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Wednesday 22 March 2023

*UKHotViewsExtra* Google Bard chatbot launches to compete with ChatGPT

GoogleGoogle has started rolling out its AI chatbot Bard as it looks to compete with Microsoft and OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Unlike its viral rival, it can access up-to-date information from the internet, though not in a hugely successful manner I might add. It does have a ‘Google it’ button that takes you through to google search on the topic in question. Users currently have to register for a waitlist to try it out, though there appears to be no restriction on who can access it (including age).

As a bit of background and further info, Bard is a descendant of an earlier language model of Google's called Lamda, which was never fully released to the public, but did attract significant attention when one of Googles engineers claimed its answers were so good it was sentient (he was subsequently fired and Google denied the claims).

Google has also warned Bard would have "limitations" and said it might share misinformation and display bias. It is programmed not to respond to offensive prompts and has filters to prevent it from sharing harmful, illegal, sexually explicit or personally identifiable information but like any method these guardrails will occasionally fail (see my further analysis in UKHotViewsExtra).

Google has of course been much slower and cautious in the generative AI race. This latest move feels a bit like desperation and I wonder how much longer it would have remained in development if Microsoft had not forced its hand (and based on initial testing that may have been a good thing). Caution and patience will certainly serve AI development well going forwards and something we need more of.

When ChatGPT launched in November 2022, it had more than one million users within a week. Will Bard surpass that milestone given its access to the web, and the continued hype around the field of generative AI?

I got access myself overnight, so have managed to have short play around with Bard this morning to see how it compares to ChatGPT/GPT-4. TechMarketView subscribers - including UKHotViews Premium subscribers - can read my short analysis on Bard and such large language models in UKHotViewsExtra here

Posted by: Simon Baxter at 10:10

Tags: ArtificalIntelligence  

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Wednesday 22 March 2023

UK's "International Technology Superpower" roadmap launched

Government offices_Victoria StreetAnnouncements from the newly formed Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology (DSIT) are coming thick and fast, with a clear focus on the UK becoming a “superpower” in the space.

DSIT was created at the beginning of February (see New department to lead on science, innovation and technology | TechMarketView). Less than a month later, the department launched its first piece of major work: the UK Science and Technology Framework (see DSIT launches UK Science and Technology Framework | TechMarketView). A few days later, the new post Brexit data reform bill was introduced (see New post-Brexit data reform bill introduced | TechMarketView). Then we had the publication of the Integrated Review Refresh, which, again, highlighted that science and technology were seen as vital to the UK’s future (Integrated Review Refresh 2023: An evolution (and some more money) | TechMarketView). This was backed up in the Budget a couple of days later, which saw the Government commit to all nine of the digital technology recommendations made by the Pro-Innovation Regulation of Technologies Review led by Sir Patrick Vallance.

There is certainly no chance of DSIT being accused of letting the grass grow under its feet. Today, alongside the Foreign Secretary, the department has launched its plan to make the UK an “international technology superpower” by 2030 in a new International Technology Strategy. Its aim strongly aligns to the Integrated Review Refresh by plotting a roadmap to ensure that the UK can make the best use of new technologies while countering malign influences on tech. Read more…

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TechMarketView subscribers – including UKHotViews Premium subscribers – can read more about the strategic roadmap and our views on it in UKHotViews Extra: UK's "International Technology Superpower" roadmap announced | TechMarketView. If you are not yet a subscriber, or are unsure if your organisation has a corporate subscription, please contact Deb Seth to find out more.

Posted by: Georgina O'Toole at 09:40

Tags: policy   government   AI   semiconductor   telecoms   quantum   engineering   science  

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Wednesday 22 March 2023

HPE makes canny acquisition of OpsRamp

hpeHewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is acquiring OpsRamp, an IT operations management firm headquartered in California.

OpsRamp was part of the Hewlett Packard Pathfinder program, which “identifies and invests in category-leading startup companies”.

