Good Food Fund Launches to Back Challenger Brands Fighting Childhood Obesity

Funding to support challenger food and drink brands to improve access to a healthier range of options through business partnerships will be the first main focus.

Big Society Capital and Guy’s and St Thomas’s Charity have partnered to fund Good Food Fund, a new Accelerator and Venture Fund which will be backing food and drink challenger SME and start-up brands to help tackle childhood obesity.

Business owners are invited to apply for a cut of the £1.8m Good Food Fund to come together in the fight against childhood obesity. The prototype fund will provide business support and allocate finances to brands committed to bringing healthier children’s brands to market. The Accelerator will be run by Mission Ventures and the Venture Capital Fund will be managed by Ascension Ventures.

The after-school snacking occasion for school children will be a key focus, with the long-term aim of transforming the options available through the support of healthier challenger brands at an affordable price point.

Good Food Fund has been under development for 18 months. COVID-19 highlights the need to invest in the health of our population, including that of children. Therefore, we believe this fund is needed now more than ever. We will be monitoring changes to consumer habits formed during the lockdown as well as how brands can best deliver affordable, tasty, convenient and healthy food to families in the future.

To apply, brands must be UK Limited Companies. The application form is simple with an initial on-line and digital selection process. The cut off for applicants to the accelerator is Monday 27th April and brands are invited to learn more about the programme and the selection criteria by visiting Successful applicants will receive a fully-funded package of business support from Mission Ventures. This will include a rigorous business review using the company’s own MissionMap, which will assess all aspects of the business and a plan for how it can be scaled to reach an accessible and sustainable price point. Participants can also apply for financial support in the form of equity and debt from Good Food Fund.

Good Food Fund is managed by early-stage Venture Capital firm Ascension Ventures and will offer debt and equity investments into businesses that have gone through the Accelerator, as well as other start-ups and challenger food brands keen to reduce childhood obesity. Ascension Ventures are one of the most active Seed investors in the UK and have been deploying the Fair By Design Fund (“FBD”) for two years, focused on reducing the Poverty Premium in the UK. The Ascension Ventures team will leverage the impact infrastructure they built with FBD to spearhead Good Food Fund. To apply to us directly, please send an email with a pitch deck to

“We are excited to partner on this hugely important initiative”, says Mission Ventures CEO Paddy Willis.

“Following groundwork last year, we are ready to explore how healthier challenger brands can play their part within market-led initiatives to combat childhood obesity, especially in families on lower incomes. We look forward to recruiting a broad range of SME brand owners and retailers, both on local borough initiatives and at a more strategic level. Through the combination of our team’s practical experience in launching, growing and scaling successful young brands, we believe we will change the landscape of healthy snacking for children.”

Ascension Ventures Managing Partner Jean de Fougerolles says:

“When the UK comes out of COVID-19, funds like Good Food Fund will play an even more relevant and crucial role by backing businesses and impact entrepreneurs that are solving key market failures and driving food innovations targeting households on lower incomes across the UK.”

Aman Johal, Investment Director at Big Society Capital says:

“At Big Society Capital, we want to tackle social issues at an early stage. We believe social investment can play an important role in changing food environments for the better. We’re excited to be a part of this pioneering project, working with expert partners to help scale challenger brands who can help improve access to healthier, affordable food for families on lower incomes.”

Matt Towner, Portfolio Manager at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity comments:

“We know that childhood obesity is an issue of inequality. The current market only caters for cheap options that are unhealthy, with healthier brands requiring customers to pay a high premium to cover costs. Together with our partners, we are taking on a big and exciting challenge as we aim to disrupt the food retail market. Our research suggests that if we increase the availability of affordable, tasty, convenient and healthier food, families on lower incomes will change their purchasing habits and benefit from healthier shopping baskets.”



About Big Society Capital

Big Society Capital is the UK’s leading social impact investor, its role is to unite capital, expertise and ideas for better lives. Working with expert partners, BSC seeks to understand people’s needs first. Then, using their knowledge and capital, BSC collaborates and invests with fund managers who also want to create a better, sustainable future.

Fund managers and the social enterprises and charities they invest in, create the impact. BSCs role is to bring the most relevant experts from their network to the table, generating ideas and connecting capital to where it’s most needed. With the others who have invested alongside BSC, collectively have made over £1.9 billion* of new capital available to help improve lives. BSC wants to give more people and communities the chance to have an impact on the issues they care about – from affordable homes to vulnerable older people and preventing mental ill health.

In this way, they create opportunities for investors and enterprises to generate systemic social change, not just today but for generations to come.

*As at end December 2019

About Guys & St Thomas’s Charity

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity is an independent, place-based foundation focusing on urban health. It works with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and others to improve the health of people in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. The goal of its childhood obesity programme is to close the inequality gap by bringing the high rates of childhood obesity in neighbourhoods with the lowest incomes down to the level of the more affluent ones. For information on the broad range of initiatives it is funding see its website.

About Mission Ventures

Mission Ventures is helping to transform the food industry one challenger brand at a time. Three proven entrepreneurs, who have each disrupted grocery categories, have learned from their successes as well as their failures and are now sharing their experience and expertise with founders. Selling their companies for in excess of £50m, they are perfectly placed to facilitate a new era of innovation and disruption.

Since 2015, Mission Ventures has operated the UK’s first independent accelerator for ambitious start-up brands in food and drink. Seventeen companies have participated over the past four years, securing specialist advice alongside seed funding, with the portfolio that defies market norms by growing an average 300% in valuation and showing a 90% survival rate.

For more information contact Lesley Foottit at or on 020 7927 8100.

About Ascension Ventures

Ascension Ventures is an early-stage VC built by exited entrepreneurs backing the next generation of tech and impact founders. Since 2015, Ascension has invested in 80+ start-ups and our specialist approach and extensive sector reach allow us to identify and scale pioneering tech enterprises. Current funds include the ASCEND SEIS (Seed), CENTAUR EIS (Seed+), and its Fair By Design social impact fund, helping to reduce poverty in the UK. For more information contact Alicia Burke at

Fair By Design is a movement dedicated to ending the Poverty Premium: we invest in inclusive tech models that promote systems change and digital inclusion. People in poverty pay more for high-cost credit, rent-to-own products, and transport, food and insurance in less affluent postcodes. Our Campaign works with businesses, government, and regulators to design out the Poverty Premium. Our Venture Fund provides capital to help grow innovative ventures developing products that make markets fairer. For more information contact

VC & Social Impact: Why I Joined Ascension Ventures’ Fair By Design Fund – Maryam Mazraei

Article by Maryam Mazraei

I recently visited Silicon Valley as part of my Technology Entrepreneurship Masters at UCL to meet various technology firms and VCs. I was blown away by the American enthusiasm and approach to start-ups, but also left feeling concerned by the striking societal divide. The city is home to some of the largest, innovative companies but much is to be said on their contribution to the people in the city who are either homeless or struggling to make ends meet.

I started looking more into social impact investing and the genuine change technology can have on the more vulnerable members in our society. Turning my attention back home, throughout the UK we are also seeing an increase in poverty with a striking rise in homelessness and many being driven out of their homes due to rising housing costs. Not only does this include the high rise in rental accommodation costs but also all necessities that come with it such as energy, insurance and day to day spendings on food and transportation. This brings me to my current role as an Investment Associate at Ascension Ventures focusing on their social impact fund called Fair By Design.

The Fair By Design Fund invests in early-stage technology businesses and social enterprises tackling the Poverty Premium. An estimated 14.3 million people (22% of the population) in the UK are living in poverty (source: Bristol University Report). People in poverty or on low incomes often pay more for the same products or services than those better off financially. This is the “Poverty Premium”, the extra costs of being poor.

The Fair By Design Fund is a £10m fund and so far we have invested in pioneering entrepreneurs and start-ups that find fairer ways to serve low-income consumers, tackling Premiums in key sectors such as financial services, energy, insurance, food/household goods and transportation. See our current portfolio companies here.

I have also been on the other side of the table as a founder in the past, understanding the difficulties of fundraising whilst running a business. The 2019 Diversity VC report states that ‘Just 8% of UK VCs know what it’s like to work at a start-up. Far more have been bankers or consultants.’ Hence why I recommend ex-founders to consider working at a Venture Capital at some point in their careers. The level of on-the-job learning is exceptionally satisfying and you still get to stretch your entrepreneurial muscles when having to spot the winning players.

I am thrilled to be working with such a strong and focused team and I believe, through our efforts in social impact investing, we can once and for all end the Poverty Premium in the UK and continue to lead a standard to inspire others to do the same for their local communities.

If your start-up is directly or indirectly targeting those from low-income households, don’t hesitate to send me your pitch deck:

Follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter to continue the conversation around social impact investing.

Emma Steele Named as “Impact Investor” Finalist in DigitalAgenda Impact Awards

We are delighted to announce that Ascension Ventures’ Investment Manager, Emma Steele, has been shortlisted for the “Impact Investor” category in the 2020 DigitalAgenda Impact Awards. The awards are a celebration of UK Tech For Good, bringing together the latest champions using digital products or services for positive social impact.

One of 36 finalists across 12 different categories, Emma is nominated alongside Adam Beaumont and Richard Brass for “the best in impact funding of all kinds, across all platforms, by an individual.” Emma is the dedicated Investment Manager for Ascension’s social impact fund, Fair By Design, a movement dedicated to reducing the Poverty Premium – the extra costs of being poor. The Fund backs businesses using technology to provide better, fairer and cheaper goods and services to low-income households in the UK across energy, credit, insurance, transport, food and other household goods.

Ascension portfolio companies, Credit Kudos and Vinehealth, were also nominated in the Financial Inclusion and Health categories, respectively. A Fair By Design investee, Credit Kudos is a challenger credit bureau that harnesses Open Banking data to measure creditworthiness in a fairer way. Vinehealth is an AI-driven platform providing support to improve the quality of life and survival of cancer patients.

The winners will be announced at the DigitalAgenda Impact Awards Summit 2020 on the 5th of March. The People’s Choice Award is also now open to the public for voting and we would greatly appreciate your show of support for Emma, Credit Kudos, and Vinehealth. The voting is simple and should only take a minute to complete – vote here.


You may also be interested in:

Is there a business case for ethics? Emma Steele highlights the power of tech in ethical business models on NatWest’s Technically Speaking podcast. Listen in to Episode 1 at 12:30 here (Natwest Business Hub).

