6 Great Leeds Startups You Should Know About

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13 min
Great Leeds Startups
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Table of Contents
  • 1. Cocoon
  • 2. Synap
  • 3. Zappi
  • 4. RebuildingSociety
  • 5. Hark
  • 6. BigChange
  • Final thoughts

Managing and delivering software projects is no small task, especially when the project in question is a startup.

Marcin Zabawa, a Head of Service Delivery at STX Next, is going to Leeds next week to meet with one of our clients—a startup, no less.

With that in mind, we asked him to comment on some of the most promising up-and-coming companies in and around Leeds.

Since he was the perfect candidate for the job, he gladly took it upon himself to produce this article for you.

The startup industry is booming all over the world, whether it’s London, New York, or Tokyo.

But you know that, don’t you?

What you may not know is that the megacities are not the only places where the startup action is happening. There are also numerous hidden gems that may not be on your radar yet, thought they very much should.

One such startup gem is Leeds.

Why is that?

According to this report by Tech Nation, Leeds has experienced a 138% digital business birth increase from 2011 to 2016, with 168 startups founded by 2016 and a GVA of £1.3 billion as of 2017.

Furthermore, Leeds List has dubbed the city “one of the most exciting digital hubs in the UK.” Beyond attributing the success of Leeds to the general boom in the tech industry, they draw attention to the city’s massive growth potential for the future.

With all that in mind, I figured it was a no-brainer to compile a list of 6 most exciting startups in Leeds for you to keep an eye on.

I’ve chosen representatives from the following industries: consumer electronics, e-learning, staffing and recruiting, financial services, information technology and services, computer software.

1. Cocoon



Who are they?

Cocoon has been dealing in consumer electronics since 2014.

Over 4 rounds of funding, they raised a total amount of $7.1 million.

What do they do?

The startup offers a smart home security system—first in the world and one of a kind.

Cocoon combines a variety of cutting-edge technologies to detect unusual activity in your home and continually learn how protect it better. It alerts you the minute something is wrong by sending high quality video straight to your phone.

Contained within a single sphere, all Cocoon needs to work is power and internet connection. The wide angle camera also allows you to check up on your home anytime, anywhere.

Why are they great?

The idea for the startup came together because the founders wanted to simplify and unify home security, believing the traditional way was overly complicated and expensive.

Cocoon was created in an effort to make people’s homes safer by using a single device that is both intuitive and intelligent.

Paweł Jurdeczka, Product Strategy Consultant and resident expert on all things startup at STX Next, had this to say about Cocoon:

“It would be difficult to argue against the value Cocoon offers to their clients, but let’s not forget they also have a strong funding history behind them. This insurtech startup raised more than $100,000 in 4 days through Indiegogo crowdfunding. Aviva Ventures saw high-growth potential and invested in them shortly after launch. Dan Conlon, one of the founders, sold his previous two companies for $4 and $11 million, respectively. All in all, I’ll be closely watching the next steps Cocoon takes.”

My thoughts on Cocoon

The fate of our homes has already been sealed; they will get connected and become “smart.”

Make no mistake, this is a generational change. Soon each and every one of us will have no choice but to face the challenge of going through all the alternative solutions, picking the right ones, and learning how to operate them.

The previous generation witnessed dishwashers and ovens go from being overly complicated machines to simple, yet useful objects solving actual problems. The change then wasn’t radical in terms of technical capabilities, but user experience. Now, Cocoon is doing the same with home security.

But rest assured, this is good news. It’s exactly what we need for our homes and families, even if we don’t yet realize it.

2. Synap



Who are they?

Synap is an e-learning platform, founded by James Gupta and Omair Vaiyani in 2015.

In 2017, Prolific North listed them as one of the top 30 Northern Tech companies to watch.

They raised £200,900 over 3 rounds of funding.

What do they do?

Synap incorporates advanced learning techniques—such as Active Elaboration, Interleaved Practice, or Spaced Repetition—into a unique platform designed not just for students, but also hobbyists and professionals.