It’s a really smart move, bringing into the fold some very useful technology to improve the monitoring and management of IT infrastructure, cloud resources, workloads and applications in hybrid and multi-cloud environments. These types of environments are hugely complex and increasingly common. OpsRamp’s hybrid digital operations management solution can help to bring down some of that complexity by discovering, monitoring, and automating activities with artificial intelligence. Couple that with HPE’s GreenLake (Edge to cloud) platform, and the combined offering looks compelling. The acquisition is also further evidence of how effective the Pathfinder programme can be.

Earlier this month, HPE reported a Q1 that illustrated a strong start to the year. The Q1 Annualised Revenue Run Rate (ARR is a financial metric to assess growth in consumption services – i.e., GreenLake) breached the $1bn threshold and the firm reiterated its target CAGR of 35-45% for FY22-FY25.

Posted by: Kate Hanaghan at 09:30

Tags: acquisition   cloud   hybrid  

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Wednesday 22 March 2023

The Alan Turing Institute launches new strategy

Alan Turing Institute LogoThe UK’s national institute for data science and AI, The Alan Turing Institute, has launched a new strategy aimed at furthering its vision of changing the world for the better with data science and AI.

The Institute was established by its five founding universities—Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, UCL and Warwick—and the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in 2015. In 2017, in response to a recommendation made in the Hall-Pesenti report it officially added AI to its remit. Eight further universities joined the Institute in 2018. The organisation is a charity funded through grants from Research Councils, university partners and from strategic and other partnerships.

The new strategy sets three goals for the Institute to progress towards its vision.

  1. Advance world-class research and apply it to national and global challenges.
  2. Build skills for the future.
  3. Drive an informed public conversation.

With the digital technologies evolving at such a rapid pace, the Institute is seeking to provide “an end-to-end, interdisciplinary pathway in data science and AI that enables impact at scale and drives major progress against societal challenges”. The strategy includes four key actions associated with this approach: 1) becoming challenge-led; 2) advancing foundational research; 3) targeting skills and talent gaps; and 4) providing expert advice.

It will focus on the three key areas of health; environment and sustainability; and defence and national security. These were chosen as they all have a significant societal or economic challenge or opportunity to address, the application of data science and AI could have a transformative impact on the domain, and because they are areas in which the UK is positioned to build a sustainable, competitive advantage and provide global leadership.

The strategy is aimed at helping the Institute deliver on the ambitions and of the National AI Strategy. It intends to establish a new university network to facilitate better connections across the data science and AI landscape and seek out other like-minded partners.

It intends to continue to maintain flexible models of engagement with industry. This includes small scale Data Study Groups and internships, as well as multi-year research programmes and targeted collaborative research projects. It will also seek to play a greater role in helping businesses address the skills challenge and establishing the knowledge industry leaders require to adopt data science and AI in their organisations. It is working with the Catapult Network, Innovate UK and Data Skills Task Force to help address these challenges.

The work of the Institute has never been more important. Given the uncertainty about the rapidly evolving data and AI landscape and the challenges associated with the technology, including bias, accountability, and transparency, it is vitally important to have an informed and independent source of advice for government, industry and the wider public.

Posted by: Dale Peters at 09:09

Tags: strategy   policy   government   collaboration   AI  

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Wednesday 22 March 2023

Sodexo selects CGI to help drive transformation

CGICGI has won a new five-year deal with French multi-national facilities management specialist, Sodexo. The global framework agreement is designed to help Sodexo accelerate its business transformation, streamline its operations and achieve greater operational efficiency.

The contract covers Sodexo’s global infrastructure operations and will see CGI supporting the company’s transformation in respect of user experience, collaboration, network management, and cloud services. Sodexo, which has around 422k employees deployed across 53 countries, will leverage CGI’s transformation accelerators, such as CGI SiteReliability360.