Can tech help reinvent the community lending sector? Featuring Fair By Design portfolio, Credit Kudos and incuto. Read more here (Pioneers Post).

Scaling Innovation in the NHS – Vinehealth CEO Dr Rayna Patel talks to Digital Health. Listen to the podcast here (Digital Health Podcast).

Female Founder Office Hours

We’re excited to announce the launch of Ascension and Fair By Design‘s quarterly Female Founder Office Hours. The first session is on Thursday, 30th January.

If you’re a UK business interested in finding out more about our funds, please apply and share:

We’re Hiring: Investment Associate, Fair By Design Fund (“FBD”)

Investment Associate, Fair By Design Fund (“FBD”)

Company: Ascension Ventures /
Location: Central London
Type: Entry-level, permanent, full-time
Closing Date: 2nd December 2019

An exciting opportunity for an Investment Associate to join a social impact fund focused on investing in early-stage technology businesses and social enterprises tackling the Poverty Premium.

An estimated 14.3 million people (22% of the population) in the UK are living in poverty. People in poverty or on low incomes often pay more for the same products or services than those better off financially. This is the “Poverty Premium” – the extra costs of being poor.

There is not one ‘Poverty Premium’, but many unfair increments in cost that when added together can represent a significant drain on tight household budgets – the cost of a family holiday, furnishing a new flat, or keeping a household in clothes, shoes and adequately warm through the winter. Such increments are typically centered on a specific set of issues – in energy, through expensive tariffs; credit, because of poor credit ratings; or insurance in deprived postcodes – all typically compounded by digital exclusion. Read more about the Poverty Premium here:

Fair By Design (FBD) is a movement designed to eliminate the Poverty Premium, comprised of a Campaign (managed by Barrow Cadbury Trust) and a Fund (managed by Ascension Ventures). We challenge entrepreneurs, corporates, the government, regulators and the public to innovate and develop new and better ideas to address this problem. The Fair By Design Fund is a £10m fund investing in early-stage companies that find fairer ways to serve low-income consumers, tackling Premiums in key sectors such as financial services, energy, insurance, and food/household goods.

About the Role

The role sits within the Ascension team, an early-stage venture capital firm built by exited operators to back the next generation of tech entrepreneurs. Since 2013, Ascension has invested in 75+ start-ups across 3 distinct funds, including the FBD Fund. Its specialist approach and extensive sector reach allow it to identify and scale pioneering enterprises.

The Investment Associate will source, structure and execute investments for the Fund. The role involves the full investment process cycle, from deal origination through to completion, as well as stakeholder management, including founder and investor relations, reporting to Limited Partners, and working closely with the Fair By Design Campaign.

Ascension is a small but fast-growing team and is looking for a candidate with strong analytical, organisational and interpersonal skills, with the ability to grow and adapt accordingly, with the support of the Ascension team.

Key Responsibilities

Reporting to the FBD Fund Investment Manager, Emma Steele, day-to-day duties will include:

  • Pipeline Sourcing & Management: deal-flow research, direct outreach, and ecosystem relations (e.g. attending industry events and demo days, organise VC & Angel investor meetings, build and maintain relationships with accelerators).
  • Due Diligence & Analysis: perform DD on potential investee companies, draft Investment Committee Papers, including market research and financial analysis and manage ‘lived experience’ workshops.
  • Deal Execution: manage and keep track of the execution process, produce and negotiate Term Sheets, help set company objectives and social KPIs, and manage final legal DD.
  • Reporting: produce quarterly social KPI/trading updates and bi-annual social impact report for the FBD LPs, including the collection of quarterly commercial and social KPI information from all startups in the FBD portfolio using Ascension’s social impact reporting tool.
  • Database Management and Portfolio Support: manage file repository and CRM systems, and assist with internal and portfolio events and news.

Person Specification

Qualifications & Experience

  • Qualified to at least degree level in a relevant subject, or demonstrable evidence of knowledge gained from other sources and/or experience.
  • 1-3 years of professional working experience and a keen interest in the tech start-up ecosystem and/or the social impact space.
  • Strong project management skills and excellent organisational ability.
  • Nice to have but not a must: a background in financial and/or business advisory (e.g. financial services, legal services, accounting or management consultancy).

Skills & Abilities

  • Wide-ranging knowledge of social issues in the UK, including an understanding of how government policies and the private sector affect society.
  • Organisational ability enables them to plan, strategize and implement. Able to refine processes by monitoring outcomes and analysing data.
  • Can positively influence others to achieve results that are in the best interest of Ascension.
  • Thrives in an agile, fast-paced working environment.
  • Excellent written and communication skills a must.

To Apply

To apply, complete the following form:

Please note, we will only consider this form and your CV in the selection process. Side-emails or other attachments will not be considered.

We are committed to creating a diverse environment and are proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, colour, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, or age.

Vin Murria Awarded UKBAA Angel Investor of the Year and Best Woman-led Investment in Innovation

Ascension Ventures, Fair By Design, and its portfolio companies take home three wins and several nominations from the 2019 UKBAA Angel Investment Awards

  • Ascension Venture Partner, Vin Murria OBE, wins Angel Investor of the Year and Best Woman-led Investment in Innovation
  • Ascension portfolio company, Moteefe, wins Best Scale Up Team of the Year
  • Ascension’s impact fund, Fair By Design (FBD), nominated Best New Entrant to the EcoSystem
  • FBD portfolio company, Wagestream, nominated Best Investment in Disruptive Tech and Best Investment in FinTech
  • FBD portfolio company, We Are Digital, nominated Co-investment Deal of the Year, backed by ClearlySo Angels, Wayra, Si2 Fund, Triple Point & Fair By Design 

LONDON, ENGLAND – 3 July 2019 Ascension Ventures, the London-based investment firm, had an eventful evening at the annual UKBAA Angel Investment Awards. Throughout the ceremony and black-tie gala dinner, 15 awards were presented to acknowledge the UK’s standout angels, crowdfunders, early-stage VC’s, and the innovators they back. 

Ascension Venture Partner, Vin Murria OBE, was awarded Angel Investor of the Year, alongside Cambridge serial entrepreneur and funder, Sunil Shah. The award recognises the most active and impactful angel investor in backing start-up and early-stage UK businesses during the past 12 months and who has brought not only vital risk capital, but also significant added value to support the growth and success of their portfolio. She was also awarded Best Woman-led Investment in Innovation alongside Joo Hee lee for their investment in TAINA, playing a critical role in providing support to the founder, Maria Scott, with advice on hiring, growing and strategic direction and linking to further investment.

Vin’s career has included a combination of VC, PE and CEO experience, centred around 20 years of M&A in the software sector. Vin founded Advanced Computer Software in 2008, which was acquired by Vista Private Equity for £765m in 2015, and is currently a non-executive director at FTSE250 Sophos Plc and Softcat Plc, and a Senior advisor at NM Rothschilds. Vin is an active angel investor, including recent investments in TAINA, XCD, finnCap, and funds via Ascension Ventures and Elderstreet Investments.

Ascension portfolio company, Moteefe, was awarded Best Scale Up Team of the Year, going from £10k revenue a month to £3.4m a month within 3 years. The Award recognises the most active and dynamic entrepreneurial team that has shown strong leadership and teamwork in using investment to achieve successful scale-up of their innovative high growth potential business. Moteefe is a social commerce platform providing a solution for users to sell customised products through social media, and has seen significant growth across the team, build-out of multiple platforms, and notable partnerships in the past year. 

Additional nominations included Ascension’s social impact fund, Fair By Design (FBD), for Best New Entrant to the EcoSystem, FBD portfolio companies, Wagestream and We Are Digital, for Best Investment in Disruptive Tech and Best Investment in FinTech, and Co-investment Deal of the Year, respectively. Ascension’s solicitors, Harper James Solicitors, were also finalists for Best Legal Team for Early Stage Deals.


About Ascension Ventures

Ascension Ventures backs exceptional entrepreneurs with big visions by providing capital, access to its network, and expert mentors to grow scalable businesses. Our focus is on supporting UK businesses from Seed to Series A. Venture capital in tech and digital media is constantly evolving and requires a specialist approach and extensive sector insight to identify and progress innovative enterprises. Since 2013, we have invested in 75+ early-stage tech companies. We have a rigorous investment evaluation process and are highly selective in putting forward opportunities for investment from our funds.

About Fair By Design

The biggest irony of poverty is that being poor is more expensive than being financially secure. Around 10 million people in the UK have no choice but to pay extra for essential goods and services like heating, loans and insurance. If they can’t pay, many of them will end up going without. This is the Poverty Premium, and it makes getting out of poverty almost impossible. Fair By Design (FBD) is working with businesses, regulators and politicians to end the extra costs of being poor.

Fair By Design is a movement dedicated to ending the Poverty Premium: our Campaign works with businesses, government, and regulators to design out the Poverty Premium. Our Venture Fund provides capital to help grow innovative ventures developing products that make markets fairer. 

To schedule interviews, request supporting content, or for all other inquiries, please contact: 

Alicia Burke

Marketing Manager

+44 (0) 7491 233 093

Live Game Management Platform ChilliConnect Secures $450k+ Seed Funding

Live Game Management platform ChilliConnect is excited to announce the completion of a Seed funding round of over $450,000 raised from TechStart Ventures, Ascension Ventures and existing angel investors.

The technology company was founded in 2016 as a spin out from a successful game development studio. Its flagship product, the ChilliConnect platform, is a SaaS (software as a service) tool kit that provides game developers and publishers with a single solution to a range of Live Game Management services including analytics, game backend services and live operations. This “all in one” game development and publishing service has already attracted a range of notable global clients.

Following this Seed investment round, ChilliConnect plans significant growth across the business. Dedicated sales and marketing capability has been added and the company is now seeking to double the size of its current development team. ChilliConnect’s ambition to democratise Live Game Management for all game developers regardless of shape, size and financial resource is now one step closer to reality.

CEO and Co-founder Paul Farley said “We are delighted to close this Seed round. Not only will this investment allow us to accelerate the development of the ChilliConnect platform, developing innovative live operations and game backend features, but we can now market the platform to an even larger range of potential customers. Having access to the knowledge and networks of both TechStart Ventures and Ascension Ventures is a massive benefit. We’re looking forward to working with these top drawer early-stage funds.”

