By John Davis
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the lingering buzzword that has become increasingly more common in everyday conversations. The allure of having machines, robots and computers complete tasks traditionally performed only by humans has generated widespread interest amongst entrepreneurs and investors alike.
A plethora of young startups are continuing to enter the space in efforts to take advantage of AI-powered technology. These startups are spread across many different industries, with their AI systems covering a wide variety of use-cases. In this post, we provide an outline of how AI works, and profile 18 artificial intelligence startups founded since 2018 that look primed to grow.
We’ve previously profiled the top ten equity-funded AI startups in the UK, followed by our 2020 AI ranking.
The phrase ‘artificial intelligence’ was first coined by computer scientist John McCarthy in 1956. Essentially, AI is a branch of computer science whereby computer systems are programmed to perform human tasks. AI is generally categorised as either ‘weak’ or ‘strong.’ Weak AI (also known as narrow AI) is where a computer system is only trained and programmed to complete a particular set of tasks. Beyond these predefined functions, the system does not have any functionality. Strong AI, however, is where a computer system has human cognitive abilities, and can thus solve problems, make judgments and communicate similarly to humans. Strong AI does not currently exist, with many experts and scientists concerned that strong AI mechanisms will severely threaten human jobs.
Whilst AI is the broad classification for machines simulating human behaviour and tasks, there are many branches which fall under this category. Machine learning is perhaps the most well-known branch. Machine learning operates where the target goal of the machine is known but the process to achieve that goal is unknown and must be learnt by the machine itself through repeated training. Deep learning extends on machine learning and consists of a ‘neutral network’ which gains insights and forms solutions. Deep Learning technologies act to mimic the human brain and can make sense of patterns and correlations. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is another widely-used branch of AI, where computer systems are able to understand and interpret human language. NLP is particularly useful as it is able to quickly process large amounts of data, thus saving significant time.
Whilst there are some fairly established AI startups in the UK, it is still a burgeoning sector, with several new companies entering the space each year. We have tracked 144 high-growth AI businesses formed since January 2018. In just under two years of operation, these 144 companies have met at least one of our high-growth triggers and appear well poised to create and exploit innovative AI technologies across a variety of sectors. We’ve profiled 18 of these startups, each of which has already raised over £100k of equity investment.
Dragonfly was registered in February 2018 and develops software which utilises AI to analyse consumer attention in shops. Dragonfly recognises that the human brain is limited in its capacity to process visual information. Thus, it has created two AI systems to assist organisations in getting an idea of which features will be recognized by consumers first, so they can better optimise their marketing and brand promotion efforts. ‘Dragonfly AI,’ enables content to be run and analysed through Dragonfly’s predictive algorithm and ‘Dragonfly AI Motion,’ provides insight into how movement impacts viewers’ attention. Both these products can be applied to analyse business’ URLs, creative content and physical viewpoints – in particular assessing how colour, scale, contrast and luminance influence their effectiveness. Dragonfly serves customers such as government departments, agencies and developers and has so far raised £1.43m, with a valuation of £1.76m. In August 2019, Dragonfly announced a partnership with IT outsourcing firm Capita, in efforts to aid business development of Dragonfly’s predictive visual analytics platform.
Goodvision was formed in December 2018 and uses deep learning artificial intelligence to detect, classify and analyse video data. Its product ‘Goodvision Video insights’ collects and analyses video data from camera recordings, which is used for management, simulations and modelling. Goodvision has three main use-cases: retail analysis, – allowing retailers to understand consumer behaviour – SmartCity Traffic Analysis – which collects traffic data from city cameras to aid urban planning and traffic management – and Security Forensic Lookup – where footage that law-enforcement and security services are searching for can be retrieved quicker. In less than a year of being formed, Goodvision has already raised £875k over two fundraising rounds and is now valued at £2.74m.
Brisk develops software which utilises AI to provide risk analysis to businesses. Brisk’s main clientele include SMEs and brokers, advisors and accountants who advise SME-sized businesses. By using machine learning AI, Brisk’s Company Checker provides information such as a company’s credit score, financial history, risk of insolvency and cyber risk assessment. This information enables businesses to proactively monitor, anticipate and protect themselves and their clients from various threats. Brisk is taking advantage of emerging AI technology and the abundant availability of data, to ensure SMEs are not disadvantaged from larger businesses from accessing data that can help them prosper. Since being founded in May 2018, Brisk has raised 310k and has also attended the Founders’ Factory accelerator program.