CGI and Sodexo, which provides food services, facilities management, and employee benefits, have been working together for a number of years in various global locations. The latest deal marks an evolution of that existing partnership, as Sodexo looks to improve its performance in a market facing significant challenges as a result of post-pandemic business trends. 

Posted by: Jon C Davies at 08:39

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Wednesday 22 March 2023

Shortlist for the Capita ‘Digitising Public Sector’ pitch sessions announced

logoWe are delighted to announce the names of the UK tech scaleups selected by Capita Scaling Partner to participate in today’s pitch sessions at Capita’s London HQ.

They are:

  • Automated Intelligence
  • Ctrl O
  • Diffblue
  • FlowForma
  • Intelligent Delivery Solutions

logoThese companies were selected from a longlist of 50 applicants who applied to partner with Capita through the TechMarketView Innovation Partner Programme. This is the fifth time TechMarketView has successfully assisted Capita in its search for innovative UK tech startups and scaleups to partner with.

Many congratulations to the current cohort and we wish them all the very best.

Posted by: Anthony Miller at 08:09

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Wednesday 22 March 2023

Still time to refresh your marketing this spring

Refresh Your Marketing This Spring

Posted by: HotViews Editor at 00:00

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Tuesday 21 March 2023

Trouble at Scottish Mortgage Trust - An Update

SMTFurther to my post Trouble at Scottish Mortgage Trust, it has today been announced that its Ch – Fiona McBain - will stand down at the AGM in June. She became a director in 2009 and is therefore well over the 3 terms of 3 years that is recommended. Another #SMT director will also quit at that time as Justin Dowley takes on the Ch. The cause of all the trouble – Amar Bhide – had his resignation letter signed by the Company Secretary today.

Clearly #SMT’s reputation has suffered hugely by this episode. Just elevating a current director to the Ch will not be enough. Dowley is 67 and has spent his whole life in investment banking – I say no more…A root and branch review of the board’s performance as well as a deep dive into the investment policies of the trust – particularly into unlisted companies – is clearly required.

Since 1st Jan 2021, the #SMT share price is down 46% compared to a 25% decline at Allianz Technology Trust #ATT. Both are still in positive territory since 1st Jan 2020 with #SMT up 12% but #ATT still up an impressive 35%.

Interestingly BOTH trusts have lost their star fund managers in the last year with James Anderson stepping down at #SMT and Walter Price retiring at #ATT. Maybe they both anticipated the bloodbath in tech shares that would hit in 2022 and got out before the proverbial hit the fan?. Managing a Trust in a downturn is hard as investors do not expect you to liquidate all your investments and turn them into cash. But careful stock picks could still have beaten these performances. Microsoft is up 74% since 1st Jan 20. This could have been a time to invest in boring, 'unexciting' and stable tech companies – of which there are quite a few!

Finally, thanks for all the messages of support I received for my view that Investment Trusts should have at least one director whose main experience and background is in the industry or region in which the trust specialises. The boards of too many trusts are dominated by career finance-type bods

Posted by: Richard Holway at 22:12

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Tuesday 21 March 2023

Jassy announces more job cuts at Amazon

amazonAmazon CEO, Andy Jassy, has sent a memo to staff outlining a further 9000 job losses.

Over the next few weeks, redundancies will be made that will mostly impact Amazon Web Services (AWS), PXT (People Experience and Technology Solutions), Advertising, and Twitch.

Jassy explained to staff that in response to changing economic conditions – and following further annual planning processes – the company needed to become “leaner”. He is clear, however, that any cuts must be done in a way that still enables the firm to “invest robustly in the key long-term customer experiences that we believe can meaningfully improve customers’ lives and Amazon as a whole”.

The company announced 18,000 redundancies in January following an internal review process. This number was up from an initial figure of 10,000. Subsequent planning has concluded that 9,000 more roles must go. Jassy concluded by saying: “It’s never easy to say goodbye to our teammates, and you will be missed.”