Mike Herron, CTO and Co-founder added “We’ve already demonstrated we can deliver a world class service with a small team, now we have the opportunity to maximise our positioning and become one of only a handful of key players in this space. In addition to developers and publishers we fill a large hole in the technology stack of distribution platforms, engine providers and other complementary technology companies. We’re looking forward to realising this potential in the months ahead.”


For more information contact Paul Farley, CEO or 07824 614105.
Press pack available here:
Twitter: @Chilli_Connect

Ascension Ventures backs exceptional entrepreneurs with big visions – providing capital, our network, and expert mentors to grow scalable technology businesses. We support UK businesses from Seed to Series A, and since 2013, Ascension has invested in over 75 UK based early-stage companies. Current funds include the ASCEND SEIS (Seed), CENTAUR EIS (Seed+), UK-India EIS (Seed+), and its Fair By Design social impact fund, working to eradicate the UK’s Poverty Premium.

Techstart Ventures LLP is a seed stage venture capital investor for the most ambitious entrepreneurial founding teams in Scotland and Northern Ireland. We seek to be trusted peers who help founders realise their vision through experienced and timely support. With our capital and backing, founders can focus on customer development, validating their business model and growing sales. Techstart manages the Scottish Growth Scheme – Techstart Ventures Equity Finance LP Fund which has been part financed by support from the European Structural Funds 2014-2020 European Regional Development Fund Programme in Scotland.

Tick. Investment – done.

Tick epitomises what we love to invest in at Ascension – an online video platform with an enormous market opportunity, but also genuinely trying to change content creation and consumption behaviours online, for the better. Its platform enables people with knowledge, skills and talent to create video content that delivers positive messaging and skills building for the masses.

We have been extremely impressed with what Franz, Jess and Cedric have built to date and cannot wait to see how Tick will enhance human potential at a huge scale through online video.

Read the full article here (Seedcamp)

Estate Agency Comparison Site GetAgent Raises £2.2 Million from Latest Investment Round

Estate agent comparison website GetAgent has closed a new funding round and has raised £2.2 million from several investors including the backer of, TV channel Channel 4 and the founder of a leading photo printing platform.

Read the full article here (The Negotiator)

Vochlea Music Launches Crowdfunding Campaign for “Dubler Studio Kit”

Vochlea Music, a U.K. startup and alumni of Abbey Road Red, the music tech incubator from Abbey Road Studios, is launching a crowdfunding campaign today for “Dubler Studio Kit,” a new device and app that turns your voice into a MIDI controller for synths, drum machines, DAWs and other music gear.

Read the full article here (TechCrunch)

Groundbreaking Augmented Reality Fashion Show Streamed To Global Audience

In a world of technology providing new experiences that elevate the goings-on in our physical world, adding a layer of ‘virtuality’ is bringing a new spin to fashion week. Leading this charge is London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency, FIA, who partnered with augmented reality pioneers HoloMe to present selected collections of London College of Fashion MA graduates.

Read the full article here (Forbes)

Cooperative Innovations Closes £500K Seed Funding, Launches VR Animation Tech ‘Ikabod’

British virtual reality (VR) developer Cooperative Innovations – the team behind Raiders of Erda – has announced the closure of a seed funding round, securing the company £500K of investment. Alongside, the funding, the studio has released a proprietary VR animation technology, Ikabod. The investment came from a number of sources, including angel investor Craig Fletcher, Ascension Ventures and Trend Investment Group.

Read the full article here (VR Focus)

Leading British Reuse Marketplace, Globechain, Featured as a Startup to Watch in 2019 by Forbes

Waste is increasingly expensive and companies are looking for infallible CSR wins – Globechain gives them both. Beyond this, the circular economy is valued at around $5.2 trillion by 2030 per Accenture, which means Globechain is hitting just at the right time economically (especially for the UK).

Read the full article here (Forbes)

From Unicorn To Phoenix, What Makes This Entrepreneur Tick The Second Time Around?

Tick co-founder, Jess Butcher, talks to Forbes about co-founding Blippar (the AR pioneers that recently went into administration), motherhood and family life, dabbling in a portfolio of mentoring, angel investing, non-exec-ing, and public speaking, and now co-founding a new social video platform, Tick.

Read the full article here (Forbes)

eCommerce Returns Solution, ZigZag Global, Receives Multi-Million GBP Growth Funding

Circularity Capital, a specialist private equity firm supporting growth stage European SMEs in the circular economy, has led a multi-million growth funding round in ZigZag Global, a software solution for retailers to optimally manage the return, repacking and resale of products. The investment will further accelerate the rollout of the solution to international blue chip retailers.

Read the full article here (Private Equity Wire)

Payday Poverty And Financial Fitbits: How Wagestream Is Eradicating Post-Christmas Number Crunching

Wagestream, the financial wellbeing fintech startup, has revealed that Christmas debt cripples 50 percent of the British population. This coincided with research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) which identified that the number of working Brits in poverty is outpacing employment.

In conversation with Peter Briffett, CEO and co-founder at Wagestream, he explained that the platform they are offering does so much more for financial wellness than those fintech firms who offer budget plans and spend trackers.

Read the full article here (Forbes)

Albert Acquired by Santander

Santander Group has today announced the acquisition of Albert, the invoicing and expenses app for freelancers and micro-businesses, as part of its mission to support the UK’s 5.7 million small business owners. Albert has developed a loyal following amongst freelancers and micro enterprises, providing smart invoicing and expense tools that reduce the time their self- employed customers spend on financial admin.

Read the full article here (Santander)

Ascension Ventures Announces 14 New Investors

Active tech investors and leading entrepreneurs invest in Ascension, joining as Venture Partners to expand deal-flow and support portfolio companies

  • Ascension announces 14 new investors, who will join the firm as Venture Partners to identify, back and scale UK tech businesses
  • New Venture Partners are active investors and include prolific tech entrepreneur Vin Murria, Telefonica’s accelerator, Wayra UK, and the Founders of Expedia, Multiplay and CSC Media
  • This solidifies experience and credentials across multiple tech sectors like Digital Media and Fintech, as well as providing access to New York and Silicon Valley for its portfolio businesses

LONDON, ENGLAND – 28 November 2018 – Ascension Ventures, the London-based investment firm, today announced a funding round, which will see the addition of 14 new Venture Partners. The group strengthens Ascension’s core belief in entrepreneurs investing in entrepreneurs, bringing in active UK and US investors with a number of them already successfully-exited entrepreneurs. Ascension’s bolstered experience in early stage investments and deep sector knowledge will increase deal-flow and support portfolio companies as they develop and scale in the UK and beyond.

Since 2013, Ascension has invested in more than 75 early stage tech companies across the UK, including VidsyMoteefeWagestreamA Million Ads and Hazy, which have gone on to raise multimillion pound rounds since Ascension invested in their initial seed rounds. The firm continues to attract exceptional entrepreneurs seeking early stage investment (ranging between £250K-£1.5m) and private capital, angels and other early stage VCs seeking co-invest partners. Ascension raises annual SEIS & EIS Funds, in addition to bidding for larger institutional funds. In the last year, Ascension also launched a series of initiatives including the Fair by Design Fund, a new £10m Fund tackling poverty in the UK, and the Unicorn Ascension Fund, the first UK/India cross-border EIS scale-up fund.

Serial entrepreneur, Vin Murria OBE, who set up Advanced Computer Software in 2008 and sold the business for £765 million in 2015 commented, “I’ve been very impressed with the Ascension Team and their track record of investments in UK tech start-ups. I’m delighted to be joining as a Venture Partner and look forward to building Ascension’s brand as the best place for early stage investing.”

Gary Stewart, Managing Director of Wayra UK, said, “Ascension has always been a committed and consistent partner of Wayra. Indeed, they’ve invested in 16 of our start-ups, are investors in residence in our London hub and are our principal partner in the Fair By Design programme. That being said, we expect that the best is still yet to come.”

Erik Blachford commented, “Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a proliferation of strong UK tech businesses. I felt that working with Ascension was a great opportunity to access the UK’s best early stage tech deal-flow, and I look forward to supporting these portfolio companies as they scale up and enter the US market.” Erik was CEO of Expedia when it sold to IAC and currently lives in San Francisco, where he is a Venture Partner at TCV, an active angel investor, and a Board Director at Zillow Group, Peloton, SiteMinder, TourRadar, Varsity Tutors, Liftopia, Busbud, and the Cutting Ball Theater.

Aleks Habdank commented, “I have been working in the Media industry for over 20 years now, including senior roles at Liberty Global, Virgin Media, YouView, Modern Times Group and, most recently, Talk Talk. I have seen the proliferation of digital as the key distribution driver for content, and believe the future lies in pure digital content consumption. As Ascension invests in the digital media end of technology, it was the logical place for me to invest in and join as a Venture Partner so that I can support the early stage innovators it is investing in.”

Exited entrepreneur and angel investor, Craig Fletcher, said, “I have been investing in Ascension’s SEIS & EIS Funds for a number of years now and have been heavily involved with supporting the portfolio companies as they have scaled. Therefore, it made sense to invest in Ascension and join as a Venture Partner in order to continue helping grow both Ascension’s position in the ecosystem as well as the portfolio companies it invests in, particularly in the mobile gaming and eSports sector.”

CEO of Ascension Ventures, Jean de Fougerolles, commented, “I’m delighted we’ve pulled together such a strong group of Venture Partners, all with deep operational experience in scaling and exiting tech businesses. Early stage investing requires specialist sector knowledge, not only to pick the right companies, but also to provide the necessary support to guide them through the early years. My vision has always been to build Ascension as the top seed VC brand in the UK, a place where seasoned tech operators can back the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovative business models. The addition of these new Venture Partners brings Ascension closer to this objective.”

Along with the 14 new Venture Partners, Kip Meek will be joining as Ascension’s new Chairman. Kip is the Founder of the Communications Chambers and Director of the Wireless Infrastructure Group; he was previously a Senior Advisor to EE and BT, Chairman of the Radiocentre, a Board member of Ofcom and the Founder of Spectrum Strategy Consultants.

The other Venture Partners included in today’s announcement are Pharus Advisors, Emma Blackburn, Antonin de Fougerolles, Jami Jenkins, Ian McClelland, Sam Miller, Remy Minute, Diane Stewart and Barney Worfolk-Smith.