The goal of the product is to facilitate learning on all levels, allowing you to learn more in less time, while also retaining a lot more information instead of forgetting the majority of it.

Plus, they strive to make the process intuitive and fun, and encourage sharing the experience with friends and colleagues.

Why are they great?

The idea for Synap came to be as a result of its two founders trying to find a solution to their own problem as students: learning as much as possible, as quickly as possible.

They developed a method to help them acquire new information more efficiently. Eventually, that became an early version of Synap, shared with their colleagues so that they, too, could learn better.

Before long, the app went viral and started being used on every education level. This made the founders realize they were addressing a genuine need a lot of people had. And so, what used to be a personal project is now being turned into a world-class educational platform.

My thoughts on Synap

The resounding success of apps like Duolingo that leverage memory and learning techniques leaves no doubt that there is a clear demand for tools to learn new things faster.

Synap focuses on one particular thing—quizzes—and does it as well as it can be done. They are a company worth following in the e-learning world.

3. Zappi



Who are they?

Zappi is an exciting new player on the Leeds startup scene, and they haven’t even been around for a full year.

Founded in January 2018 by Andrew Larholt and David Stewart, the company deals in staffing and recruiting.

What do they do?

Zappi’s field is education. Specifically, they set their sights on finding temporary teachers.

The founders noticed that schools are often in need of temporary teachers, but rarely find out about it early enough, which makes the process of finding substitutes stressful and inefficient.

Zappi decided to change that.

Their app allows schools to get in touch with temporary teachers whenever they need to. The school knows right away which teachers are available, so they waste no time reaching out to the busy ones.

Teachers can use the app to log the time spent teaching easier and get paid quicker. Zappi makes it all seamless.

Why are they great?

Zappi holds a special place in our hearts, because it’s a product we have worked on ourselves. I, myself, take part in Sprint Reviews and frequently talk to Anna Smolińska, the Product Owner/Scrum Master for the project.

I asked Anna to explain why in her opinion STX Next enjoyed working for Zappi so much. This is what she had to say:

“Our whole team was eager to get to work on Zappi right away, because the project was about helping ordinary people solve a specific problem. Even though the product was targeted at a narrow group, we could tell it was a niche that needed to be filled. Another reason we enjoyed the cooperation was because Zappi had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve, but were very open about how to get there. Instead of turning down our suggestions, they embraced them.”

From our point of view, it is precisely this commitment to changing the world for the better and improving the lives of regular people that makes Zappi stand out from the crowd.

Here’s how Marcin Siemieński, the Product Design Team Lead for Zappi, described his experience working for them:

“Zappi chose to involve Product Design in the process from the get-go, which allowed us to shape the initial vision, interface concepts, and flows together. Because they felt comfortable leaving the challenges to us, instead of offering ready-made solutions, we were able to use our expertise to the fullest every step of the way. The communication with the client was also beyond reproach—we wasted no time and had all the information we needed to do our job.”

We are actively working on improving Zappi to make it as practical and useful as possible. 

My thoughts on Zappi

Zappi perfectly captures the zeitgeist of our times.

By offering a clever, tech-leveraging solution, they strive to radically improve the way we deal with substantial everyday problems—in this case, education.

A curated teacher database and the feeling of control over their hiring and compensation is a dream come true for any school’s cover managers. The teachers also stand to benefit a great deal from a mature, convenient, and flexible job market tailored specifically to the needs of education.

But most importantly, Zappi aims to provide children with skilled and trusted professionals. The people who teach our kids have the power to mould them into the adults they will become. You really can’t put a price tag on such value.

4. RebuildingSociety



Who are they?

Founded in 2012 by Daniel Rajkumar, RebuildingSociety is a financial services company.

They received their FCA authorization in February 2017, and went on to become an ISA manager in May 2017.

What do they do?

RebuildingSociety is an online, peer-to-peer lending platform. Their mission is to connect creditworthy, ethical businesses with individual investors who are on the lookout for a healthier, better return on their money.