AWS reported slower growth in Q4, but is still growing at a healthy pace. The days of constantly increasing double-digit growth rates may be behind the hyperscalers, but cloud is very much here to stay.

Posted by: Kate Hanaghan at 09:44

Tags: jobcuts  

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Tuesday 21 March 2023

Connectd connects with more dosh to connect the startup ecosystem

logoIf I was confused before, I’m even more confused now about entrepreneur Roei Samuel’s business model for his current venture, Connectd. By way of reminder, Connectd is basically a dating agency for investors, founders and advisors, and I last wrote about them in May 2022 (see Connecting with Connectd!).

It seems clear to me that Samuel is struggling to find the right price point to attract his target audience to the Connectd platform. In 2021, Samuel was asking an annual £299 subscription fee from founders, £347 (no idea where that price came from) for advisors, while investors went free. A year later, he was asking £350 from founders and £600 from advisors ands still nothing from backers.

Now there are three price points for founders, from £375 to £5,000, with the top tier including ‘monthly strategic consultations’ as well as pitch deck and financial model development – and of course a company valuation. Advisors still pay £600 or optionally £2,400 to include ‘one-to-one mentoring’ and ’pro-bono placements with a (sic) UK startups’. Investors – surely the most cash-rich of the lot – still ride free.

While this makes less and less sense to me, Samuel has managed to convince a number of angel investors to back him with a further $2.6m in seed funding.

In the spirit of glasnost, I should tell you that I found Samuel a most engaging and affable chap when I spoke to him last year – but nonetheless, I remain resolutely dis-connectd.

Posted by: Anthony Miller at 09:30

Tags: funding   startup  

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Tuesday 21 March 2023

BT and AWS collaborate to provide mobile edge computing

BTBT Group has announced a multi-million-pound investment to bring 5G and 4G mobile edge computing services to UK business and public sector organisations. The move is part of BT's ongoing collaboration with AWS and combines its 4G/5G infrastructure with the cloud capabilities of AWS and the mobile network of EE (BT’s mobile telecoms arm). The first new site in Manchester is ready for customer trials, and if these prove successful, will be made fully available later this year.

The initiative is part of BT’s investment in its existing network, designed to provide 5G-connected infrastructure as a service via “AWS Wavelength”. The first site is designed to support businesses and public sector organisations within a 100-kilometre radius of Manchester which will include other cities such as Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Blackpool. BT’s ultimate ambition is to roll out AWS Wavelength to customers across the UK over the next few years.

The AWS Wavelength initiative sees BT build on its existing collaboration with the world’s largest provider of cloud services. In May 2022, BT signed a five-year deal with AWS to help drive its ongoing digital transformation (see: BT deal marks another high-profile UK win for AWS). Having committed to a “cloud-first” strategy BT is looking to deliver annualised cost savings of £2bn by the end of its FY24.

Posted by: Jon C Davies at 09:18

Tags: cloud   telecoms  

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Tuesday 21 March 2023

Trouble at Scottish Mortgage Trust

As HotViews readers will know, I was a director at Allianz Technology Trust (#ATT) between Jan 2007 and Dec 2019. In 2007 I knew nothing about Investment Trust but (without being big-headed) quite a lot about technology and its players. I know that quite a lot of HotViews readers invest in tech via Investment Trusts.

SMTThere are other Investment Trusts in the tech sector, Polar (#PCT) and Herald (#HIT)for example. But the ‘Big Beast’ was Scottish Mortgage Trust (#SMT). They were, for me, the benchmark and were in the FTSE100. #ATT matched and often beat them in the performance league tables and in the media #SMT and #ATT are often mentioned together.

Investment Trusts are ,without being too rude, usually unexciting rather institutionalised entities. Everyone else on the #ATT board had Investment Trust experience – I was the exception.

Last week a storm erupted at #SMT when one of its directors – Amar Bhide – accused the board of governance violations. In a showdown with the Ch and board, he refused to resign and aired his grievances in public.