Ascension Ventures backs exceptional entrepreneurs with big visions by providing capital, access to its network, and expert mentors to grow scalable businesses. Our focus is on supporting UK businesses from Seed to Series A. Venture capital in tech and digital media is constantly evolving and requires a specialist approach and extensive sector insight to identify and progress innovative enterprises. Since 2013, we have invested in over 75 early stage tech companies. We have a rigorous investment evaluation process and are highly selective in putting forward opportunities for investment from our funds.

To schedule interviews, request supporting content, or for all other inquiries, please contact:

Alicia Burke

Marketing Manager, Ascension Ventures

AI chatbot, Blyng, that helps estate agents handle portal leads wins £500,000 backing

Source: The Negotiator

Investor Life Ventures says the recently-developed service generated 50 transactions and over 700 viewings when trialled by its parent sales and letting agency.

A London estate agent has joined a group of investors putting £500,000 into a company developing an artificial intelligence (AI) based chatbot service exclusively for estate agent and developers designed to help them handle portal leads.

Life Ventures, which is the proptech investment arm of London sales and lettings firm Life Residential, has stumped up the cash after its parent company LiFE has trialled Blyng for 3 months (12 weeks).

Called Blyng, Life Residential claims that the chatbot processed 2,000 leads, ‘spoke’ to 800 users on its website and handled 14,000 questions about properties for sale, to let or under management.

The company also claims that it was directly responsible for generating 720 viewings and 50 sales and letting deals during the trial.

There are several AI-based chatbots in the market but Blyng claims to be the first to be designed specifically for the real estate market and be able to ‘speak property’.

It is available via Facebook Messenger, a smartphone Web app and soon WhatsApp. The estate agent is contacted by a potential lead through the portals and the Blyng virtual assistant then engages and qualifies the lead and simplifies the customer journey.

“Testing and using Blyng is the beginning of the future way of doing business,” says Jonathan Werth, Managing Director of LiFE Residential (left).

Blyng has been developed by entrepreneurs Alex Boulenger and Julien Vidal (pictured above) and has the backing of Pi Labs and Ascension Ventures as well as Life Residential.

“Blyng is the first AI chatbot for property negotiators in the UK and has already been trained with a large amount of data, making Blyng smarter every day,” said Vidal.

Sky Kids takes Night Zookeeper to TV

source: C21Media

Sky Kids in the UK has commissioned an animated series based on an educational website that will be executive produced by the former MD of Nickelodeon UK.

Night Zookeeper will be the first animated children’s show to collaborate with thousands of children on the creation of each episode, according to Sky Kids, which has ordered 10 episodes.

Night Zookeeper, created by UK-based social enterprise company Wonky Star and Joshua Davidson, originated as a primary school teaching resource. It is used by children in thousands of schools internationally to invent magical animals and write stories about them.

The animated series will invite children throughout the UK to participate by creating characters or background designs and suggesting plot points and dialogue for the show. It will be animated by Karrot Animation (Sarah & Duck) in London.

Howard Litton, who left Nickelodeon UK in 2010 to pursue other opportunities in the kids’ business, linked up with Karrot in 2015 to develop shorts based on the brand.

Sky will additionally promote the series through Sky Academy Studios, its learning experience that allows young people to get behind the scenes of TV.

“This is the future of children’s TV, where fan fiction and art frequently inspire episodes of kids’ favourite shows. What better way of getting children writing and drawing?,” said Litton.

Adobe Teams Up With A Million Ads To Launch Dynamic Creative For Audio

Source: Ad Exchanger

Audio ads should be personalized, too.

That’s the thought behind Adobe’s partnership with A Million Ads, which powers dynamic creative optimization in digital and programmatic audio, announced Monday.

Adobe launched programmatic audio capabilities in July 2017, after receiving an uptick in demand from its customer base, said Justin Merickel, VP of media optimizer at Adobe Advertising Cloud. In the past six months that demand has increased significantly, especially among CPGs and retailers.

“As publishers ramp their capabilities and more inventory is opening up, the market is starting to create demand,” he said. “It’s no longer an anomaly to think about audio this way.”

Adobe’s integration with A Million Ads offers an extra layer of personalization for brands as their investments in programmatic audio grow. After Adobe executes the programmatic audio buy, A Million Ads personalizes the creative by tagging different versions of commercial scripts with location, device and other third-party data, like weather, to serve relevant ads to each listener.

For example, an ad served during a rainy evening in New York would sound different than an ad served on a sunny morning in Los Angeles, said Steve Dunlop, founder and CEO of A Million Ads.

“We can discern roughly where you are, what the weather’s like, if you’ve heard the ad before and what device you’re using,” he said. “Using that, we can personalize the ad to make it feel like it’s for each individual.”

So far, five brands buying programmatic audio through Adobe are using the A Million Ads integration, although Adobe declined to name them. CORT Furniture, which recently launched programmatic audio through Adobe on Spotify, is interested in testing dynamic audio creative as it extends its programmatic audio buys to other platforms, like Soundcloud and iHeartRadio, said Jake Taylor, marketing analyst at CORT.

The furniture rental company, which was able to reach a 95% unique audience on Spotify, appeals to college students, military personnel, nurses, athletes or anyone in a temporary living situation.

“We have a lot of different audiences that need different messaging,” he said. “Being able to update that makes sense for us.”

A Million Ads Wins the Award for Best Innovation and Pushing Boundaries at The Marketing New Thinking Awards!

Source: NMT



A Million Ads, an investment from the ASCEND SEIS Fund II, has won its first award. Congratulations to Steve Dunlop and the team.










Corner, Creators of Wearable Boxing Technology used by Team GB move into Manchester Wearables Moves into Manchester

Source: Manchester Evening News

Paul Billington and Jerry Krylov


Ascension Ventures invested into Corner through its Ascend SEIS Fund III.

A real-time boxing tracker, which was created in Greater Manchester, has been snapped up by the GB Olympic boxing team.

Developed at The Landing in MediaCityUK the device known as Corner is also being used by pros and coaches to track performance.

The rapid growth and success of the wearable boxing technology has led co-founders, Charles Burr and Jerry Krylov, to move on from the start-up incubator into their own HQ in the centre of Manchester

The tracker has been developed to help boxers focus their training and hit their goals faster and its proving to be a fantastic success.

British World Heavyweight Champion, Anthony Joshua; Manchester-born boxing coach, Joe Gallagher; and super-middleweight champion, Callum Smith have all been involved in testing the tracker.

Charles and Jerry met just three years ago through mutual friends. Charles, from Manchester, was studying at Imperial College London and was using similar technology to track crocodile rehabilitation process but was keen to adapt it for his big passion, boxing.

Jerry, also a keen sportsman, was a student of interior architecture and product design at Glasgow School of Art and was looking for opportunities to design and launch a brand-new product from scratch.

After turning down a job opportunity to work for one of the top 50 architecture firms in the world, Jerry followed Charles to Manchester and they set to work developing the boxing tracker.

They wanted to develop the product to track boxing performance in real-time using wearable sensors so that speed, power, type of punch and work rate could be measured and used to improve performance.

After a few weeks working from their homes, they needed somewhere they could work together in an environment full of like-minded tech developers where they could access state of the art user testing facilities.

As a specialist incubator for rapid tech start-ups, The Landing, based at MediaCityUK, provided the perfect location for Jerry and Charles to start their new venture, test their prototypes and access the investment and support they needed to grow quickly.

The pair also had the opportunity to take part in a variety of tech accelerators and, in 2016, they were successful in securing a place at the largest hardware accelerator in San Francisco. They have also successfully trialled their product on live TV in Scandinavia and France.

Jerry Krylov, co-founder of Corner said: “I remember day one. For the first time we had two desks together and we could really set to work developing the product. It was a strange feeling but it was the best move we made.

“The team at The Landing believed in us and were always looking out for us. They really understood what we were trying to achieve. They provided the user testing labs as well as the connections, investment and training opportunities.

“It’s been a phenomenal journey and we’re so excited to be ready to move on to our very own HQ.

“We have achieved so much in the last three years and the future is really exciting. We also have lots of plans for developing the product further and for building our new HQ, which will incorporate a gym and a professional boxing ring where we can test the product as we develop it.

“We’ll also have a creative co-working space and photographic studio for other creative start-ups to use’

Paul Billington, commercial director at The Landing said: “Through sheer hard work and a passion for their product, Jerry and Charles have created something that is state-of-the-art and is already having a massive impact in both professional and amateur boxing.

“At The Landing, we are really proud to support rapid start-ups in the tech sector and Corner is a real success story as they are now ready to move on and launch their very own HQ and that’s exactly what we want for all our tenants.

“We have really enjoyed watching the product develop over the last few years and we’re looking forward to seeing Charles and Jerry’s success as they grow the product from their very own HQ in Manchester.”


NumberEight raises funding for AI tech that could help music-streaming services

Ascension invested in this SEIS round through its ASCEND SEIS Fund IV

Source: Musically

Artificial-intelligence startup NumberEight has raised a funding round after completing three trials of its technology with music-streaming companies.

The London-based company raised the undisclosed amount from investors including Beacon Capital, AI Seed, Ascension Ventures, 7% Ventures and angel investors including E100 angels from the London Business School

NumberEight’s software is designed to sit within iOS and Android apps, using data from the various sensors on the smartphone – from accelerometers and light sensors to barometers to understand the context of its owner.

For music-streaming services, this technology could be used, for example, to understand whether someone is at the gym or travelling on a bus, and adapt accordingly – from music recommendations to targeted advertising.

“We’ve completed three trials to date, with another one coming up,” NumberEight CEO Abhishek Sen (pictured above with co-founder and CTO Chris Watts) told Music Ally, adding that the three included a streaming startup as well as “some of the largest music-streaming companies”.

“In all of them, we delivered software or application demos where we showcased the benefits of how context can be integrated into the music recommendation and/or personalisation portion of the respective music startups,” he added.

“They lasted between 3-4 weeks and the feedback gave us the confidence that what we are building is indeed the right product and that there is a definite need in the market.”

The funding round will be used to hire more staff and continue developing NumberEight’s technology, with the company planning to release its first beta at the end of November.

The tech could be applied to a range of industries, but for now NumberEight is focusing on music, although Sen admitted that some potential investors had questioned this strategy when alternative markets (“like financial fraud detection”) might be more lucrative.

“Music may be a smaller industry when you compare it to financial fraud, transportation or fitness, but our take on it is that music is really interesting: it happens through activities and users get value throughout the day,” said Sen.