Della AI was formed in June 2018 and develops AI software which is able to review and analyse legal contracts. Della’s software uses machine learning AI which trains itself to understand legal grammar and semantics. Della offers corporate services such as assistance in reviewing incoming contracts and organisation of historic contracts. Della also offers a more sophisticated deep learning AI service to law firms, including a contractual review system which highlights unusual or discrepant clauses and analysis of client contracts to ensure legal compliance. Della uses its AI technologies to support, rather than replace, lawyers’ expertise and skills in the contractual process. So far, Della has raised £453k in funds and analysed over 10,000 documents. With offices established in London and Paris, Della appears well positioned to expand its AI technologies globally.
Digital Insight provides commercial research services, using machine learning and automated data collection to produce profiles on individuals of commercial interest. As well as machine learning, Digital Insight also uses NLP (Natural Language Processing). When these technologies are combined, Digital Insight can build a comprehensive profile on individuals within minutes. The report contains information such as the individual’s business connections, areas of interest, risky aspects of the person as well as tailored requested information. Digital Insight serves many different sectors including recruitment – providing information on individuals to help with the screening process – insurance – highlighting an individual’s risk profile – and investment – offering insights into the background of potential investors or investees. Digital Insight has raised £512k and is a Founders Factory accelerator attendee, with a pre-money valuation of £2.03m.
Greendeck provides market intelligence on retailers, brands and consumers to help businesses understand trends, consumer preferences and competitor pricing. With this information, businesses are able to optimise their pricing and product offerings to best compete in the market and retain market-share. In gathering this information, Greendeck collects a significant amount of data from retailers and over 9000 brands, and then uses NLP AI and image recognition to ensure that this data is correctly classified into categories and subcategories with certain attributes. This brand and competitor data is sought by groups such as marketers, data teams and merchandisers to help them make selling, buying, promoting and pricing decisions. Greendeck has raised £500k, with a valuation of £2.01m and is a finalist in the 2019 Go:Tech Awards under the Tech Startup category.
Move.ai combines computer vision technology with deep-learning AI software to provide data on a range of sporting performance metrics. From any live or pre-recorded video feed, move.ai’s programme can capture metrics such as speed, distance, acceleration and volumetric body form. The deep learning AI underpinning this programme allows probabilities and statistics to be predicted or simply for the raw data to be provided to clients for their independent evaluation. Move.ai provides its technology to organisations such as sport teams – who can analyse the data in real-time and make informed strategic decisions – broadcasters – who can provide more insightful data to fans and spectators – and governing bodies – who may choose to distribute the data captured to all teams in a league. Move.ai has already raised £535k over two fundraising rounds, with a most recent valuation of £2.59m.
Odin Vision develops AI software designed to assist cancer diagnosis by using cameras to locate cancerous polyps. Polyps are abnormal tissue growths which may develop into cancer, and are most commonly found in the colon. Odin’s research shows that over 20% of polyps are undetected during colonoscopy procedures. Odin aims to remedy this using advanced machine learning algorithms to support doctors in detecting polyps during live colonoscopy video feeds. Early detection can then lead to treatment beginning quicker, whilst also lowering the number of undetected, cancerous polyps. Odin was founded by clinicians and AI experts from UCL in September 2018. It has raised £394k thus far, whilst also raising two grants. Odin has also established several partnerships with notable organisations including Innovate UK, AI Seed and the UCL Technology Fund.
Scribeless provides handwritten messages at scale, using AI and robotics to learn and replicate the handwriting of clients. Scribeless was founded by graduates from the University of Bristol in April 2018 with the purpose of creating more effective marketing campaigns that boost customer engagement. Handwritten letters develop a more intimate customer relationship, which can assist in converting more leads, with banks, universities and hotels already using this service. As well as incorporating machine-learning AI in its operations, Scribeless uses advanced printing technology to ensure letters are matched as accurately as possible with the client’s handwriting. In the last year, Scribeless placed within the top two at the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards 2019, winning £25k. Scribeless graduated from the Entrepreneur Accelerator in April 2019 and has raised £400k in equity funding.
Wingman AI Agents develops artificial intelligence gaming bots designed so that players can train them to play alongside each other and follow human direction in competitive gaming environments. The gaming bots developed by Wingman learn from their trainers not only through data, but through human actions and language. Once the bots are sufficiently trained, they will be able to serve and adapt to their trainer, ultimately acting as their ‘wingman’. To ensure that bots, once trained, cannot be tampered with, Wingman’s system is stored on blockchain, which prevents modification. Wingman has already raised £725k since its inception in May 2018 and is valued at £4.28m.
