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2024 Startups 100 | Simply Began Award
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2024 Startups 100 | Simply Began Award 


For sixteen years, the Startups 100 has been a storyteller, narrating the distinctive journeys of the UK’s high new companies and the entrepreneurs behind them. 

In that point, we’ve tracked a whole bunch of success tales to report on behemoth funding bulletins, increasing headcounts, and even those that have reached Unicorn standing. However usually, probably the most thrilling a part of a startup’s origin story is on the very starting.

That’s why we created the Simply Began award to highlight the founders who’re setting the stage for a chapter of progress and ascent in 2024. 

In collaboration with the UK’s Small Enterprise Commissioner, Liz Barclay, we’ve chosen 5 distinctive startups from our general high 100, all of whom are nonetheless within the first few pages of their very personal magnum opus. 

Rising from the shadows of final yr’s gloomy enterprise headlines, this group is respiration new life into the UK enterprise scene. Learn on to uncover the secrets and techniques behind their triumphs, and uncover which Barclay selected because the 2024 Simply Began champion.

80% of the planet embraces insect protein, consuming over 2,000 species in complete, however Westerners nonetheless grimace on the thought of consuming a crunchy critter for breakfast. Mr. Bug is altering that, by bringing the UK’s first mealworm farm to market. 

Correctly judging that individuals won’t be able to eat Jiminy Cricket but, co-founders Conal Cunningham and Paul Walton have centered their preliminary product improvement on canine treats. Only one yr in, Mr Bug has already secured a major £270k Innovate UK grant and received an array of prestigious awards together with the World Good Product of the 12 months. 

Mr Bug has bolder ambitions, nevertheless. Confirming the South West’s standing as a hotbed for sustainable expertise, its final purpose is decreasing the UK’s dependence on meat. As Cunningham explains, “mealworms are jam-packed with protein, calcium, B12, iron, and all 9 important amino acids!” Now that’s a tasty statistic to swallow.

What did Liz Barclay should say? 

“Mr Bug is tapping into what will probably be a rising want, taking the danger as an early adopter and innovating, whereas demonstrating one sensible resolution and shifting public opinion and human behaviour,” Barclay appraises.

“Modern, rising impressively and demonstrating the potential to play an necessary half in resolving impending meals provide insecurity exacerbated by local weather change. What’s beginning pretty small right here may have big potential across the globe.”

SHORTLISTED –  Athena AI

Athena AI

Whereas managing his earlier enterprise, the grocery app Grocemania, Askar Bulegenov, stored experiencing a repeat ache level: clients utilizing a number of gross sales channels to investigate about the identical order. Annoyed with the communication points this created, he and cofounder Artem Shitov designed Athena, a platform that consolidates inbound communications right into a single enterprise interface. 

Even ChatGPT couldn’t have written a greater progress story for Athena. After producing over £1,400 in gross sales, Bulegenov and Shitov grew to become satisfied of the platform’s potential, and it launched formally in Could 2023. In simply over six months, the platform has expanded to a staff of 12, secured trials with 200 clients, and been accepted onto the Google AI Accelerator.

What did Liz Barclay should say? 

“Buyer care has been dire in lots of sectors for the reason that pandemic,” Barclay states. “The market is ripe for revolutionary options that assist corporations rebuild their popularity for nice buyer expertise within the face of expertise shortages. Athena feels as if it could possibly be revolutionary and disruptive.”

SHORTLISTED – Story Locker

From the identify alone, you will not be stunned to be taught that Story Locker boasts an inspiring and emotional origin story. Founder Dhilon Solanki’s Mum handed away on the age of simply 50. His son, who had by no means met his Grandma, began to ask plenty of questions on who she was. Wanting to present him extra than simply VHS tapes and photographs, Solanki requested his Dad to document a podcast about her life. That’s when he determined to begin Story Locker – the world’s first Paa (Podcast-as-a-Service) enterprise mannequin.

All whereas balancing a full-time job, Solanki has managed to create a buyer proposition and market viable merchandise utilizing his life financial savings. He launched the ‘document from residence’ private podcast platform earlier this yr, and has already locked in quite a lot of partnerships with premium providers for all times’s greatest occasions together with W Uden & Sons funeral providers, RNIB, Hitched, and Guides for Brides.