“You’re listening to music in your home when you wake up, when you get on the tube, when you go to work or the gym. That gives us a lot of insights into how we can deliver value, which can then translate into a lot of different things in other sectors.”

Sen sees NumberEight’s work as part of a wider trend around contextual awareness and ‘pervasive’ computing, with the data-crunching increasingly happening on devices rather than in the cloud.

He cited the concepts of ‘Federated Learning’ and ‘Edge Computing’ as well as Google’s work on image recognition as notable in this regard. NumberEight sees itself as part of a community, and hopes to publish an open source version of its software to get feedback from other developers.

Music-streaming services are the main customers NumberEight is targeting. “There are a lot of major players: Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, Apple Music, and Amazon is interesting because they also have video offerings and Prime,” said Sen, adding that streaming services in markets like India and China also offer opportunities.

While the obvious use for NumberEight’s technology might be even-more personalised music recommendations, he sees advertising as another important area.

“Advertising is where I feel money is left on the table,” said Sen, suggesting that currently, ad-targeting on streaming services tends to be very broad-brush, and based on signals from what someone is listening to, which may not always be an accurate reflection of their context. “I can listen to ‘party music’ while I’m at work,” as he put it.

This also applies to music recommendations, which Sen suggested have traditionally been based on people’s past listening and how they compare to other listeners.

“It’s been content-based recommendations or collaborative filtering, and context is always an afterthought. But what we want to say is that context is number one! And then you can bring the others in,” he said.


As Wonga Collapses, Zuckerberg, Bezos & Gates Back Wagestream, a Fairer Alternative To Payday Loans

Wagestream was invested in by Ascension Ventures’ Fair By Design Fund
Source: Forbes

Protests against Wonga’s lending practices outside their London offices in 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

After months of difficulties, payday loans platform Wonga has gone into administration.

The company, which provided loans with interest rates of up to 5800 per cent, crashed after it struggled to fund compensation for an increasing number of customer complaints.

The startup was funded by prominent investors such as Accel and Balderton Capital and operated across Europe and South Africa.

Wonga received continuous backlash over the years for charging what many considered predatory interest rates, targeted at vulnerable customers which were often unable to attain any other form of credit.

However, the predatory lending problem is far from being limited to Wonga alone. It has been an issue with the broader payday loans industry.

With Wonga disappearing, the question arises whether there are any better alternatives for people in need of short-term financing.

Pedestrians walk past a Payday Advance shop in San Diego, California. Since emerging from rural Tennessee in 1993, payday lending has expanded beyond the fringes of the consumer finance industry. In 2003, the industry generated $6 billion in fee revenue from $40 billion in loans, according to Stephens Inc., a Little Rock, Arkansas-based investment bank. Photographer: Sandy Huffaker/Bloomberg News.

Village Global, a venture capital fund backed by prominent entrepreneurs such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos and Microsoft Founder Bill Gates, announced its financing round in London-based Wagestream earlier this summer.

Wagestream provides a platform which allows low-wage workers such as waiters to withdraw their salaries and tips as they earn them, thereby avoiding having to wait for a fixed monthly payday.

I interviewed Peter Briffett, Co-founder & CEO of Wagestream recently for my Impact Hustlers Podcast.

He says that the reason why payday loans are so popular is that pay cycles in most places are still monthly.

“Our mission is to destroy payday loans. If you are paying 3000% interest, there are not many humans on earth, that can come out of that cycle”.

Briffett hopes to be able to provide a better alternative, which will eliminate the need for people with bad credit to rely on loans with predatory interest rates.

“If I was a waiter in a pizza restaurant, and I earned tips today, I wouldn’t see them until the end of the month. With Wagestream, we make those tips and their salary immediately accessible.”

Wagestream is not publicly accessible but works with companies to implement the solution for their workforce.

Wagestream's app

Wagestream’s app, allowing employees to instantly withdraw their salary after they earned itWAGESTREAM

Briffett claims, that their solution does not only have a benefit to employees, but also to their employers.

“If you reduce the financial stress for employees, it results in employees staying with them longer. ”

“The other gain for employers is that staff become more productive. We have a security company that had an issue with getting their employees to take paid overtime shifts. After they rolled out Wagestream, staff are fighting over taking additional shifts, as they can directly access their salary.”

While the company does not charge any interest rates, Wagestream follows a business model where employees are charged £1,75 for every withdrawal they make, similar to withdrawal fees charged by some ATMs.

With these low fees, the company claims it can both eliminate high lending cost for low wage workers as well as establish a sustainable business model for Wagestream to become a profitable business.

Wagestream is not the only company trying to provide a better alternative to payday loans. While access to alternative has been relatively limited, North American startups have spread solutions similar to Wagestream.

Canadian startup Instant Financial, as well as US-based startups such as New York-based Dailypay and Silicon Valley company Payactiv, have developed similar solutions in North America.

Luis Vazquez, 27, an overnight support manager at Walmart in Dallas, uses the Instapay app, developed by technology company Even, to assist him with his finances. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

The United States seem to guide the way: Walmart started workingwith Even and Payactiv in 2017 to provide its 1.4 million workers with the option to access their salaries instantly.

Listen to the Podcast with Wagestream’s Peter Briffett here.

A Great Article on Incuto, Banking Platform for Credit Unions and Ethical Banks

Ascension led the investment into Incuto from its Fair By Design, Social Impact Fund.

Incuto is trying to help low income families access fairer loans than they currently can from pay day lenders such as

Have a read of the article in City AM:


City AM article on incuto and it’s founder & CEO, Andrew Rabbitt.

Albert is Taking Over The UK With Automated, Bank-Powered Bookkeeping!

Source: Albert’s Blog

Since the beginning of the year Albert has achieved rather a lot for an app that’s only been going for a couple of years. Whilst we might not have reached global domination yet, we’re certainly working well on taking over the UK. We’ve raised nearly £1.25 million in seed funding, become the highest rated finance app in the UK with close to 3,000 five star ratings, and hired three talented new people. And that’s not even counting the launch of our paid tier or connection to all major UK banks, allowing users to see all their finances in one place. Turns out taking over the world is hard work.

So where to start with all these amazing developments? Well to start at the beginning (a very good place to start, as someone once said), Albert is enabling users to connect to their bank accounts with Albert, letting them see all their financial data in one place. Hurrah!

Following a pilot with Starling Bank in December 2017, we are opening up our automated bookkeeping app to connect with all major UK bank accounts. It allows our users, to automate their bookkeeping on top of their current bank accounts. This includes invoice payment tracking and automatic expense filing. All in all, pretty handy for all those people people who work for themselves. We’re absolutely thrilled to be able to bring these benefits to the solo self-employed of Britain, especially given that they contributed £271bn to the UK economy last year (enough to fund the NHS twice over!). We kind of think you guys deserve something that will make life a little easier.

Then in May of this year, we closed our second seed funding round of £1.25m, led by top VC Mangrove Capital. Albert was supported by lots of friendly faces with existing investors as well as some equally friendly new ones. Albert board member and Mangrove partner Michael Jackson commented: “We are excited to accelerate our journey with the Albert team. The solo self-employed space is dynamic with many new opportunities, especially enabled by changes in the banking landscape. The Albert team has shown a very advanced understanding of this and the ability to take it further.” We think that’s his way of saying he’s really happy about how far we’ve come and that we’re going to keep smashing it.

We also welcomed some delightful new people to the Albert team. They are all suitably geeky and have different specialisms for the pub quiz, so we think they’ll fit in just fine. Joining Albert are Ka-Mei our new design guru, Lucy a master of marketing and Rob an engineering ninja.

Overall, we’ve had a pretty great year so far. We can’t wait to continue the financial revolution and help more people live out their dreams. As long as their dreams are around working for themselves. Unfortunately, we can’t help with other types of dreams just yet.

ASCEND SEIS V Portfolio Company Hazy Raises an Additional $1.8m – taking its raise this year to $2.8m


Hazy, formerly known as Anon AI and winner of ‘Best in Cybersecurity’ at UKTN’s Elevator Pitch LIVE, has raised $1.8m in Seed funding. Ascension Ventures invested through its SEIS ASCEND V into Hazy and is delighted about this progress.

The London-based AI company which enables GDPR-compliant data sharing raised from UCL Technology Fund (lead investor), alongside Nationwide Building Society, Pentland, Amadeus Capital Partners, AI Seed and other investors.

Hazy, which raised £340,000 in pre-Seed funding in January this year, has now raised $2.8m in total Seed funding following a $1m cash injection from M12 and Notion in May.

Founded less than a year and a half ago, the company was spun out of UCL and claims its proprietary AI engine is able to seek out and anonymise personal data buried in datasets.

The company offers a cloud-base solution and says it’s working with startups to international banks and the UK government.

Hazy was founded by Harry Keen, an engineer; James Arthur, the former CTO and co-founder of Opendesk; and Dr. Fintan Nagle, a visual neuroscientist at UCL specialising in machine learning and statistical modelling.

Keen, the CEO, said: “In recent months we have seen a seismic cultural shift around data. Consumers are acutely aware of the importance of data security and GDPR legislation means that businesses rightly now consider safe data-handling as mission-critical.

“Our technology ensures that huge, unwieldy data sets are GDPR-compliant. Recognising that most companies don’t have data experts, Hazy has been built to require zero technical integration, or any technical expertise. We are proud to be working with organisations ranging from major banks and building societies, to small businesses and UK central government and we are excited to continue developing our solution as we launch our product more widely.”

David Grimm, investment director at Albion Capital, which manages the UCL Technology Fund, said: “Big data analytics offers unparalleled opportunities for startups and corporate giants alike, but also puts data security at the top of the agenda for the world’s regulators. Hazy’s solution is a game changer, enabling businesses to automatically anonymise complex datasets without the need for a lengthy technical integration with internal systems. We are excited to support the team through the next phase of growth.”

Source: UKTN

ASCEND SEIS III Investment, A Million Ads, closes £2.3m to deliver targeted advertisement

A Million Ads

AdTech startup A Million Ads has announced the closure of a £2.3m Seed round as it gears up to formally launch in the US.

The London-based startup personalises audio adverts by combining contextual information with an advertiser’s message to create, the company claims, better performing ads delivered in real-time.

GMG Ventures led the round, with Edge Investments contributing £1.3m.

Other backers included Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, Force Over Mass Capital, and Ascension Ventures.

