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Top 10 startup stories of 2019

Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 startup stories of 2019

A persistent theme in this year’s Computer Weekly startup coverage was again collaboration, but this time with a particular emphasis on building ecosystems.

Across Europe, startups have been pushing to build collaborative ecosystems in both the public and private sector alongside their partners.

In particular, the Norwegian startup scene has taken an “ecosystem approach” to compete with startups with Sweden, which represented 50% of the Nordic region’s exit value in 2016.

Even large corporate entities, such as travel software provider Amadeus, are opening their systems to third parties as part of a “distributed innovation” strategy. 

Outside of ecosystem building, there are a number of other startup stories that look at specific technology use cases, as well as stories that highlight issues in the wider technology sector through the lens of startups.

Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 startup stories of 2019.

1. Computer Weekly visited Oslo to see how entrepreneurs were building their ecosystem

According to founders and investors in Oslo, Norway has lagged behind its Nordic neighbours in terms of startups because it has focused too much on its historical strengths – fishing, oil and gas.

However, things have been slowly changing over the last few years, after the Norwegian government set up a number of seed funds and initiatives to bootstrap the startup scene.

As it stands now, Norwegian startups are struggling to scale due to the limited scale of the market, and are therefore looking to export their technology internationally after testing it in Norway first.

2. Amadeus opens APIs to distribute innovation

Travel software company Amadeus opened its application programming interfaces (APIs) this year, as part of a strategy it called “distributed innovation”.

Despite just under half of its 19,000 workforce already concentrated on research and development (R&D), Amadeus wanted to expand its capacity for innovation by tapping into talent from outside the company.

“We are very much aware that the next big idea in travel is likely to come from outside of Amadeus, so part of our innovation activity is to look outward and facilitate startups and other actors to create these ideas,” said Marion Mesnage, head of research, innovation and ventures at Amadeus, at the time.

This signals a move away from seeing startups as competitors, and as something that can add value to the firm’s enterprise offerings.

3. Collaboration needed to spread government technology

Despite the rapid spread of government technology across Europe, policy makers, civil servants and technologists are still figuring out best practices, with many at the second GovTech Summit this year promoting inter-government collaboration and private-public partnerships to do so.

Delegates at the Summit in Paris also heard about some of the barriers to the adoption of government technology.

This includes the difference in working culture between civil servants and entrepreneurs, as well as how Europe is actually better placed than any other continent to roll out new government technologies.

4. The keys to B2B startup success

With it being easier than ever for IT professionals to set up their own businesses, Computer Weekly looked at what makes a successful business-to-business technology startup.

The top recommendations from the founders and investors we spoke to were finding a niche, build a defensive moat around the product, and focus on people first.

They also pointed out the importance of good enterprise sale skills, which are often undervalued or overlooked by startups that think just having the technology in itself is enough.

5. 3D printing of medical devices eases strain of clinician shortage

Medical technology startup Andiamo uses artificial intelligence (AI), couple with 3D scanning and printing, to create orthotic devices with much more speed and accuracy than traditional manufacturing methods.

Orthotics, which include braces and splints, are used by about 2.5 million people in the UK to correct the function of movable parts of the body, which may be compromised by conditions such as spina bifida and cerebral palsy.

Now, Andiamo is able to cut the time it takes to deliver orthotic devices to children from six months to just a week. With just 300 qualified orthotists in the UK, clinicians are saying that Andiamo’s technology can help them see more patients, as well as spend more time with them.

6. Freelancers prefer more flexible work, but increasing use of gig work could create more precarity for workers

A report by the BCG Henderson Institute, the Boston Consulting Group’s strategy think-tank, which was carried out with support of Research Now SSI, looked at attitudes of freelancers working in the so-called gig economy.

It found that freelancers are increasingly turning to digital labour-sharing platforms because of the autonomy and flexibility they allow, with 45% of gig workers saying the independence provided by these platforms is preferable to full-time salaried work.

It also showed how diverse gig work is, with freelancers using a range of platforms to engage in completely different types of work, from drivers to software developers.

However, despite digital labour-sharing platforms becoming more pronounced in the economy, there is a risk that labour in general could become much more precarious, bringing into question whether these platforms should be regulated.

7. Startup venture firm Public launches programmes in three more European countries

In February, UK startup venture firm Public launched three GovTech programmes in France, Germany and Denmark to support startups working on the delivery of public services technology across Europe.

“Europe holds immense potential to support a thriving ecosystem of dynamic and innovative startups transforming public services for the enhancement of service providers and citizens alike,” said Daniel Korski, CEO and co-founder of Public. “We hope these new programmes present the first steps towards that reality.”

Again, the spread of startup programmes across Europe by Public shows the increasing interest governments have in collaborating with startups.

8. Data infrastructure provider uses partner ecosystem to help companies collect and unify data

Data infrastructure startup Segment has been helping companies unlock their siloed data stores to help boost visibility of their customer engagements.

Founded in 2015, hyper-growth travel management software provider TravelPerk found it could no longer effectively monitor customer engagement after 700% year-on-year growth meant it could no longer keep up.

Segment’s customer data infrastructure software helps companies collect, unify and connect their first-party data to over 200 marketing, analytics and data warehousing tools.

These tools are not provided by Segment directly, but by the 250-plus partners that make up its infrastructural ecosystem.

9. Tech Nation launches first cyber security scale-up programme

The UK-based entrepreneurial network Tech Nation launched its first dedicated national cyber security scale-up programme, which held its first cohort in April.

“To stay ahead of cyber threats, it is crucial we support and promote our world-class cyber security industry,” said then-digital minister Margot James. “Tech Nation’s new programme will not only help young businesses to expand, but ensure our thriving cyber sector continues to grow.”

There are currently more than 800 cyber security businesses based in the UK, 89% of which are small and medium-sized enterprises.

Tech Nation hopes that accelerating the growth of the country’s leading startups will help to boost the UK’s overall digital security sector.

10. UK tech sector sees best year for investment yet  

Figures released in August show that the UK tech sector is on track for its best year to date if the current trajectory continues, with a projected $11bn to be invested before the end of 2019.

This has been helped by a massive surge in foreign investment, with over half of the $6.7bn raised this year coming from US and Asian investors.

On top of this, the UK is still one of the top European countries for home-grown funding too, with 37% of tech investments coming from domestic sources. Only France and the Netherlands exceed the UK in terms of domestic funding.

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