A SPOTLIGHT ON START-UPS
In September, LinkedIn announced their Top 10 Start-ups of 2020 - a list they have published annually since 2017.
To compile, LinkedIn editors and data scientists focused on four pillars: employee growth, jobseeker interest, member engagement with the company and its employees, and how well they pulled talent from LinkedIn’s flagship Top Companies list. To be eligible, companies must be seven years old or younger, have at least 50 employees, be privately held and headquartered in the UK.
And while not all the companies listed are rooted in areas that interest me, I find it fascinating to see what “success” looks like, especially given the current climate.
Curious to see who made the cut, and why? Let’s find out….
Automotive | Founded: 2015 | Headcount: 1,150
Arrival is an electric vehicle start-up, focussed on buses, vans, taxis and delivery robots built with versatile, sustainable and low-cost materials. Having secured a €100m investment from Hyundai and Kia, Arrival set about establishing specialist “microfactories” - production plants located close to areas of demand to utilise local supply chains and talent. In an article on Medium, their Materials Team explain:
“‘At Arrival we have the freedom to develop completely new ways of thinking about materials for design. This approach has provided engineers with the means to do things differently, which is fundamental if we are to succeed in bringing about a revolution in sustainable transportation”.
Arrival credit their success to overcoming the limitations of “stamping” – a costly and time-consuming process used for the conventional production of metal body vehicles.
The article continues:
“In the pursuit of radical performance at low cost, we have moved progressively up the supply chain. Not only do we produce the vehicle; but in the case of our composites we manufacture the panels, the fabrics and the fibres. This creates the opportunity to make improvements at every step, and take advantage of trade-offs that would otherwise not be possible. For example, by adjusting the chemistry of the composite we can improve the efficiency of our moulding cycle, and reduce cycle time and factory cost.”
In an interview with Forbes, Arrival founder Dennis Sverdlov stated:
“The rule of this game of big factories is broken… If you do things exactly the same as others do it's quite strange to expect better results.”
He’s right on the money there. Just like his company’s focus on zero waste. By carefully assessing the materials they use in the production process – and prioritising efficiency and reusability - Arrival can limit their impact on the environment.
It’s not hard to justify Arrival’s inclusion in this list. When it comes to the production of sustainable and cost-effective electric vehicles, they have truly broken the mould.
Financial Services | Founded: 2015 | Headcount: 2,125
Perhaps it’s just me, but the name conjures up thoughts of a certain Swedish vodka brand. Revolut’s offering, however, couldn’t be further removed…
Founded in the summer of 2015, Revolut is a financial technology company aiming to provide a digital alternative to traditional banking - especially where travel is concerned. Revolut.com not only offers fast, cheap money transfers and card payments abroad (in 29 currencies), but also facilitates ATM withdrawals in 120 countries at low or no cost.
2019 was a big year for Revolut. October saw the announcement of a global deal with Visa, enabling expansion into 24 markets. The following month, they were named the winner of Deloitte’s UK Technology Fast 50 award, in part due to their average three-year growth rate of 48,477% (to the year 2018/2019) - the fourth-highest revenue growth in the 22-year history of the competition.
Then-COO, Richard Davies, commented:
“I don’t think there is a more exciting company in the world right now than Revolut. We are just in the first stages of expansion, and see phenomenal potential to create a truly global brand in the coming years. Our challenge now is to make sure the business and structure scales at the same pace, and that we continue to invest in our people and processes.”
2020 had other plans. Yet despite the impact of coronavirus (with around 60 roles being made redundant as early as May), the company has continued to roll out new features and product offerings, including their expansion to Japan in September of this year.
Not all their press in recent years has been favourable, mind.
In April 2019, the BBC reported on a whistle-blower’s concerns about compliance and the CEO’s conduct. Later that month, Wired published a piece debating whether or not the company had cleaned up its act in relation to “missteps and management failures”:
“The trailblazing fintech company had, it was alleged, suffered lapses with its sanctions screening system, faced a string of high-profile departures, asked job applicants to work for free, and attained some of its vertiginous growth by squeezing staff to achieve impossible targets.”
Then, as recently as September, Revolut made headlines again – this time in the Financial Times. In an article detailing one account holder’s eight-week battle to recover his £150,000 bank transfer, consumer complaints were also addressed:
"Revolut has been the subject of a surge in complaints about the freezing or closing of accounts. Resolver, the online complaints service, reported that it had received 3,911 complaints about Revolut so far this year, compared with 2,487 for the whole of 2019. Of this year’s complaints, 332 were about problems accessing funds, 79 were transfer errors and 176 were multiple complaints involving more than one issue."
Whether Revolut will ride the storm remains to be seen, but with co-founder and CEO, Nikolay Storonsky, recently being named the UK’s first tech start-up billionaire, I’d say the odds are in their favour.
Market Research | Founded: 2015 | Headcount: 98
Market research firm Streetbees has evolved from an app for consumers to snap pictures of supermarket shelf layouts to “the world’s first human intelligence platform”. By analysing real-life moments collected from their 3.5 million users (or “bees”) across 190 countries, they offer fascinating – and valuable - insights into human behaviour.
In October, they announced their latest round of funding. A not-too-shabby $40 million…
“Streetbees today closed a $40 million Series B round to accelerate the development of the world’s first human intelligence platform. With its own community of 3.5 million consumers capturing emotion and context ‘in the moment’ when they engage with brands, Streetbees uncovers unique growth opportunities by applying deep neural networks to analyse this unstructured data.
“80% of human decisions are made offline, and just as Google indexed the online world, Streetbees makes the offline world visible and searchable by indexing its proprietary dataset of millions of offline moments.”
The announcement continues:
“Advances in data science and the proliferation of smart devices allowing consumers to share their brand experience in real time has seen 8 of the world’s 10 largest consumer goods companies - including PepsiCo, Unilever and Procter and Gamble - rely on Streetbees to provide intelligence they cannot find elsewhere.”
Advancing deep tech to decode human behaviour - now that’s a business idea I can get on board with! I cannot begin to comprehend what they could achieve in their next five years of operation, and that – for me – is incredibly exciting. As is Streetbees effort to aid with the pandemic:
“Through COVID-19, Streetbees has played a critical role for national health services and NGOs such as the NHS and the Red Cross, allowing them to understand how consumer fears and mental health have been evolving through the pandemic. Streetbees has also released a public facing Mood of the World platform, providing a real-time view of consumer emotion across 50 markets, derived from open text.”
Their Mood of the World tool includes a toggle for time travel. A year ago, countries around the globe had turned green indicating “Content / Upbeat”. Today, “Anxious / Stressed” is the dominant mood, with “Sad / Depressed” reported across Nigeria, Ethiopia, Pakistan and The Philippines. Let’s hope the rollout of a certain vaccine can change that before too long!