A Million Ads was set up by Steve Dunlop, also the CEO, and has produced campaigns for well known brands including Virgin Atlantic, Audible, BMW, Ebay, British Airways and UK tech unicorn Deliveroo.

The company recently graduated from Founders Factory‘s technology accelerator programme, where the media vertical is backed by GMG Ventures in partnership with The Guardian.


AgentCash – Now Rebranded as FLOE, Partners with BarclayCard to help GiftAid go Digital

Source: Barclaycard

Cashless society: Barclaycard Payment Solutions helps Gift Aid go digital

For charities in the UK, Gift Aid is an invaluable source of income because it allows them to claim an extra 25p for every £1 donated. That would transform a £5 donation into a £6.25 one, topped up by money from the UK Government. But up until now, the in-person Gift Aid process has been paper-based, cumbersome and slow.  In a digital world where paper, and more importantly cash, are becoming ever more scarce, how can charities move with the times?

A UK first for Barclaycard Payment Solutions and FLOE

Earlier this year, Barclaycard Payment Solutions joined forces with Barclays Accelerator alumni, FLOE (formerly AgentCASH), a payment service provider that helps clients manage their business with seamless payments, sales tools, data and new customer experiences, to create a UK first, a paperless mobile digital Gift Aid form for the charity Action for Children. Taking a digitised version of the charity’s guest list from a fundraising event, the solution pre-populated the Gift Aid form with attendees’ contact details. That way, when a benefactor wanted to donate, all they had to do was make the payment and select how long they wanted to pay Gift Aid for.

It’s a seamless journey for donors, a fundamental capability for charities and a ground-breaking first for the payments industry: “We recently met with HM Revenue and Customs and they confirmed that our solution is the first they have seen that embeds a Gift Aid form link within the digital receipt,” says Wesley Thompson, Director of Sales, FLOE. “It means customers can still register for Gift Aid at their leisure after donating.  This has proved to significantly increase conversion of Gift Aid registrations, providing additional income for charities.”

A digital Gift Aid form is just one of the industry-leading solutions that Barclaycard Payment Solutions and FLOE have collaborated on to help Action for Children, and other charities, to become more digital-friendly.

Cashless society: the challenge for charities

In March, ‘Coin scrappage’, ‘Penny drops’, ‘Copper bottoms out’ and other monetary metaphors made newspaper headlines across the UK as 1p and 2p coins faced the same fate as their shilling and halfpenny ancestors. As part of the Government’s 2018 Spring Statement they announced a call for evidence to decide the future of cash and digital payments – this put pennies in peril.

With research revealing that six in ten 1p and 2p coins change hands just once before being put in the penny jar, there’s no doubt small change isn’t as useful as it once was. But as a nation, we’re not completely in favour of cutting coins just yet. Specifically, charities still rely heavily on cash and small change.

Barclaycard UK research reveals that four in ten, or 42%, of Brits carry less cash now than they did three years ago and one in seven people admit to walking away from the chance to make a donation if card payments aren’t an option. So it’s no surprise to learn that cash donations are declining fast. And as digital becomes increasingly prominent, charities run the risk of missing out on nearly £80 million in donations a year by saying ‘no’ to digital money.

Bringing card machines to shops

The first solution that Barclaycard Payment Solutions and FLOE put in place was an electronic point of sale (EPOS) system. Installed in three of Action for Children’s retail shops and counting. With evidence showing that faster and slicker modern-day collection methods can boost donations and engagement with charities, the EPOS system is invaluable. The charity also runs subsidised services, like nurseries, which provide a safe environment for children to grow up in. Barclaycard Payment Solutions and FLOE are also creating a tailored solution for Action for Children to take payments there too.

Going digital

If you’ve been to large-scale events with big crowds, countless competing retail stalls and a general need to get things done quickly, you’ll know that card payments haven’t always been a hit with merchants. They used to involve writing customers’ card details on pieces of paper and inputting them into a PDQ machine manually or directly with the bank days later to complete the payment. This process is fraught with complications.

Barclaycard Payment Solutions’ and FLOE’s solution gave Action for Children the ability to take payments and donations on a tablet device. Volunteers can work their way through crowds, collecting donations and taking payments seamlessly during auction-style events, with customers registering for Gift Aid as part of the transaction journey. After trialling the mobile payment solution internally, Action for Children took the tablets for a spin at two of their annual events in March – the Spring Ladies Lunch and Fashion Show, and the Ultimate News Quiz. “With this solution, we can identify who’s made the payment and what it was for more easily,” says Lisa Nicholson, Implementation Manager, Action for Children. “What we’ve also found is that when people donate digitally, they’re likely to give more than if they just empty their spare change into a bucket – it makes every donation more valuable.”

Here’s to the future

With two major events already in the bag, Action for Children are hoping to roll out the mobile payments solution at their Byte Night event in October. The event will see people from the technology and business industry sleeping on the streets in a bid to raise awareness of youth homelessness. With teams across the UK taking part, donation devices need to be readily available and fully functioning to take ad hoc donations from supporters across the country.

But as well as fine-tuning the solution for Action for Children, Barclaycard Payment Solutions and FLOE are talking with other charities to see how the power-partnership can roll out elements of the solution to help solve their digital needs, too. “At the Spring Ladies’ Lunch event, one of the guests, a CEO from another charity, was so impressed with the payment experience, that she got in touch with me after the event to see how we could get our solution up and running for her charity,” says Wesley.

It seems the future of charitable giving in the UK is digital.

ASCEND SEIS II Company Mutt has its 125cc RS 13 reviewed on Top Gear, have a read

Source: Top Gear

China meets, um, Birmingham, in a £3,495-sized mashup. Time to go for a ride

Custom cafe racers, brats, scramblers and trackers have all become the rage, which in our new oversharing Instagram-obsessed world, makes the hankering to try and grow a beard, buy a Belstaff jacket and get on a fashionable bike all too appealing.

For most of us, the decision to get on a bike comes down to one thing. Well, two. First: that your significant loved one will let you wobble around on two wheels. Second: wedge. Even though bikes are more affordable than cars, for your own period-style custom you’re talking hella cash. Believe it or not though, you can get the look for a lot cheaper than you think.

Take the Mutt RS-13, for example. It’s what happens when the economies of scale of China butts heads with the artistic grease monkeys of Digbeth, Birmingham. After years of building expensive custom bikes, Mutt’s founders wanted to create affordable, honest, old-school motorbikes with the reliability and Euro4 compliance of something thoroughly modern. The RS-13 is just that.

Looks ace, doesn’t it? With fat, knobbly Continental tyres, a cut rear frame housing a stumpy mudguard, comfy diamond stitched seat, Renthal bars and a bespoke, hand-brushed bare metal tank, it oozes want. But here’s the bonus: prices start at £3,495. Plus, only being a 125cc, it’s accessible

See, compared with the latest crop of superbikes stuffed with ludicrous power and a cavalry of electronics to make sure you’re not spat off, the Mutt is as simple as a mollusc. All the oily bits come from Chinese licence-built Suzukis, including the 12bhp 125cc air-cooled single cylinder good for 70mph. Then, it’s shipped to Blighty where Mutt throws on all the aesthetic accoutrements.

You can’t describe the handling as pin-sharp. Because it isn’t. The power delivery from the one-pot is lumpy, the gearing slightly short and those chunky wheels can easily have you wash out. But that’s not the point. It’s probably the best-sounding 125cc out there. Plus, it’s extremely comfortable and hilarious to just beat around town on.

Because with a lack of power, you’re using all the performance everywhere. It’s the classic debate of whether it’s better to drive/ride something slow, fast. Or, something fast, slow. Facts only: something slow, fast wins. Always.

Plus, it makes a wonderful ear-pleasing racket in
 the process. And no matter where you are, people are intrigued, all seemingly cast under a spell of cool. And 
if that’s not worth £3,495 – pretty much the price of a carbon-fibre parcel shelf on a Ferrari 812 – we don’t know what is.

Vidsy Wins L’Oreals Startup Pitch at VIVA Technology Paris 2018- Congratulations!

Source: L’


Ascension Ventures invested in then SEIS business Vidsy through its ASCEND II fund in 2016 and is delighted to track the progress of this SEIS investment.

Alongside British Startup ‘Slick’ and Chinese Startup ‘Beauty Evolution’, Vidsy wins a 3rd edition of Viva Technology Paris, L’Oréal presented its latest beauty tech innovations driven by Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence, and for the first time held a live pitch event for international startups on its stand.

12 startups from China, USA, Germany, UK and France who work closely with L’Oréal subsidiaries and brands were invited to present their beauty tech services in front of L’Oréal’s senior management team and the general public.

The three winning startups included British startups Vidsy and Slick and Chinese startup Beauty Evolution.


Vidsy combines its technology with a global network of talented creators, providing a new video production model for branded content across mobile, social media and digital channels. Based in London, Vidsy is a world leader in video, having global creative partnerships with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Vidsy is currently working across various L’Oréal brands including L’Oréal Paris, Garnier, Maybelline and Yves Saint Laurent


Beauty Evolution

Beauty Evolution is an application that uses big data to interpret cosmetics. It aims to help consumers understand the ingredients, reputation and skin matching of their cosmetics using innovative data algorithms, so that they can purchase safer and more effective beauty products in a more targeted way.


Slick emerged from L’Oréal’s partnership with London based accelerator and incubator Founders Factory. It is the first incubated brand created from scratch as part of this partnership.

The brand offers the next generation of salon booking software, helping hair dressers manage bookings, reduce no-shows, build client loyalty and evolve their business.

Our open innovation strategy allows to match promising new ideas of digital beauty entrepreneurs with L’Oréal’s centennial expertise and network in the field of beauty, marketing and retail. Together we will invent the future of beauty products and services, using key digital technologies such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and conversational commerce.

Lubomira Rochet, Chief Digital Officer of L’Oréal

L’Oréal’s large-scale digital open innovation strategy includes investments in Partech Ventures, an international venture capitalist firm, and Founders Factory, a London based digital accelerator and incubator.  L’Oréal also partners with Station F, the world’s largest startup campus, based in Paris.


“There is a real lack of understanding between the investment world and the creative one” – Ascension SEIS Committee Member Craig Fletcher shares his wisdom


Since becoming a full-time business angel at the start of the year, the scale of the funding challenge for smaller games companies has been eye-opening. There is a real lack of understanding between the investment world and the creative one. If we are to give our talent the opportunity to flourish and make sure more of the future Indie hits are from the UK, we need to do more to solve this.