There is a major difference between #SMT and #ATT. As the former has many investments in unlisted tech companies – eg SpaceX, NorthVolt, ByteDance and Stripe – whereas #ATT is ONLY invested in publicly quoted companies valued at >$1b. Bhide’s criticism of #SMT is that there was nobody on the board with any experience of investment in unlisted companies. When markets are rising, as they have done pretty consistently in tech for nearly 20 years, valuing unlisted companies at the price paid in the last round is pretty safe. When markets are falling, it is meaningless verging on dangerous. Bhide also accused the #SMT Ch – Fiona McBain – of not being independent anymore as she has served for more than the 3 terms of 3 years. BTW – that was the reason I stepped down from #ATT after 12 years.

Personally, I think every Investment Trust should have at least one board member whose background is in the main investment area for the trust. Be it in China, Energy or, in #SMT &#ATT’s case, technology. Otherwise how on earth do you call the trust’s managers to account? That can be balanced by other directors. But to have them ALL with the same investment trust background has always seemed wrong to me.

Posted by: Richard Holway at 09:17

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Tuesday 21 March 2023

Aptitude focus growth around finance digitalization

Aptitude SoftwareFinance software and platform provider Aptitude Software reported strong growth to close out FY22, as the company looks to further grow its subscription business and increase uptake of its finance platform Fynapse.

Total FY22 revenue (year ended 31 December 2022) grew by 25% to £74.4m, with organic growth of 14% (excluding impact of MPP global acquired in 2021). Annual Recurring Revenue ('ARR') grew by 9% (constant currency) to £51.6m. Recurring revenues, a strategic focus for the business, continued to grow and represents 68% of overall revenue. Non-recurring revenue, comprising implementation services and software development, totalled £23.9m representing 24% overall growth. Operating profit was down 25% as the company increased investment in its two strategic growth drivers of finance digitalization and subscription management.

Fynapse, a strategic digital finance platform, launched in March 2022 and is a key growth driver for the business. The platform provides organisations with next generation digital finance capabilities, and builds on the Aptitude Accounting Hub, centralising and automating finance, accounting and reporting processes, and creating a deep level of operational intelligence for organisations. Aptitude also announced the signing of a major new partnership agreement with Microsoft. Under the agreement Fynapse will be the only product with its capability to be deeply integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and operate on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

In addition to the Microsoft partnership Aptitude say they have received strong interest from consultancies who are attracted to the open design of Fynapse. This open design provides partners with the opportunity to co-create and license their own IP built on the Fynapse platform. Going forwards Aptitude remains focused on delivery against three go-to-market pillars: finance digitalization, subscription management and partner execution.

Posted by: Simon Baxter at 09:12

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Tuesday 21 March 2023

Neighbourhood workspace provider Patch raises £3m

PatchShared workspace provider Patch is a UK-headquartered start-up aiming to bring life back to the high street with “neighbourhood workspaces” encouraging people to work close to home. Not a tech company in the purest sense but a business that is likely to serve a growing number of SITS workers and start-up / scale-up businesses, looking for hybrid working in high street locations. Patch has raised £3m in a funding round led by JamJar Investments, Blue Wire Capital, Vectr7 Investment Partners, Active Partners and Triple Point Ventures with participation from range of angel investors. 

Patch will open two more locations in Twickenham and High Wycombe following the £3m raise adding to its existing site in Chelmsford. More locations are planned for the next few years with ambition to open up to 100 sites. The company launched in 2020, starting with its Chelmsford site and creates local workspaces from disused buildings. It has a range of monthly “memberships” from drop ins (1 day a month from £24 plus VAT), to 4 or 8-day access (from £89 plus VAT per month) to Associate unlimited and Residents (from £209 and £289 plus VAT per month respectively). 

