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The most exciting startups this year... so far
Our roundup of the startups engaging our readers the most in 2023
It’s time for what we’ve decided should become a quarterly tradition: our list of startups that are exciting PreSeed Now readers the most.
The list is based on engagement and shares of our profiles of these startups, and we’re going to draw from a rolling 12-month period of activity to keep things interesting.
So, which UK-based, early-stage B2B and deep tech startups have made the list? Let’s take a look…
The 10 startups getting you most excited over the past 12 months
…based on reads and shares on PreSeed Now:
The live music industry isn’t in a great state of health, and CastRooms wants to change that by reimagining livestreamed events.
The startup creates a live, on-screen human crowd by collecting together video feeds from viewers' device cameras. The idea is that the energy from the crowd feeds back to other crowd members and to the artists themselves.
It sounds simple, but a lot of thought has been put into making this a compelling experience that can exist alongside a live in-person crowd, or take place entirely online.
Unlike online business conferences, which have fallen out of favour (much to the annoyance of Hopin and its investors), CastRooms could be onto something here in the entertainment space.
One problem holding back AR and VR is the nausea it can leave users with. Lark Optics has developed tech to avoid this problem in augmented reality glasses.
Rather than focus your eyes on a ‘virtual screen’, which can be the cause of sickness, this startup projects the AR image onto your retina. The AR is always in focus no matter what your eyes might do to adjust to the real world around you.
Lark Optics is working to a fabless model for producing the components they design, which they will then sell to companies that make AR headsets.
We summarised Blend as “like TikTok for training deskless workers”. It’s a platform designed to let businesses in industries like hospitality train workers quickly and effectively with easy-to-consume mobile videos.
“It's notoriously difficult training these workers in what is a highly transient sector, where skills are very practical, and people need to learn things very fast. And a lot of money is wasted, repetitively onboarding these workers,” co-founder and CEO Jonah Werth told us.
Businesses using Blend create their own video content, something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but the rise of TikTok and Instagram Reels has turned many businesses into video producers, so it’s no big leap for them to create content for internal use.
Cambridge Future Tech
Is Cambridge Future Tech a startup? The company helps academics spin their tech out of universities and then gets really hands on with the resulting startups in their early stages.
But it’s very much at an early-stage itself, and we recently dived into its story and ambitions
“It's very difficult for the investment community to meaningfully engage in investment activities in [early-stage deep tech] because of the lack of measurable KPIs on early-stage companies,” said Cambridge Future Tech CEO and co-founder Owen Thompson, explaining the gap the company wants to fill.
Cambridge Future Tech is working towards building out eight companies per year, having already taken six companies to the pre-seed investment stage.
Are passwords nearly dead? The rapid emergence of passkeys in your favourite apps is helping to send them towards the grave, but Zally has developed tech that it believes has advantages that set it apart from other approaches.
It uses the sensors in your device to determine whether it really is you trying to log in.
On a mobile device, Zally measures things like how you’re holding and moving the device, and how you interact with the screen. On desktop, it looks at things like how you move the mouse pointer and use the keyboard.
Zally is confident of the tech’s ability to tell people apart and is busy gearing up for launch.
PreSeed Now profiles early-stage B2B and deep tech startups from across the UK. A new edition goes out to smart investors and founders every Tuesday and Thursday.
Ultrasound tech has a funny ability to seem like magic when it’s used with mobile devices. Everlink is harnessing that ‘magic’ for an SDK that it hopes will unleash the untapped potential of the IoT market.
Founder Isaac Harmer told us about how Everlink’s tech overcomes limitations of established competitors on the market.
Everlink has recently been field tested with partner businesses in contexts as diverse as carpark security and noise reduction on video calls.
Here at PreSeed Now, we love B2B software designed to serve a tight, well-defined, and potentially lucrative niche.
Swallow fits that bill with its software for pricing professionals. Who? Basically, people who specialise in mapping out complex pricing structures in markets like insurance, loans, mortgages, or leasing.
There’s plenty of software for this market already, but it’s largely clunky, old-school and arguably not built with usability in mind.
Swallow puts simplicity and usability first, and has a Slack-style bottom-up go-to-market approach that targets end-users at startups and large enterprises alike.
For all the talk of the importance of A.I. safety, most of today’s A.I. isn’t built with a ‘safety first’ mindset.
Aligned AI’s co-founders have long worked in the fields of A.I. safety and ethics, and now they’re building fundamental A.I. tech that wants to be inherently safer than the competition.
“If you want to tell a robot not to harm a human being, you have to find a way to be able to communicate to it what a human is and what harm is, in pretty much the same way that a human understands those concepts,” co-founder Rebecca Gorman told us.
“With traditional machine learning, we're nowhere near communicating that. With the concept extrapolation that we've been developing at Aligned AI, we're getting closer, and we'll continue to get closer with our research.”
Aligned AI is working towards building a “safer” alternative to the likes of GPT-4.
Ashore believes there’s an untapped market of professionals and creatives who want to get away for short bursts of important work without distractions.
It targets this market with an Airbnb-style marketplace of rental properties in scenic locations.
But unlike your typical cottage in the middle of nowhere, these properties are kitted out with productivity-focused features like proper office furniture and decent wifi.
Co-founder and CEO Aled Maclean-Jones explained it like this:
“The way we like to describe it is ‘we're for the builders, and the deciders’. The builders will go away to work on really important specific projects, and deciders are going away to make the big, needle-moving decisions that are going to shape the future of whatever they're working on.”
Cam AI builds upon its founder’s expertise in the field of treating young people’s mental health. It combines psychology with A.I. in an interesting and potentially life-saving way.
The startup has developed conversational A.I., designed to prevent suicide and self harm by intervening in ways other tech simply won’t.
Founder and CEO Robert Batt explains:
“The evidence shows that talking about suicide reduces suicide. All those thousands of wellness apps that may purport to be mental health apps, if you say ‘I feel suicidal’ to their chatbot it will ask you to leave their platform… ‘Sorry, we can't help. I suggest you call 999 or the Samaritans’, or whatever it might be.
“They are just providing a sticking plaster to people's moods, they're not actually shifting moods.”
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