside. "We realised there was loads of potential in the creative/tech crossover, but it was reliant on government funding, which was stopstart," says Clare Reddington.

How does it work? Priority is given to applicants who bring new sets of skills to the studio. As well as desk-space and access to events and talks, the studio provides residents with guidance, feedback and support with funding.

Why Bristol? "Partly because of its size, in that it's highly connected, not too massive, and you're able to find other people to collaborate with," says Reddington.

BRIGHTPEARL Andrew Mulvenna co-founder and VP of partnerships Founded 2008 Headcount 100 What is it? A cloud-based business management application that incorporates inventory, accounting, CRM, POS and ecommerce.

How did it come about? Andrew Mulvenna and Chris Tanner founded Lush Longboards in 1999. "Like most retailers, we hit challenges scaling the business," says Mulvenna. "Lacking a budget to buy an expensive business management system, we started to build our own." How does it work? "Brightpearl helps small-to-mid-size retailers by bringing together data from across the business and putting their customers, orders, inventory and accounting all in one place," says Mulvenna.

How are they doing? The company has just launched a strategic partnership with eBay and has so far raised pounds 9m.

Why Bristol? "The biggest advantage is high-quality engineering in the southwest," says Mulvenna.

SETSQUARED BRISTOL Nick Sturge director Founded: 2003 Headcount: 60+ companies; 18 are resident at the centre.

What is it? A university partnership supporting research innovation and accelerating tech startups. How did it come about? It was formed as an enterprise collaboration between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, with the aim of supporting early-stage tech businesses in the region.

How are they doing? "In the last six years, we've helped early-stage companies raise pounds 106m," says Bristol centre director Nick Sturge, "and we've created more than 650 jobs." The partnership was recently ranked fourth best business incubator in the world .

SECONDSYNC Andy Littledale co-founder and CEO Founded 2011 Headcount 15 What is it? Social media analytics for TV.

How did it come about? "We saw a big opportunity in the volumes of conversations going on around TV shows on social media," says Andy Littledale.

How does it work? The company gathers around a million TV-related tweets in the UK every day and tracks the main channels getting traction on Twitter. They present this data in easy-to-read form to broadcasters and advertisers. How are they doing? "We launched our full product in January. By the end of February, we had BBC and ITV signed up," says Littledale. "We also sell data to Sky, Channel 5 and MediaCom, and now we're looking to move into other territories, including the United States, Canada and Australia." BARDOWL Caroline Hoddinott CEO Founded: 2009 Headcount: Four What is it? A streaming subscription service for audiobooks.

How did it come about? The idea to stream audiobooks to mobile on a subscription basis came to Chris Book and his co-founders in 2009, but they didn't launch the iOS app until last June. "The concept was ahead of the market," says CEO Caroline Hoddinott.

How does it work? For pounds 9.99 a month, you can access the entire Bardowl catalogue, which is small but growing - the company has deals in place with a few big publishers such as Penguin and Macmillan, and is in negotiation with several others.

Why Bath? "It does give us space to be very focused; we're not distracted by anything. " MAPLEBIRD Glenn Smith co-founder and CEO Founded 2010 Headcount Three What is it? A company developing very small flapping-wing UAVs.

How does it work? The company is developing tiny insect-like UAVs, or drones, with flapping wings instead of rotors. "Bees are good bad-weather fliers," says CEO Glenn Smith. "They have small wings but beat them really fast and can react very quickly to gusty conditions. That's the principle we're using at MapleBird." How are they doing? It's initially being developed for military use. But Smith anticipates a variety of wider applications: "Police operations, fire-fighting and industrial plant inspection through to personal drones controlled with a smartphone." SURE SENSE Tony Solon co-founder and CEO Founded 2012 Headcount Three What is it? A tablet-based kitchen management system. How did it come about? "Commercial kitchens are obliged to keep records of how food is delivered, stored, prepared and cooked," says CEO Tony Solon. "We set out to automate all those operations and ended up developing a whole kitchenmanagement system." How does it work? The system uses low-cost wireless sensors to take measurements around the kitchen. Information is sent to software designed for iPad and can be accessed remotely via the cloud. Additional apps have been developed along the way to manage a variety of other kitchen operations. How are they doing? They've signed their first contract with an NHS trust in Cornwall, with trials in progress at four other NHS trusts. The company is also working with a local university and has had interest from a major US fast food chain.

BLU WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY Henry Nurser co-founder and CEO Founded 2011 Headcount 18 What is it? A company that designs and licenses silicon IP for multi-gigabit wireless communications.