Hybrid working still has a long way to fully mature but companies like Patch have the potential to serve individuals and organisations looking for alternatives to working solely from the kitchen table or the spare bedroom. They also shine a light on how the much-blighted British High Street can reinvent itself. The challenge as ever with property-based businesses models is getting the location right whilst facing stiff competition from the likes of the serviced office industry.

Posted by: Marc Hardwick at 08:57

Tags: funding   hybrid+working  

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Tuesday 21 March 2023

ufurnish gets more dosh to sell more comfy chairs

logoThere is perhaps a certain irony that the first logo you see on the home page of ‘furniture discovery’ startup ufurnish is that of John Lewis, given the controversy now raging in the media (well, in our medium anyway – see John Lewis and the dash for cash).

But this, along with logos for the likes of habitat and Heals, gives a clear indication of ufurnish founder and CEO Deirdre McGettrick’s target market – i.e. ‘middle England’, also perhaps ironic given Ms McGettrick’s Irish heritage.

Having said that, if you click on any of the dozen or so logos on the ufurnish home page, what you see if the full list of retailers (110 apparently), from which you can click through to the retailer of your choice with, I assume, with code embedded in the URL to indicate that the punter came via ufurnish.

Founded in 2017, ufurnish recently raised a further £3.4m in a seed funding round backed by a bunch of individuals whose names I probably should recognise but don’t as I live a sheltered life and have little need for worldly trappings such as furniture. ufurnish raised £1.8m in a pre-seed round in 2020.

The business model is your bog-standard, asset-light marketplace, with all purchases made on the retailers own website and T&Cs. All care, no responsibility, what’s not to like? What’s to like even more is that Ms McGettrick has also managed to secure a ‘partnership’ with Airbnb UK ‘to power the home furnishing journey for home hosts’. Smart, smart, smart!

From what I can tell from ufurnish’s accounts, they burned through a very modest £313k in cash during 2022 (full marks for prompt reporting!). There was still over £650k in the bank at the end of the year, now boosted by the new dosh. Sounds like major expansion is on the cards.

I love simple business models.

Posted by: Anthony Miller at 08:49

Tags: funding   startup  

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Monday 20 March 2023

Seldon raises $20m in Series B funding round

seldonShoreditch-based Seldon has announced a Series B funding round worth $20m.

Led by new investor, Bright Pixel Capital (formerly Sonae IM) the investment also includes “significant participation” from Seldon’s existing investors: Albion VC, Cambridge Innovation Capital, and Amadeus Capital Partners.

Seldon is building an MLOPs (Machine Learning Operations – deploying, managing, and monitoring ML models in production) platform and has a strong focus on R&D. The new funding will enable further geographic expansion, growth in team, and continued product development.

The firm says “we’re enabling our customers to put AI in everything”, and those customers include large, international firms such as PayPal, Ford, Johnson & Johnson, Audi, Experian, and EY.

Seldon raised £7.1m in 2020 in a Series A funding round that was co-led by Albion VC and Cambridge Innovation Capital with help from existing investors Amadeus Capital Partners and Global Brain. Last year, Seldon won the “Emerging” category at the Enterprise Awards, ‘the Oscars for Technology Entrepreneurs’. 

Posted by: Kate Hanaghan at 08:45

Tags: funding   ML  

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Monday 20 March 2023

BlackCurve secures another £750k funding

LBlackCurve logo (black and pink)ondon-based, BlackCurve, the developer of software to help companies evaluate and optimise their product pricing across multiple sales channels, has completed its fourth funding round. You can read about the third in January 2021 here - EXCLUSIVE: Optimum backers support price optimiser BlackCurve | TechMarketView – and the second, in March 2019, here – BlackCurve optimises funding with new seed round | TechMarketView.

This time, it has raised another £750k, bringing the total raised to £3.7m. The round was led by Nauta Capital (also involved in the previous rounds) and ACF. According to the release, the company intends to use the funds to expand in its core online markets, as well as further drive down the cost of sale. Currently its customer base includes organisations in industries ranging from electrical goods, to fashion, to shipping.

