Tech Nation Reveals the Five Top Early-Stage Tech Companies in the Midlands

  • FinTech StartUps
  • 07.12.2020 12:13 pm

Today, Tech Nation announces the five regional winners based in the Midlands of its Rising Stars 3.0 competition. In its third year, Rising Stars 3.0 is the UK's only national competition for innovative, early-stage tech companies, designed to showcase the best in the country and to help companies on their growth journey.  

The five regional winners for each region and nation across the UK have been selected by a panel of industry experts, and are regarded as tech leaders within their respective regions. These companies will now compete nationally for the chance to be named as one of Tech Nation’s 10 Rising Stars 3.0. The 10 Rising Stars UK Winners will be revealed in February 2021.

Tech Nation’s Rising Stars are on track to become the world leading tech companies of tomorrow, using technology to tackle the world’s greatest challenges. The competition provides the opportunity for the best of the nation’s early-stage scaleups to meet leading investors, influencers and corporates. 

Three of the five regional winners in the Midlands hail from the fintech sector, reflecting the region’s legacy in financial services and it’s growth as a fintech hub. Fintech scaleups in the Midlands currently represent 3% of the UK total, with 43 fintech scaleups which have collectively raised £149m in VC investment (compared to £110mn in the South West, and £97mn in Scotland). Over the past year, Fintech investment in the Midlands has increased by 21% from £14.7mn to £17.9mn. DivideBuy, an interest free credit provider based in Newcastle-under-Lyme tops the charts in the Midlands for investment, with the largest round, at £60mn in February 2019.

Last year, one of the 10 Rising Stars Winners was based in the Midlands:, a community-driven platform that helps shoppers save money while shopping online. Its ability to notify users when products are back in stock has made it particularly useful for people during the pandemic. The company has raised more than £500k from angel investors, and in March it was accepted onto the third Ignite NI accelerator – a three-month programme that helps new companies attract investment and scale internationally. Co-founder Sonu Bubna was named one of “10 inspiring women powering tech in the Midlands” by Tech Nation, and was listed as one of Birmingham’s 10 tech startups to watch” by Maddyness.


The Five Regional Winners from the Midlands:

  • BoardSecure (Birmingham, Lawtech) Founder: Clive Bawden

Helping charities and SMEs build stronger boards, BoardSecure is a digital platform enabling Company Directors and Charity Trustees to lower their risk, improve their skills and strengthen their accountability and investment readiness. BoardSecure helps Boards learn what they don't know about a subject, manage the correct risks and processes, and embeds these lessons through use of a portal tool.

  • eLocker (Derby, Hardware & Devices) Founders: Jacob Hinson and Mark Hinson

Locker management made easy, eLocker connects Bluetooth enabled locks to the internet via an IoT gateway. Already working with Amazon, DHL and Kuehne and Nagel, it’s the world's first wirelessly managed locker solution.

  • Felloh! (Grantham, Fintech) Founders: William Bicknell, Claire Lowry-Hubball and Ujwal Bhagwat

felloh! is a payments platform for good which cuts costs and does good with every payment. By embedding payments and banking into client's journeys, they improve customer experience, simplify reconciliation and innovate to improve profitability whilst embedding giving to good causes into the business model.

  • Predictiva (Leicester, Fintech) Founders: Ashraf Attia and Maysara Hammouda

Predictiva is making advanced AI available to everyone. Its advanced AI models utilises Deep Reinforcement Learning for fintech and other industries focused on predictive analytics; leveraging the cloud to provide an enterprise-scale yet easy-to-use platform which automates the analysis and management of financial trading.

Cryptoasset portfolio tracking, analytics and tax reporting, Recap is an end-to-end encrypted cryptoasset accountancy app. It collects transactions from a user's cryptoasset exchanges and services to help them understand their entire portfolio and comply with local tax reporting. Uniquely, this is done entirely within an end-to-end encrypted platform, so only the user ever has visibility of their sensitive financial data, protecting them from novel risks in the industry.                                        


The benefits of taking part in Rising Stars:

  • Pitch training and coaching by Pitching for Success
  • Meet potential investors through a series of VC office hours and AMAs
  • Opportunity to showcase your business to a curated audience of investors, accelerators, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders
  • Tech Nation content campaigns and profile raising
  • Induction into the Rising Stars and wider Tech Nation alumni network

Esme Caulfield, Competitions Lead, Tech Nationm comments: “Everyone knows that 2020 is a challenging year. We're honoured that so many companies took the time to apply for Rising Stars 3.0, and are truly excited about the calibre of our Regional Winners. It's great to see companies from every imaginable sector in the competition, and from every corner of the UK - from Aberdeen to Falmouth and everywhere in between. The 55 Rising Stars Regional Winners are companies that are proving their resilience and adaptability, building products that will support businesses and customers both now, and into the future. They are all deserving of recognition - and here at Tech Nation, we're thrilled to celebrate and showcase them.”

Naomi Nash, Entrepreneur Engagement Manager - Midlands, Tech Nationm comments: "This year’s Rising Stars applications were extremely impressive and those from the Midlands were certainly no exception. I’m thrilled to see the whole region represented in the regional finalists with companies from Lincoln, Derby, Birmingham, Leicester and Grantham. I’m really pleased to give these five amazing Midlands companies the full support and exposure that Rising Stars delivers. Huge congratulations, and rooting for all five to be crowned National winners."

Clive Bawden, Director of BoardSecure, comments: “At BoardSecure we are delighted to be chosen to represent the Midlands in this prestigious competition. We hope this competition will help us towards our mission to help company and charity boards become stronger, more productive and more diverse as the economy bounces back in 2021.” 

Jacob Hinson, Technical & Sales Director at eLocker, comments: “As a bit of an outsider in the tech community (because we offer both hardware and software) it's fantastic to be recognised for our achievements and we are really excited for the next round of the competition!” 

Will Bicknell, Founder of felloh!, comments: “We are thrilled to be recognised as one of the most innovative, early-stage tech companies in the Midlands.  All credit to our team that has achieved so much already in our first year!”

Ashraf Attia, Co-Founder and CEO of Predictiva, comments: “We're absolutely delighted to be one of the tech companies representing the Midlands in Tech Nation's Rising Stars 3.0. The timing couldn’t be better as we’ve just opened our investment round, which should be concluded in Q1 2021.”

Dan Howitt, CEO of Recap, comments: “We're excited to be one of the companies representing the Midlands. It's a massive opportunity for us to showcase our innovations and technology. The timing could not be better as we're due to close our seed round Q1 2021.” 


Key findings:

  • 85% of companies are looking to raise investment, with 25% of companies looking to raise in Q1 2021, and 31% currently raising or looking to raise
  • 45% of regional winners have raised Angel funding, compared to 16% of companies being bootstrapped and 23% of companies having raised VC funds VC
  • Average age of company: 2.7 years
  • 58% of companies are B2B
  • 69% of companies are planning to expand internationally in the next 12 months, with 52% of those wanting to expand to the US
  • The three main challenges facing companies:
    • Raising investment
    • Connecting with corporates
    • Hiring the right people


Eligibility criteria for the Rising Stars competition:

  • Seed to pre-Series A funding stage OR if revenue focused, generating annual revenues below £1.5m
  • A digital tech business with a product or service to sell
  • At least one active client or pilot
  • Able to demonstrate market traction
  • HQ’d in UK
  • Company incorporated between 1-3 years
  • Able to commit to key dates in the Rising Stars calendar


The competition received 330 applications in total, with 62% of applications from outside London. The competition also received 39% of applications from female founders and co-founders.

Related News