What does that mean? "It's all about high-definition mobile video," says Henry Nurser, who co-founded the company. "With the advent of smartphones, everyone's expecting to have video on the go and the operators are struggling to keep up this demand." Blu Wireless is developing intellectual property that will enable operators to exploit a big band of spectrum at around 60GHz, allowing for much faster data downloads and video streaming on mobiles.

How are they doing? "We've just shipped our first demo platform and should be able to demonstrate the technology in the second quarter of next year," says Nurser. Why Bristol? "It has a very strong engineering base for digital signal processing and consumer electronics. " HYBRIDCLUSTER Dave Benton co-founder and head of sales Founded 2008 Headcount 11 What is it? A web cluster storage and cloud platform.

What does that mean? "It's basically a platform for hosting companies, cloud providers and other IT companies who want to have resilience, scalability and data protection for the stuffthey typically run in the cloud, such as applications, databases and mailboxes," says co-founder Dave Benton.

How are they doing? This year the company has nearly quadrupled in size and it's currently working with 22 clients around the world .

HIETA Mike Adams co-founder and CEO Founded 2011 Headcount Six What is it? A design company specialising in additive manufacturing.

What does that mean? "Whereas 3D printing applies to plastics and polymers, additive manufacturing generally refers to metals," says Mike Adams. "We work with high-performance metals to produce components for engine systems, mainly, that make those systems lighter and more efficient." How are they doing? Last year the company secured pounds 3.5m in funding from the Technology Strategy Board and entered a collaboration with Renishaw, currently the UK's only manufacturer of a metal-based 3D printing machine. HiETA aims to start manufacturing its own products in the next two or three years.

TRIGGERTRAP Matt Kane co-founder and CTO Founded 2011 Headcount Seven What is it? Apps and hardware for triggering cameras using a smartphone.

How did it come about? It began with a Kickstarter campaign for a camera trigger which raised $77,262, more than three times its target. "We decided to create a mobile app as well," says Matt Kane.

How does it work? Connect your smartphone to a camera with a custommade dongle and use the free mobile app to trigger the camera in a variety of ways: the sound sensor feature takes a photo whenever the phone detects a loud noise.

How are they doing? They've just raised a further pounds 290,000 on Kickstarter for a more advanced camera trigger.

NEIGHBOURLY Nick Davies founder and CEO Founded 2012 Headcount Two What is it? A social network connecting local projects with companies in search of a cause.

How does it work? "It's part social network and part matchmaking," says founder Nick Davies. "On one side, a project can tell its story and galvanise a community by uploading photos and videos and chatting about what they want to achieve. On the other side, companies can decide where best to make a contribution. " How are they doing? After a year in development, the platform launches this month. They've already had interest from projects and companies around the UK.

XMOS Mark Lippett COO Founded 2005 Headcount 56 What is it? A fabless semiconductor company that develops multi-core microcontrollers.

What does that mean? "I use the analogy of a motorway," says Mark Lippett. "With a multi-core microcontroller, it's like every task in the system has its own lane in the motorway rather than all sharing one lane, like on a conventional micro controller. It enables lots of activities to happen at the same time without interfering with each other." How are they doing? After an impressive start, raising $71m in Series A funding in 2007, XMOS went through several years of moderate growth. Since then they've been expanding and are viewed as one of the most successful startups in the region.

NU DESINE Richard de Lancey co-founder and product design engineer Founded 2010 Headcount Six What is it? A company making musical devices that integrate with computers.

How did it come about? After studying design engineering at Loughborough, Richard de Lancey reconnected with a friend, Adam Place, who had an idea for an electronic musical instrument. They launched the AlphaSphere last March. How does it work? "It's a sphere with 48 tactile pads that you tap to trigger music. The harder you press, the more you can manipulate the sound, which gives you a whole extra degree of expression. " How are they doing? They've sold more than 300 AlphaSpheres, which retail from pounds 700. "This is our flagship product," says de Lancey. "We have lots of other ideas ." CALVIUM Richard Hull co-founder and CEO Founded 2009 Headcount Four What is it? An app developer and creator of a DIY app-making tool.

How did it come about? Richard Hull worked at HP Labs in Bristol for 24 years before co-founding his first startup, Calvium, in November 2009. "It was a big adjustment and not always smooth sailing, but we're doing pretty well now." How does it work? As well as developing apps for clients, Calvium has created an online tool called App Furnace. "It helps you make a simple mobile app without any programming," says Hull. They are also co-producing a set of mobile apps called App Trails.

"They enhance the real world by playing you audio stories or showing images or video triggered by your location. Recently we partnered with the National Trust to do one about Soho." (c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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