Current Status of The UK Startup Sector

2023 is now well underway and is already proving to be an eventful time for startups and established companies in the UK tech space. 2022 was a tumultuous year, with rising inflation and interest rates calling time on the “era of cheap capital” that had enabled numerous businesses to emerge and thrive. While this year will be a very different landscape for tech startups, despite economic uncertainties, there’s still plenty on the horizon.

New Landmark for Start Up Loans Programme

The country’s cost of living crisis may be expected to cast a shadow over new business prospects, but the startup landscape isn’t as bleak as previously believed. The British Business Bank’s ground-breaking Start Up Loans programme has reached a new milestone in 2023, having handed out 100,000 small business loans to UK ventures.

The scheme, which offers guidance and advice as well as financial support, has provided over £941 million to British entrepreneurs since the start of the programme in June 2012. Key groups supported by the scheme are women, young people, and BAME entrepreneurs, although the scheme is open to any entrepreneur with a business less than 36 months old.

There’s more good news for startups this year in the form of the newly-created Department of Science, Innovation & Technology at Whitehall. Headed up by minister Michelle Donelan, the new department is predicted to play a key role in achieving Rishi Sunak’s five key goals, with a particular emphasis on growing the economy.

According to Dom Hallas, Executive Director at Coadec (Coalition for a Digital Economy), the creation of the department “makes real sense” for young tech businesses and is expected to bring together BEIS funding with DCMS digital policymaking to give new ventures a boost.

BioNTech to Acquire Promising British Tech Firm

InstaDeep, the burgeoning London-based AI firm, is the first in what could be a series of British tech startups to be acquired by major international organisations in 2023. The company has recently entered into a deal worth £562 million with Germany’s BioNTech, which will see 100% of the firm transfer ownership during Q1 2023. BioNTech, a Mainz-based biotechnology specialist, notably partnered with Pfizer in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic to develop the record-breaking mRNA vaccine.

InstaDeep was founded in 2015 and quickly became one of the UK’s most promising tech startups. Its Series A and Series B funding rounds scored significant financial deals, including a $100 million investment last January from major tech enterprises like Google. The company’s innovative tools have been utilised throughout the biotech, electronic manufacturing and logistics industries. In joining forces with BioNTech, InstaDeep will deploy its world-leading capabilities to ensure next-generation immunotherapy design and development.

Revolut Expands its Crypto Portfolio

More and more businesses have entered the realms of cryptocurrency and blockchain in recent months as consumer trends increase the viability of crypto as a long-term revenue generator.

The GameFi sector is booming, with consumers around the globe looking to gamble online with crypto and earn digital assets in P2E games. Meanwhile, expansion into DeFi is on the agenda for existing financial entities, with London challenger bank Revolut being the latest in line to expand its crypto portfolio.

The FinTech firm has launched its own cryptocurrency staking service for customers across both the UK and the European Economic Area (EEA). An exclusive report from AltFi in February 2023 revealed details of this strategic move, which will see Revolut take giant steps into the digital currency industry. This new feature will allow users with crypto-asset investments to stake said assets for financial rewards.

Revolut has been ramping up its crypto diversification of late, despite the turbulence experienced in the market during 2022. Last autumn, the unicorn firm added 22 new decentralised currencies to its app – bringing the total to 100 tokens – and took on a number of significant new hires in its crypto department. Revolut’s Cardano, Ethereum, Polkkadot and Tezos staking functionality has been described by Emil Urmanshin, General Manager (Crypto), as the “first milestone on our 2023 roadmap”. Furthermore, the company received a substantial boost in September 2022 when it was granted full regulatory approval in the UK, Spain and Cyprus.

Cryptocurrency staking is a process that involves “lending out” digital assets to secure a blockchain network. In doing so, crypto owners can be rewarded through numerous financial incentives, including new tokens or a percentage of transaction fees (over a specified duration). With staking becoming a popular method for consumers to improve the performance of existing crypto investments, entering the market is a savvy move on Revolut’s part.

Microsoft Deal Blocked by UK Regulator

More than one year after Microsoft’s attempted acquisition of leading games development company Activision Blizzard, the deal is still facing opposition from major bodies. This time around, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has blocked the proposed purchase, stating that it would be detrimental to consumers and result in “higher prices, fewer choices and less innovation”.

The £57 billion deal would see the multinational acquire the rights to top gaming IP, including Call of Duty and Candy Crush. Regulators like the CMA remain concerned that should the acquisition go ahead, it would create an unfair monopoly in Microsoft’s favour and form new barriers to entry for emerging developers and publishers.