We have always been drawn to BlackCurve for the simplicity of its proposition. When it was founded in 2017 by Philip Huthwaite, the team worked out of a small cottage in Kingston-Upon-Thames. Six years later and things are very different. Having established a solid client base, it appears the time has come to focus on profitabiity as well as growth.

Posted by: Georgina O'Toole at 08:42

Tags: funding   investment   software   retail  

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Monday 20 March 2023

Sponsorship Opportunities: An Evening with TechMarketView

Are you looking to increase your brand’s visibility in the UK tech market? For an opportunity to share your message with our audience of over 20,000 tech leaders? And to be recognised as a noteworthy player by association with a leading independent analyst firm?

Look no further than sponsoring TechMarketView’s flagship event, An Evening with TechMarketView, which returns for its ninth year on 21 September 2023.

A highlight of the UK tech calendar, we’re expecting over 200 senior executives to join us at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London, for an evening that combines first-class networking with peers and prospects over drinks and dinner, with an opportunity to absorb insight on the latest tech trends directly from our analyst team and expert guest speakers.

TMV Evening Sponsorship Opportunities

By sponsoring the event you’ll raise your brand profile and gain access to key decision makers on the evening itself as well as in the months leading up to the event, with all sponsors set to feature heavily in UKHotViews and our social feeds between now and September.

We have sponsorship packages available to suit a variety of budgets with a selection of additional benefits, including tickets to the event, advertising packages and a bespoke article authored by our analysts with reprint rights.

Check out all the options here or contact our Client Services team to learn more –

Posted by: TMV Team at 08:15

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Monday 20 March 2023

Backers deliver more dosh to cargo bike courier Zedify

logoYesterday I drove to my nearest ‘big’ Sainsbury’s in my probably not very environmentally friendly SUV for our weekly shop. On my journey I passed at least three cyclists pedalling furiously on very environmentally friendly cargo bikes, zipping through the traffic delivering what I assumed were groceries to local residents for their daily needs.

I tell you this because Cambridge-based cargo bike courier startup Zedify has just closed £5m of additional funding in a round led by Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital and the Mercia-managed MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, along with existing backer Green Angel Syndicate, which had previously invested £1.5m.

Zedify was launched in 2018 by ‘outspoken’ CEO Rob King (his prior ventures were all called Outspoken this or that), and I assume more quietly spoken Chief Sustainability Officer, Sam Keam. Both King and Keam had previously run delivery businesses in their home towns (King in Cambridge, Keam in Brighton). All staff are directly employed and are paid ‘a real living wage’.

On to the business model, which is based on local ‘microhubs’ on the edge of city centres where parcels are consolidated for onward delivery. Zedify’s tech platform optimises delivery routes based on consumer choice of delivery slots.

Now, you all know how sceptical I am about ‘on demand’ delivery businesses and their tenuous relationship with profits. But here’s the very interesting twist.

King and Keam want to turn Zedify into a franchise network of microhubs and delivery riders for entrepreneurs who want to run their own ‘last mile’ delivery business in their locale (or in someone else’s too, I would imagine). The aim is for Zedify to operate in 50 UK cities by 2024; today they are in ten.

By their own admission, King and Keam recognise they have direct competition with the likes of Hived, Urb-it, Zhero, and other green couriers (note to self – find out more about these as I’ve never heard of them before). But K&K believe that their network of microhubs and ‘enormous fleet of cargo bikes’ give Zedify the edge.

I don’t think that’s enough. Zedify is limited in what it can deliver - for example nothing too bulky (obviously) or anything that needs refrigeration. But the franchise model intrigues me. Maybe this is the way that King and Keam can actually make money – but only so long as they can prove to prospective franchisees that the model really works.

Posted by: Anthony Miller at 08:03

Tags: funding   startup  

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