Creative start-ups often have little commercial experience, let alone fundraising experience and it can be a bewildering minefield. You don’t know what you don’t know and there is a real risk of being taken advantage of. Getting good advice is key, but this then brings us back to the funding issue.

On the other side, in the finance industry, it has surprised me just how little knowledge is out there. Acknowledgement that the games industry is even an industry is often the first challenge and many are genuinely shocked at the size of the market.

One thing is clear, there is no shortage of capital in the market and no lack of creative ideas in our industry. The challenge is educating both sides and then connecting money to opportunities. We have had some great recent events that directly connected investors and studios, but we need more of them, as well as events focused on educating each side.

Funds are a way to curate opportunities and diversify risk through a portfolio. There are specialist investment funds that focus on gaming, but these tend to have larger deal sizes ($1m+), meaning there is a funding gap for earlier stage companies. It makes sense, when you realise that the amount of effort you put into a $100k investment does not differ much from a $1m. There is also the theory that investing in bigger deals means companies are further along the path, with a more solid capital base and reduced risk.

This does not help the problem of raising a $100k round to bring your ideas to fruition. Most publishers want to see a prototype or demo, but then how do you get the funds to build this? This is traditionally the realm of business angels, but some funds, such as Ascension Ventures, are also now getting involved, using tax-efficient schemes and a portfolio approach to mitigate risk, while also running events to educate investors.

Awareness of tax efficient schemes has also been surprisingly sparse, such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and its more lucrative cousin SEIS. These provide attractive tax incentives for people to invest in risky early stage companies.

I have only just scratched the surface of the issues here. Suffice to say, we have huge creative talent and potential as an industry and one of the world’s largest financial centres on our doorstep. There is still a lot of work to be done to foster links and better understanding between them.

ASCEND SEIS IV company Sentisum Partners with Reevoo to deliver actionable insight through artificial intelligence

User-generated content collection platform Reevoo, which has clients including Honda, Kia, Mazda, Volvo, LV=, Admiral, Currys, and BA  has partnered with SentiSum, the customer insight as a service platform. Together they will offer review summarisation, enabling brands to draw insights and improve their offerings. By monitoring their sentiment score and seeing what consumers are saying, both positive and negative, brands will be able to build better relationships with their end users.

SentiSum’s machine learning and natural language processing capabilities analyse and distil the most relevant customer feedback, distinguish between positive and negative sentiment, suggesting improvements accordingly. Combined with Reevoo’s existing analytics tools, this will allow brands to really harness the true voice of their customers across their entire business.

Edwin Bos, Reevoo’s chief innovation officer, can’t wait to see how far this new partnership can go.

“Reevoo has always focused on collecting market leading quantities of high quality and structured content. Partnering with SentiSum, who are very aligned with our way of working, will reinforce how vital customer opinions are to businesses.”

Sharad Khandelwal, co-founder and CEO at SentiSum, said:

“We created SentiSum to make it easy and convenient for brands to better understand their customers and take timely customer-centric decisions. This partnership exemplifies Reevoo and SentiSum’s shared vision and commitment to leverage cutting-edge technology to uncover true voice of the customer.”

About Reevoo

Millions of shoppers use Reevoo to make better buying decisions in their everyday lives. Hundreds of brands all over the world use our solutions to get a better idea of what makes their customers tick.

It’s our transparent and independent approach that makes the difference – we believe honest communication between brand and shopper is better for both.

Reevoo was started by Richard Anson, Ben Griffiths and Guy Logan in 2005 to help customers choose what to buy – not just where or when.

Today, Reevoo is seen in more than 60 countries and in 30 different languages.

For more information, contact:

HANNAH MURRAY-SYKES, Head of Marketing, Reevoo
+44 (0)20 7654 0350


About SentiSum

SentiSum provides a customer insights platform leveraging state of the art machine learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities enabling brands to identify and quantify their customer’s pain points across the customer journey. By combining customer sentiment across the customer journey from every customer touch point, SentiSum’s plug and play solution can immediately help to improve customer experience and retention.

For more information, contact:

+44 (0) 207 859 4079


Content Marketing Institute Vice President Peter Loibl joins CONCURED as President & Chief Strategy Officer


LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–CONCURED, the award-winning AI-powered Content Marketing Strategy platform (CSP), today announced the immediate appointment of Peter Loibl as President & Chief Strategy Officer. Loibl joins CONCURED from an extremely successful run of seven years at the Content Marketing Institute and will work jointly with the CONCURED executive team in overseeing all business operations, while heading up expansion in North America.

“CONCURED is one of the most interesting technologies I’ve seen in the content space in years, and Peter’s leadership skills and strategic in-depth knowledge of the content and marketing space will be invaluable to the business.”

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Commenting on the appointment, CONCURED’s CEO, Tom Salvat said: “Peter has an outstanding reputation in the content marketing world and his decision to join CONCURED at this exciting time in our growth is testament to the power and potential of our AI-powered Content Strategy Platform (CSP). Our vision is to revolutionize the commercial impact content marketing can have for a business, and with his proven track-record of success we are confident Peter will help us supercharge our ability to execute on that goal.”

Loibl’s reputation stems from his early-stage involvement in the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), serving as the media company’s first Vice President of Sales and publisher of Chief Content Officer magazine. Loibl played an integral role in CMI’s rapid growth, negotiation and eventual acquisition for $17.6 Million + profitability earn-out in 2016 by United Business Media (UBM), where he was promoted to oversee business development for a number of their leading US events, in addition to his leadership duties at the Content Marketing Institute.

“So much time and money is wasted in the name of ‘content marketing’ without any real understanding of what content actually works and the data needed to make better, more profitable decisions. CONCURED is perfectly positioned to disrupt this industry and deliver much-needed clarity for brands and publishers by harnessing the power of AI,” commented Loibl. “Tom Salvat, Dr Tom Wilson (CTO) and the team have truly built something special, and while my time at CMI and UBM will certainly be cherished as the highlight of my career, this opportunity was simply too intriguing not to be a part of.”

Robert Rose, CMI’s Chief Strategy Advisor and CONCURED advisor commented: “CONCURED is one of the most interesting technologies I’ve seen in the content space in years, and Peter’s leadership skills and strategic in-depth knowledge of the content and marketing space will be invaluable to the business.”

This appointment is one of many high profile names to join CONCURED’s team, including former Head of Google UK Kate Burns, who will join CONCURED’s board as an investor and board advisor.


Trusted by the world’s leading brands, CONCURED is the world’s first AI-powered Content Strategy Platform that guides the ultimate content strategy to help maximise engagement and ROI.

CONCURED provides a SaaS platform that enables content marketers to Audit, Research, Plan, Distribute and track the Performance of content like never before.

Anon AI, ASCEND IV company, now rebranded as Hazy, wins $1m from Microsoft Ventures and Notion Capital

Six months later, we’re overwhelmed with the response. Not only did we receive hundreds of submissions, the companies were all innovative, impactful and inspiring.  In healthcare, startups are utilizing AI to create personal and mental health assistants, conduct drug research and diagnosis as well as spot patterns and abnormalities. In retail, computer vision is used to automatically recognize and tag items in images and video, enhance advertising and optimize shopping experiences. In financial services, machine learning is fueling research summaries and insights that investment professionals can use to invest smarter and faster. In human resources, AI is helping to understand people’s strengths, skills and networks and properly match them with jobs and schools. The number of use cases across industries is endless.

For more than 25 years, Microsoft has worked to advance transformative power of AI, believing in its ability to accelerate human ingenuity and solve some of society’s most pressing challenges. The hundreds of startups that applied to Innovate.AI make it clear that the next generation of innovators is realizing this vision in ways we never could have imagined, and we can’t wait to help drive the progress.

Today, I am thrilled to share that after narrowing it down to 34 finalists, we have selected the four winners for the Innovate.AI competition. Most importantly, I wanted to share a little bit about the stories behind their successes:

Anonymizing data with artificial intelligence

Company:  Hazy .  (Previously Anon AI)
Region:   Europe
VC partner:   Notion

With data privacy concerns on the rise, more and more companies are looking for partners that can help them achieve the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance by anonymizing their data.  Hazy is working to make this a reality.

Using any arbitrary structured data source (e.g. a database or stream of data), Hazy leverages deep learning algorithms with topological data analysis and knowledge representation technologies to accurately identify and classify personal and sensitive information, while providing a human-like understanding of the data.

Learn more about Hazy.

From left, CTO James Arthur, CEO and cofounder Harry Keen and Dr. Fintan Nagle of Hazy

From left, CTO James Arthur, CEO and cofounder Harry Keen and Dr. Fintan Nagle of Hazy. Photo courtesy of Hazy

Each of these winners will receive a combined $1 million investment from M12 and our regional VC partners and up to $500,000 each in Microsoft Azure credits and prizes.

Highbrow is Featured as App of the Day on the US App store


Highbrow,  an investment from the ASCEND III SEIS Fund has beat the field of over 2.2m other apps in the store to rise to the top, and has been featured by the editorial team as the app of the day

Highbrow is a Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) platform for children’s extracurricular & educational videos (think Netflix meets Etsy).  Highbrow is focused on addressing the pain-points of ‘conscientious parents’ and ‘independent content creators’




THE MUTT’S NUTS! James May Reviews Ascension Portfolio Company Mutt’s Bikes


Fake news alert. I haven’t really escaped from a WWII prison camp.

Ask anyone this side of Dr Johnson to define ‘irony’, and they’ll find it pretty difficult. Give the job to some slightly dysfunctional Brummie custom bike builders and they’ll have it nailed quicker than you can say it.

I’m talking about Mutt Motorcycles. They take Chinese licence-built versions of small Suzukis (the sort of Japanese bike that helped demolish the British motorcycle industry in the 60s and 70s) and convert them, using their own parts, into evocations of the British scrambler and home-made café racer of those far-off glory days, but with a digital gear indicator and Euro4 compliance. They do this, obviously, in a building once occupied by BSA.

Eeeh bloody hell I had one of them once.

One part of me is uneasy with this sort of thing. Like the Royal Family, regional Cornish pasties, and Oxfordshire, it smacks of an inability to move on. But on the other hand…

Mutt makes small motorcycles, 125s and 250s, with the avowed aim of getting people back into bikes. They may be on to something, because they started a few years ago making just a handful of these things, but now they’re selling like, well, fashionable and reasonably priced small capacity motorcycles. They’re a bit hipster, you see.