Unlike other platforms, who promote passive transactions with limited knowledge or information, the startup fosters “financial activism,” believing that responsible lending with a sense of purpose serves all of society.

Why are they great?

RebuildingSociety aids peer-to-peer lenders in making informed financial decisions by offering them quick access to funds, bypassing the banks.

The commercial loans they arrange are meant to actually support the growth of companies and businesses of all shapes and sizes thanks to a whole community of lenders.

My thoughts on RebuildingSociety

Peer-to-peer lending is a very powerful concept.

Along with crowdfunding, it’s already revolutionizing the way companies are managing their finances. This is especially true for startups trying to raise capital.

After the recent success of Brewdog’s Equity for Punks—they raised over £65 million—more and more people in the UK are bound to get interested in those kinds of investments.

The trend is here and it is on the rise. RebuildingSociety was in right place at the right time to jump on it.

5. Hark



Who are they?

Hark is an information technology and services startup, founded in 2016.

What do they do?

The Hark Platform is a comprehensive monitoring system, working alongside your existing infrastructure. The platform is designed to monitor, store, and analyze your most important data in real time with intuitive software.

The technology is cloud-based and wireless, seamlessly connecting hardware with software—both compatible with industry standards and all data types.

Why are they great?

Per their website, “the Hark mission is to build innovative hardware and software solutions to remedy real-world challenges.” I think this describes what the startup is all about perfectly.

Hark is currently being used in life sciences, healthcare, trade, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and many more.

My thoughts on Hark

Hark is a startup with big ambitions.

Building both hardware and software to connect the physical world with the power of big data, automation, and AI is challenging to say the least. The reward is great, though, and they are bound to know it.

Only one question remains: will Hark be able to compete on the smart city market with big players like Siemens or young, but established companies like Estimote?

6. BigChange



Who are they?

BigChange is a computer software startup, founded in 2012.

In 2017, they ranked 25th in Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 UK.

They raised a total amount of $1.7 million in a single round of seed funding.

What do they do?

BigChange promises comprehensive, all-in-one solutions for planning, scheduling, and managing your mobile workforce.

By bringing together your back office, mobile workers, and customers, they promise to transform the way your company manages all mobile workforces and operations.

Why are they great?

Designed for businesses of all sizes and sectors, BigChange offers 24/7 support whenever you need it.

Their infrastructure is innovative, dependable, and easy to use. As an added bonus, you can run it on your own devices.

My thoughts on BigChange

For some time now, traditional companies have been craving to gain the level of process visibility digital businesses enjoy.

The gain is obvious: control your data, learn from your data, then improve the way you operate. Unfortunately, “digitalization” tends to be a word reserved for corporations and big entities.

BigChange aims to change that by bringing the power of digitalization to all kinds of businesses, no matter the size.

To us tech-savvy geeks, this was achievable in part by leveraging multiple SaaS services like ProcessPlan, Xero, and OmniFocus. But for anyone less familiar with the digital tech world, integrating a plethora of separate platforms all by yourself (with each other, but also with your employees) was a veritable nightmare.

Luckily, BigChange is here to save the day. The all-in-one solution they provide has the potential to make digitalization ubiquitous.

Final thoughts

Our Director of Business Development, Matthew Harris, is optimistic about Leeds’ future:

“Even though many of the local startups tend to be overshadowed by larger tech giants like Rockstar Games or Sky Betting and Gaming, Leeds is an emerging digital hub and a rising star in the startup game.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Thanks for reading my article! At STX Next, we care about startups as much as the big companies, so it was an absolute pleasure to write this post for our blog.

What did you think of my list? Which of these startups caught your eye in particular? Do you know of any Leeds startups that should’ve made the list, but didn’t?

Feel free to drop me a line below, and I’ll surely get back to you.

Or better yet, if you happen to be in Leeds on October 18, why don’t you reach out to me directly and schedule a quick meeting? I’d be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss managing and delivering your software project.

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