Startups 100 2019: 76 to 80

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Startups 100 Ranking: 76
Company name: Freetrade
Founded: 2016

Challenger broker whose simple, commission-free app has gone viral with Millennials

Freetrade believes the stockmarket should be open to everyone, not just those able to pay hefty brokers’ fees. To this end, the London-based startup has created a commission-free, mobile-led service which has proved hugely popular with youngsters dreaming of being the next Warren Buffett.

For a fee of just £1 per trade, users can make instant investments in stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) via an app whose clear, colourful format resonates with the Netflix generation. Everything is designed to be accessible and jargon-free; the company even lists its stocks in pounds rather than pence, a unitary decision which will make far more sense to the majority of users.

Unlike some other ‘challenger brokers’, Freetrade has chosen to obtain a license from the Financial Conduct Authority itself rather than partnering with a broker which already has one. This means the company can carry out its own trades, and doesn’t need as many middlemen; not only that, but it has the endorsement of one of the world’s most renowned regulators, ensuring peace of mind for users.

Freetrade already has nearly 300,000 users and, perhaps unsurprisingly, 80% are categorised as Millennials. Instead of taking VC investment, the company has raised over £6m through crowdfunding – including £1m during a single 77-second blitz in the most recent round. It appears the disruption is only just getting started.

Startups 100 Ranking: 77
Company name: Tutor House
Founded: 2015

Tuition marketplace which goes the extra mile to find the right teacher for each student

There’s never been a better time to be a tutor. The UK’s school system continues to generate negative headlines and more and more parents are seeking outside help to get an edge for their child. In some quarters, it’s estimated that the tuition industry is now worth £6bn.

A number of digital startups have pushed into this space, seeking to match parents with the right tutor for their child. But Tutor House, an online marketplace founded by former teacher Alex Dyer, is raising the bar.

The company, which provides tuition at every stage from common entrance to university applications, interviews all tutors before letting them go live on the platform and ensures they have a full DBS check, a significant value-add in what is a largely unregulated industry.

Ultimately, the power lies with the parent. Unlike some sites, tutor house won’t just identify a tutor for each user based on availability and location; parents and learners are encouraged to chat with the various candidates and make their own decision. Progress can be tracked via the Tutor House platform and learners can also tap into a plethora of online resources.

Having hitherto been self-funding, Tutor House raised £2 million earlier this year in a round backed by Fuel Ventures. Dyer says he will use the money to build a bricks-and-mortar school in London for students who need intensive tutoring, and start the process of expanding into other countries.

Want to help kids learn? Start a tutoring business.

Startups 100 Ranking: 78
Company name: StateZero Labs
Founded: 2018

Blockchain accelerator aiming to drive the ‘growth at all costs’ mentality out of the tech industry

When the fourth industrial revolution rolls around, many commentators believe it will be built on blockchain. The technology is capable of validating practically any transaction, from fiscal trades to the exchange of medical records, and has the potential to disrupt every single industry on earth.

StateZero Labs wants to be in the vanguard when the revolution occurs. The world’s first solution-led blockchain accelerator, based in London’s Kings Cross, aims to slash through the hype surrounding blockchain and propel those startups which can offer real value.

StateZero’s three-month accelerator programme furnishes founders with up to £50,000 in equity-free investment, as well as office space and the connections to drive their business forward. Startups can also tap into tailored consultancy, covering everything from technological integration to mental health.

In fact, wellness is integral to the StateZero mission. Founders Katie Mills and Tazz Gault are determined to eradicate the “growth at all costs” mentality and their accelerator offers yoga and meditation as part of the programme. The ultimate goal is to help startups build something which can be sustained – personally as much as commercially.

The accelerator launched last year and selected seven startups in its initial branch, focused on a full range of sectors from shipping to music mixing. Several of the first intake graduated with either fully operational businesses, investor term sheets, or both. No doubt the tech community will be watching the next batch of invitees with interest.

Startups 100 Ranking: 79
Company name: Tshirtify Ltd
Founded: 2017

Merchandising business designed to help influencers monetise their popularity

Everywhere you look on social media, brands are using influencers to market their product. From running shoes to electronic cigarettes, the world’s biggest corporations are making a fortune through the bright young things who light up Facebook and Instagram.

But while these influencers are making fortunes for other people’s brands, someone needs to help them monetise their own. This is the core proposition of Startups 100 2018-listed Tshirtify; the Midlands-based company builds merchandise businesses for individual influencers, allowing them to reap the commercial reward from their new-found fame.

Tshirtify’s core service is printing. Over the past six years it has printed and shipped over 3,000 tees through its own online brand. However, founder Richard Flanagan realised a broader service was required to serve the new stars of social media, so he and his wife Kerry created a full concierge service comprising on-demand printing, fulfillment services and an e-commerce platform which syncs directly into an influencer’s existing online store.

To back up this core package, the company also provides business insights and technological toolkits to those who need them. The whole service is designed to give influencers more time to work on their memes and messages, safe in the knowledge that their brand is being properly looked after.

The results are hugely impressive. Tshirtify is helping its clients grow their revenue and profit by up to 20% year on year. Not only that, but its partnership with global giving organisation Buy 1, Give 1 has enabled clients to make significant donations to projects in Cambodia, Ethiopia and the Philippines.

Startups 100 Ranking: 80
Company name: BlackCurve
Founded: 2016

Price optimization platform which makes the rules – and rewrites them

In today’s world of ever-increasing competition and ever-changing consumer trends, BlackCurve helps retailers get the jump on their rivals with a pricing optimisation platform which combines a rules-based structure with artificial intelligence.

BlackCurve’s cloud-based platform enables clients to set the key objectives of their pricing regime. They might want to beat their competitor by 5p per item, ensure the lowest market price on all their products, or keep their prices below the RRP benchmark. Once these parameters have been entered, they serve as the benchmark of the pricing strategy.

Then BlackCurve’s AI functionality gets to work, analyzing the client’s prices against its competitors’ and providing real-time advice on price changes in response to breaking trends. Users can see a detailed breakdown of competitors’ products and prices, and will receive a full explanation for every price change – in plain English.

The BlackCurve platform delivers over 500,000 price changes per day and it works across a retailer’s inventory, so they can set a dynamic price for every single item, not just the key lines. If a client isn’t sure about the merits of a particular change, they can test it out before sending it live.

BlackCurve says profit improvements of 5-20% are commonplace with its platform, and the company’s own finances are in rude health, thanks to a £1.5m funding round led by Nauta Capital earlier this year.

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