What did Liz Barclay should say? 

Taking to the rostrum, Barclay praises Story Locker for “tapping into an present development and including a layer of objective in a really crowded podcast market. Human tales play an necessary function within the gathering of social in addition to household historical past. Story Locker’s potential for progress is large, in all probability with out the necessity for big quantities of funding.”

 SHORTLISTED – Magic AI

MAGIC AI

Everyone knows that smashing a mirror brings seven years of dangerous luck. However what about utilizing a mirror to turn into a smashing success? That has introduced solely good luck to Magic AI, the AI-powered sensible mirror that acts as a private coach with out the general public gymnasium congestion and excessive costs. 

Magic’s imaginative and prescient has already earned the model immense accolades since its launch final yr. Key milestones embrace elevating £2m, and collaborating with a few of Britain’s main athletes together with soccer legend Jesse Lingard. Cofounder Varun Bhanot can also be making his mark in its push to diversify AI. He was invited to 10 Downing Avenue to advise the PM on encouraging extra ethnic minority youths to construct AI. 

What did Liz Barclay should say? 

“Modern and spectacular when it comes to funding, Magic looks like the subsequent step up from Peloton,” Barclay summises. “It takes the intimidation out of the exercise, disrupts the gymnasium market additional and brings the potential for higher well being and health at residence. Buyers appear to be impressed and the usage of superstar sport gurus is impressed.”

SHORTLISTED – Ujamaa Spice

Picture credit score: MAVERICK PHOTO AGENCY

Ujamaa Spice is a mission-driven firm that’s addressing one of many greatest gaps in UK truthful commerce provide chains: spices. Based by Jawahir Al-Mauly and Rist Van de Weyer in 2022, Ujamaa goals to deal with the rise in spice exploitation by crime gangs by supporting ladies farmers in Zanzibar (generally known as the ‘Spice Islands’).

The corporate sources its produce from turmeric farms run by its personal ladies’s cooperative. Farmers get coaching, sources, and a good market worth for crops, whereas patrons get flavourful and ethically-sourced spices for his or her kitchen cabinets. 

Ujamaa has already cooked up a storm within the F&B business. It received the Impression award in Edinburgh’s 2023 Encourage Launch Develop awards and have become a Nice Style Award winner. It has additionally began the way it means to go on, and is focusing on changing into B Corp subsequent yr. 

What did Liz Barclay should say? 

Barclay expresses admiration for Ujamaa’s easy mission-backed focus and progress in direction of selling business change. “Ujamaa demonstrates clear emphasis on objective and moral enterprise practices,” she says. “Serving to to uplift ladies farmers will make an enormous distinction to households, training and poverty. Purposeful and empowering and with the potential to develop.”

As Barclay observes, these 5 inspiring startups collectively embody the boundless ardour and variety that gas the UK’s thriving small enterprise ecosystem. 

“UK startups are pushed by individuals with good concepts for offering new options to present points, apply new know-how, and every part in between”, she tells Startups.

That every of our startups has triumphed regardless of the challenges of 2023 is testomony to the large potential and resilience that lies throughout the UK’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. In fact, there are nonetheless limitations to face. Lowered investor urge for food, mixed with a widening expertise hole, has slowed progress for newly-established companies. 

Nonetheless, a Startups survey carried out in late 2023 reveals that companies based previously 12 months displayed the very best ranges of optimism. And, whereas funding is commonly thought-about the lifeblood of a startup, Barclay rightly emphasises the significance of different property in supporting scale up.

“Usually for startups, funding isn’t the reply,” she notes. “The correct individuals for mentoring, supporting, and advising can add far more likelihood of success. mentor who has been there and received the t-shirt is value their weight in gold.”

So what ought to aspiring entrepreneurs take from this yr’s checklist? Barclay highlights a thread that runs all through the whole shortlist; a necessary factor that transcends monetary acquire and technical prowess: objective.

“Having actual objective behind the thought – whether or not serving to empower ladies farmers, contributing to fixing the rising meals insecurities or enhancing well being and health – is commonly an important ingredient for prosperity,” she counsels.

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