The Start-Up Series competition – over £1 million invested in latest winners

£1.14 million in SEIS and EIS funding has been invested into recent winners of The Start-Up Series competition, delivered by Worth Capital in partnership with Small Business

In September 2020, Small Business and Worth Capital partnered to re-launch The Start-Up Series – the UK’s largest seed funding competition.

Since then, five new winners have received a combined total of over £800,000 of equity investment from The Start-Up Series Fund and private investors. Three former winners have also gone on to receive over £300,000 of follow-on funding from the same source after achieving their impressive growth targets. All investments were subject to further due diligence carried out by Fund Manager, Amersham Investment Management.

Following the latest investment round completed in early April, Hayley Etherington, Business Operations Director of Worth Capital, said: “As the Start-Up Series approaches its 5th birthday later this year, we take great pride in having meticulously selected and crowned 25 competition winners from thousands of applications across the UK. They’ve received over £5.3 million in SEIS & EIS equity investment — that’s real cash, creating real innovation and jobs, and building loved brands.

“We welcome these latest five ambitious start-up businesses to the Worth Capital family with great optimism. As always, we’ll be working hard alongside the talented founding teams over the coming months and years, helping them to avoid risks and accelerate their growth.”

To find out about the latest winners and how your business could be considered for up to £250,000 in equity funding and receive hands-on help from Worth Capital, read on.

RECENT WINNER: UNIZEST, Fintech — SEIS investment

Founders: Matt Oldham, Anthony Shawcross & Chris Donnachie

UNIZEST (developed by Neofin Ventures) provides e-accounts for workers and students coming to the UK. Their solution is effortless to apply for and the account can be activated and used prior to arrival. It solves a huge problem for recruiters of the 1.5 million contingent workers that come to the UK each year. Unizest is built up by an experienced team from financial services industry and has recently received a large marketing support package from Mastercard.

Matthew Cushen, Founding Partner of Worth Capital, said “Unlike many businesses in the frenzied ‘fintech’ sector, Unizest has a clear target audience and a clear problem to solve. The team has a route to that target audience that should end up with a very low cost of acquisition. And they have a product and brand proposition forensically tailored to their type of user, along with a team that has delivered in the past.”


Founder: Mat Norbury

FC Laboratories develops wearable safety devices for monitoring and alerting to mental acuity. They are initially targeting the ‘hard hat’ market — construction, engineering & utilities – for whom health & safety is a huge priority and who have the budgets to support investment.

Paul Soanes, Founding Partner of Worth Capital, said: “The UK is not the only country to be building our way out of the pandemic. We expect the construction sector to be globally buoyant over the next few years and the FC Labs product is a very smart solution for those firms investing in the health & safety of their workers whilst improving productivity and quality. Mat really impressed us throughout the competition process. His grasp on both the technology and the market problem really stood out.”


Founder: Adrian Lawson

The Preference Hub is a cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription product that registers, monitors and services the millions of handheld devices used across industries, for things like stock control, warehousing, price lookup and medical care. Their product solves a big organisational and operational problem for large corporate users. And, they have already been revenue generating after only 10 months, with sales partnerships established.

Paul commented: “Adrian had recognized a recurrent issue for organisations deploying large numbers of rugged mobile devices – they’re difficult to keep track of. His solution is a beautifully executed software platform that gives organisations control of their devices with an obvious and measurable ROI. TPH’s stellar growth is testament to Adrian’s single minded customer focus and also his natural sales and marketing skills.”

RECENT WINNER: ONEƎ, Eco Apparel — SEIS investment

Founder: Carrie Davies

ONEƎ creates clothes with a lower environmental and societal impact compared to traditional methods — less water, less energy, no chemicals, ethical labour practices, circular reuse and fabric recycling and even resolving past industry mistakes, with 1% of every sale going to the clean-up of textile waste. They’re starting with targeting the £6 billion UK underwear market.

