Start-ups are booming due to the burgeoning opportunities and advances driven by technological developments. What might have been unimaginable a few years ago is now not only within our capabilities but is also able to generate a sustainable business model.
Let’s approach the subject from two directions by:
- Highlighting breakthrough innovations
- Emphasising what converts these innovations into successful business ventures
Below are five ‘star’ businesses combining innovation with likely staying power.
A super-fast AI chip
Graphcore, a business founded only three years ago in Bristol produces AI processors and software. So far, so normal. But its standout offer is an Intelligence Processor Unit (IPU) – which is the first to be designed specifically for machine intelligence training and inference (inference being the next stage in machine learning – the capacity to infer correct answers using previously unseen data). The processor is 10 to 100 times faster than other available hardware and can be applied to a wide range of emerging applications, including voice assistants and self-driving vehicles. Graphcore is expanding exponentially and is ramping up production to meet increasing customer demand for its IPU processor cards.
A student accommodation marketplace
One of the most notable of the newest share economy start-ups is student.com. This service company acts as a marketplace for student accommodation, matching and connecting students and landlords so they can reach a tenancy agreement. Given the explosion in international students nowadays, student.com opens up a previously untapped market that, although not lucrative on a small scale, can generate enormous sales when implemented globally. At present, it is destined for great things, with a presence in 100 countries (400 cities), and a global booking of over £80 million.
‘Pop-up’ retail space
One seemingly irreversible trend is that of high street shop closures. Even the largest of retailers are not immune from it. One inventive solution is to act as a portal for booking short-term retail spaces Appear Here is a company that sells itself as an online space where users can easily find and hire short-term retail space at prime spots across major cities like London, Paris, New York, and Barcelona. In fact, over 60,000 leading brands, designers and small businesses are currently using the services of Appear Here.
It allows for small, niche innovative retailers to sell directly to the consumer in the street without needing to lock themselves into the high overhead cost of a long-term tenancy agreement. It also fits well with the current ethos of fast-moving and agile retail services. Last, but not least, it could act as a genuinely regenerative force for our beleaguered high streets and actually make visiting them an attractive and exciting experience once again.
Moving objects and augmented reality infrastructure
AR headsets, autonomous vehicles, and drones are becoming ubiquitous across the entertainment and business landscape, making it critically important to manage and mitigate the physical risks potentially posed by such objects. These devices will increase in number exponentially in the next decade, with the corresponding need to safely ‘cohabit’ with people out and about. Such devices will have to understand the physical world with more spatial awareness than ever before.
To create these kinds of capabilities, a company based in London, Scape Technologies has been developing an innovative Augmented Reality infrastructure in the form of a map (built from scratch) for machine devices to identify exactly where they are and what’s around them using only a camera. The company is still in its infancy but has already raised over £6 million in seed capital in the last 18 months.
Peer-to-peer mobile lending
This Norwegian company (started in 2018), is a peer-to-peer mobile lending platform for young adults. Lendonomy’s aim is to help alleviate the ‘invisible poverty’ faced by millions of young people. The principle is to inspire mutual support and trust through sharing and lending money to peers around the world. Its model also uses AR-gamification and education to teach young adults entering the cut and thrust of the world of work to be better investors, savers, and responsible consumers. Lendonomy is built on blockchain technology, so subscribers can also build a verifiable and unambiguous credit history.
The five start-ups above seem to exemplify the drive and innovation required to stay on top in this ever-changing business environment.