Blyng develops an AI chatbot for the property industry, which asks potential buyers and sellers questions about properties and allows them to schedule viewings. The chatbot acts as a virtual assistant for estate agents by engaging leads across the best messaging platforms. Blyng utilises NLP AI to understand the nature of its users’ queries and ask important, useful questions to ascertain as much information as possible, before the user is handed over to the sales team. The value of this preliminary AI interface is that estate agents have all the users’ essential information, such as contact details and desired specifications, before proceeding, thus greatly speeding up the process. Leads are also generated through Blyng, reducing this aspects of an estate agent’s role, and giving them more time to conduct viewings and finding the most appropriate property for their clients. Blyng has raised £500k since registering in June 2018 and has several reputable clients, including Knight Frank and Foxtons estate agents.
Cogenis develops artificially intelligent wellbeing software, which aims to recognise and interpret human emotions. Cogenis’ app is called Wing, and helps to understand people’s emotions on social media through phrases and images. It is particularly popular amongst parents, who can monitor their child’s social-media activity to ensure they are safe and happy online. It can then form an overall impression of a child’s emotional state and will alert parents if any worrying trends emerge. Since it was formed in August 2018, Cogenis has raised £300k and is valued at £2.8m.
Blutick develops software that allows maths students to receive instant feedback on their work. Blutick operates in three main stages. Firstly, it provides video content of math lessons for students to watch and learn. Then, students receive line-by-line feedback whilst solving questions, through Blutick’s AI-powered platform which can identify mistakes and guide students to rectify these errors. Finally, a detailed report is produced giving students, teachers and parents a detailed outline of the student’s progress and areas of focus. Blutick’s self-correcting platform resembles a machine-learning AI system, as millions of lines of working and solutions are stored on the Blutick platform, with continual feedback written into the system, allowing Blutick to learn from this feedback over time. Since being registered in April 2018, Blutick has raised £454k and is valued at £1.75m.
Fetch.AI develops blockchain technology that provides a smart ledger service, aiming to use machine learning to determine legitimate transactions. Fetch.AI’s platform consists of a digital network, through which several devices can directly connect with digital ‘agents.’ These agents perform autonomous solutions to complex tasks, facilitating an infinite number of transactions. Fetch.AI’s platform incorporates machine learning AI technology, whereby the agents are able to work autonomously in performing tasks on behalf of their stakeholders, such as providing financial services or delivering data through the distributive network. Fetch.AI was formed in February 2018 and has raised a hefty £11.2m in a single fundraising to expand its platform.
Aveni specialises in natural language processing (NLP). The company has developed a proprietary NLP pipeline that extracts context from customer conversations. This AI technology is used to power a range of product features, including automated compliance monitoring, the identification of vulnerable customers, and performance management of call centre agents and advisers. In doing so, Aveni enables users to better understand their clients and agents, and automate their processes, whilst providing them with actionable insights from speech analytics. With £125k raised since being formed in June 2018, the tech company is now valued at £2.47m.
Rent Chief develops software that provides a range of property management support. Its online platform is designed for most members in the property management process, including landlords, letting agents and property investors. Rent Chief’s platform offers a number of functions including AI-powered automation of routine tasks, such as seeking new tenants and reliable maintenance and tradespeople. It also serves property investors by providing them with useful tools to help them add to their existing portfolio of properties and also assist them in their growth modelling. Since it was registered in January 2018, Rent Chief has raised £250k and is seeking to expand its piloted platform.
Ravin.AI is an automotive company that uses deep learning AI technology and computer vision to autonomously inspect vehicles for damage. Ravin conducts three stages as part of its vehicle inspection process. Firstly, as part of the acquisition stage, an identification of the vehicle is undertaken using drive-through CCTV cameras. The next stage, analysis, involves deep learning to label and understand the vehicle’s condition. Finally, in the reporting stage, damage is classified, repair and replacement costs are estimated and recommendations are given. Ravin is initially targeting car rental companies to use its services, but is also looking to offer its services in other markets such as used car marketplaces and for insurance claim processing. Since its incorporation in March 2019, Ravin.AI has raised £3.14m, led by investment fund Pico Venture Partners, with the money raised to develop Ravin.AI’s technology and expand internationally.
Hero Laboratories develops Sonic, an artificially intelligent water leak detection and prevention system for residential and commercial properties. Sonic is able to fit under a sink and uses AI algorithms, combined with temperature and water pressure sensors, to detect water leaks. Such is the power of Sonic’s technology, that it can detect water flow as little as 10ml per minute, ensuring that even minor leaks do not go undetected. Once a leak is detected, alerts are immediately sent through the Sonic App, with Sonic’s technology also able to shut off the property’s water supply if there is a significant leak that risks property damage. Sonic’s AI technology is also able to predict if pipes are about to freeze and will then send warnings to alert property owners. Since it was registered in October 2018, Hero has received one £300k grant and has raised £2.2m in equity.
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