Matthew commented: “We always ensure that a business we support is leaving the world a better place than they found it. But occasionally the whole purpose of a business is also the commercial proposition. ONEƎ is bang on trend in creating a direct to consumer, apparel brand that is an antidote to fast fashion.”

PREVIOUS WINNER: FIVE DOT BOTANICS, Healthy & Beauty — SEIS investment

Founders: Zaffrin & Brian O’Sullivan

Five Dot Botanics develop high performance, semi-premium, skincare products. The business is bang on trend, with only five ingredients in each product, minimal and sustainable packaging, and a gender-neutral brand and target audience. Revenues are growing, including within two Hut Group brands and a new Middle East distribution deal.

Matthew said: “Since the Start-Up Series Fund first invested in Five Dot at the start of 2020, we have seen steady growth in direct to consumer and wholesale trade, within a market that is demonstrating ever more desire to reduce chemicals and embrace a lesser ingredient, simpler approach.”

RECENT WINNER: FOX ROBOTICS, Agritech – EIS investment

Founder: Henry Acevedo

Fox Robotics is developing an autonomous logistics and data collection robot for farmers. The hardware and software solution improves fruit and vegetable yields dramatically, reduces waste caused by labour shortages and pays back the farm’s investment quickly. The electric product, helping farmers to become more carbon neutral, is currently in a paid trial with the UK’s second largest soft fruit farm.

Paul said: “We like the agritech space, but had struggled to find anything we liked enough to consider for investment. Finally we found Fox Robotics, leading this round to provide funds to further develop the autonomous technology during the course of real world trials this year. Fox Robotics is very clever tech solving a major and expanding problem on fruit farms, and we’re delighted to be on-board.”


Founder: Daniel Verblis

The Moving Home Warehouse is packaging supply chain software company for the moving industry, enabling removals firms to deliver on demand directly to their end customers. This removes unnecessary journeys and administration from their operations. With Pickfords and Any Van Group as clients, they are projected to generate £2 million turnover in 2021.

Paul said: “The Start-Up Series Fund first invested in November 2018. It seems that 2021 is the breakthrough year, having now developed 3 different solutions that unlock enormous value for the moving industry, with two big new contracts with leading removals groups. Their latest investment will fast track some tech development, enabling existing working capital to be applied to sales and marketing.”


Founder: Andy Roberts

Weekly10 is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription business that helps companies measure and improve employee sentiment, engage and develop business culture, and improve performance on business objectives and goals. Weekly10 is a simple and real time alternative to traditional and unwieldy engagement surveys and performance reviews. It already has clients across the world from UK to the USA, from New Zealand to Canada.

Matthew said: “Weekly10 are in a competitive but huge sector – and one with attractive exit routes and multiples. One of the reasons the Start-Up Series Fund originally invested is that the proposition is boldly different to others in the space. Rapidly increasing recurring revenue, very low churn and a high volume of clients that are adding to their users, show that difference is an advantage.”

The Start-Up Series competition

The Series opens for applications every month, with the aim to select one or two winners to receive:

• Up to £250,000 of SEIS/EIS equity funding (subject to due-diligence, terms & conditions).

• A minimum of 2 years invaluable hands-on help from experienced & battle-scarred entrepreneurs

• Media coverage on & other channels to promote your business & follow your journey.

We are on the hunt for B2B or B2C business across all sectors. As long as your business is eligible for SEIS or EIS HMRC advance assurance, then we’ll consider your application.

We’ll be impressed by innovative products or services, in high growth or underserved markets, with the potential to build a loved brand. If you can demonstrate these, you’re in with a fighting chance.

Because the investment will come from an EIS & SEIS FCA regulated fund, businesses who are considering entering need to satisfy the following criteria set by HMRC:

• You must be a UK resident and run a UK-based business

• You must be over 18 years old at the time of entry

• Certain financial services and property businesses are unlikely to qualify.

Find out how to enter The Start-Up Series here

Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor of Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber...

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