It’s weird. My own personal round-town weapon is a Honda MSX 125 (Grom, if you’re in America), which is the sort of angular contemporary bike ridden by gangs of teenage yobbos around Japanese cities. I like that. Ride the Mutt, and you can feel your beard growing. You will soon form the opinion that vinyl is just so much ‘warmer’ than CDs or MP3 files. Eventually, you will just give in and buy an open-face Davida and some goggles.

And it’s obviously cool. When I ride my Repsol-liveried Fireblade, no-one gives a toss. When I’m out on the Mutt, everyone wants to talk to me about it. Not just old farts who like to tell me how they rode all the way back from Liverpool on the back rim of their Norton 500 Thunderchuff; da kidz as well.

What I have here is the Hilts 250, inspired by McQueen’s bike in The Great Escape. So now it’s customised Chinese licence-built Japanese technology posing as a 1960s 650 Triumph that was masquerading as a 1930s Wehrmacht BMW and actually ridden by Bud Ekins for the famous jump, in case McQueen face-planted it and lost his fortune. But let’s not get bogged down.

Mutt designs a prototype, in this case based on the old Suzuki GN250. The Chinese factory builds around 65 per cent of the bike, then ships it to the UK, where Mutt does all the nice bits: bars, lights, wheels, knobbly tyres, tank, seats, paintwork and what have you. There is a range of Mutt bikes but they will combine the bits in any way you want. This is one of the advantages of working in 1950s Birmingham, away from the constraints of ruthlessly efficient modern lean production methods

Shamelessly hip they may be, but Mutt’s modifications actually make a great deal of sense for a biffabout bike that will, I suspect, largely be ridden about town. Not much point in riding it out in the wilds, because no-one will see just how Goddam on-trend you’re being. The low seat and wide bars make the riding position upright and comfortable – good for looking around, if only at your reflection in a window. It’s very arse-steerable and reasonably light. Throw in a farty exhaust pipe and some noisy knobblies, and the sound track comes good as well. Colour schemes from before the era of colour TV round off its retro cred.

To be honest, this isn’t the most modern bike in the world. The GN lump is ancient, and there’s a bit of backlash in the transmission, which in turn is exacerbated by the lumpy one-pot power delivery. Sometimes, the shift from first to second makes a noise like Blue Oyster Cult’s cowbell. Those tyres can feel a bit squirmy at low speeds. But so what? That’s just enough authenticity, thanks, and it’s balanced out by electric start, disc brakes at both ends, proper lights, and all the other appurtenances of gracious living*.

I ended up being quite fond of the Mutt. At around £3700 (depends on your exact spec) it’s no more expensive than a mainstream commuter bike or posh scooter, but while some of those can feel a bit humdrum, the Hilts does at least have proper character. It’s amusing, and it’s strangely companionable.

It is, in fact, a bit like getting a dog.

Don’t panic, screen time can be good for kids

New research has challenged the long-held orthodoxy that screen-time is bad for children
New research has challenged the long-held orthodoxy that screen-time is bad for children CREDIT:IAIN MASTERTON / ALAMY

write these words with a depressingly familiar feeling of guilt washing over me. To get them written, you see, I have employed a digital babysitter to distract my two children: that’s right, they are currently spending their Easter break playing on my iPad.

Given the news this week that infant pupils are increasingly attempting to ‘swipe’ the pages of their school books, as they have become so accustomed to doing with their devices, and that according to Ofcom, tablet ownership among 8-to-11 year old children has risen from two per cent in 2011 to 52 per cent in 2017, alarm bells should, I know, be deafening.

Yet a wave of new research is now challenging the long-held orthodoxy that screen-time is bad for children: some, it suggests, might even benefit them.

According to Parenting for a Digital Future, a report from the London School of Economics published last month, consuming digital media does not always lead to children consigning themselves to their bedrooms with just their screens for company. In fact, they can often help to bring families together, as parents watch films, play video games and use messaging apps with their children.

“We found that parental concern about placing limits on ‘screen-time’ was far higher than concern about the nature of the content their kids were engaging with,” explains Dr Alicia Blum-Ross, the paper’s co-author. “Instead of worrying about a set time-limit, I’d encourage parents to think: are they learning? Is it helping them engage with their world?”

Instead of worrying about a set time-limit, I’d encourage parents to think: are they learning? Is it helping them engage with their world?

Her view reflects the beginnings of wider change. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics amended its guidance on children’s exposure to screens, abandoning its previous recommendation that children under two should be kept away from them entirely.

Instead it allowed for up to an hour a day for children up to five. And, for the first time, it drew a distinction between traditional forms of digital media (cartoons on television, for example) designed purely for the purposes of entertainment, and other more interactive forms that have the potential to be constructive.

What is most important, said Jenny Radesky, lead author of the policy report, “is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn.”

There is a difference, in other words, between what happens inside your child’s mind while she watches YouTube videos and when she is learning about phonics via an app. For children over two, there is cheering news: studies suggest that their more developed minds can infer all sorts of knowledge about the real world from on-screen activities, whether that is maths and literacy or social skills and behaviour.

Osmo: an educational games system for tablets
Osmo: an educational games system for tablets CREDIT: OSMO

In fact, coding has been on the national curriculum for primary schools since 2014 – recognition that today’s children will grow up in a world, and employment landscape, defined by digital media.

Back in 2013, a landmark study by the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science predicted that 47 per cent of all current jobs could be automated within two decades. If we want children to grow up programming the robots, not being replaced by them, we need to school them in digital literacy.

Last year Priyanka Raswant, along with her husband Rahul, quit her city job in order to launch an educational streaming site for kids called Highbrow.
Digital screen time is a part of modern life – as much as TV was 20 years ago

“When I’m feeding our son, I’m thinking about the nutrition he’s getting out of each meal,” she says. “When we approach screen-time for him, that ethos translates. Instead of what’s good for his body, I’m thinking about what’s good for his mind.”

Highbrow functions like Netflix, only with sections devoted to subjects including science, humanities, maths, English and foreign languages, all calibrated to the individual child’s age and developmental stage. You won’t find Peppa Pig on their app. Instead, their ‘content’ is often crafted by teachers and development experts.

Parents, it appears, value that. The company’s subscriptions are currently growing by 27 per cent every week, while Hopster, another British company, offers games, shows, nursery rhymes and books on their app to “help children learn while they play”. It has been downloaded over 1.6m times and, this month, announced a deal to include educational content from Aardman, the makers of Wallace and Gromit.

“Digital screen time is a part of modern life – as much as TV was twenty years ago,” says its founder, Nick Walters. “And the same way as Power Rangers is not the same as Blue Planet, not all digital screen time is created equal. It’s about giving parents the options – and the information to make the right choices.”

My seven-year-old, on the other hand, is glued to OSMO. A games-system for iPads, it consists of a plastic dock and a clever mirror that you place over the tablet’s camera, to reflect its display down onto the table in front of it. The children use pens to draw on a board, before their wonky artwork is drawn up onto the screen to become part of an adventure, illustrated by them.

Despite harbouring a long-held, (and, I’ll admit, potentially ill-considered) suspicion of screens for children, I find myself struggling to imagine another medium through which they could engage so creatively with so many big ideas.

The technology is designed, say OSMO’s creators, to create a bridge between the digital and physical worlds. And since my children are likely to grow up in one where the distinction between the two is blurred, perhaps that is no bad thing.

Avuxi Partners with Kayak, the Worlds Leading Travel Search Engine

Avuxi, a 2017 investment through the now fully invested ASCEND SEIS IV has just announced a partnership with Kayak:

Source: Travel Tech Report 

AVUXI, the creators of the TopPlace™ location insights, has just announced the expansion of their presence on KAYAK, the world’s leading travel search engine, with a renewed two-year deal.

KAYAK, which searches hundreds of other travel sites to give people the information they need to make their travel plans, will now display new TopPlace™ insights and location scores in its hotel search. AVUXI’s mission is to save travelers’ time while making the right choice when booking a hotel.

The partnership will expand to other brands like momondo and Mundi, while continuing to provide KAYAK users with verified location information and new brief summaries, so that travelers can easily, and confidently, choose the right hotel, in the best location, for the best price.

By integrating TopPlace location scores and heat maps, KAYAK displays detailed location insights for hotels, based on social media signals from travelers and locals across the globe. The heat maps and location scores help KAYAK users identify the most suitable areas in a city and how well a hotel or apartment is located for activities such as eating, shopping, sightseeing or nightlife.

“Travelers want to feel certain that they are booking a hotel in the most convenient location for their needs. TopPlace insights provide knowledge about how good a location is in any city worldwide. Because we have analyzed billions of social media signals, such as blog entries, photos, reviews, likes, check-ins and more, we can accurately show and tell the user what any given location is like. This kind of information is crucial to quickly understand an essential criteria like location, when booking any given hotel, so that travelers can save time, stay on site and book confidently,”

~ Alexis Batlle, CEO and Co-Founder of AVUXI

Entale goes live on the app store and partners exclusively with Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place Podcast

Entale is now live in the App Store after 6 months of development and beta testing, Entale is the brand new podcasting app that combines the best audio podcasts with enhanced, rich additional content that pulls you deeper into the story.

Entale’s unique technology enhances your favourite podcasts with contextual links, pictures, maps, social quotes and more, meaning you have everything you need to enhance your understanding of the story, synced to the audio interactively.

In short – Entale is how podcasting should be

DJ Fearne Cotton currently tops the iTunes podcast charts with her new show, “Happy Place”.  Working exclusively with Entale, users can experience a more engaging experience with her show, as she interviews incredible people about life, love, loss and everything in-between.

Using Entale’s unique Twitter player integration, Fearne has been able to drive her social media audience directly to listen to the show, growing reach and engagement.

Podcast market continues solid growth, smart speakers on the rise

The Edison Infinite Dial report for March 2018 is out, and the numbers continue to tell the same story we’ve been hearing for a while now – podcasting is gaining in audience popularity and advertising dollars, whilst smart speakers continue to move into more and more homes.  The number of Americans listening to podcasts now stands at 26%, up 10% year on year.  You can read the full report here.





Highbrow have partnered with Global Franchise Kidzania, opening a lounge in London’s Westfield Mall

We are thrilled to announce ASCEND SEIS III investment Highbrow’s partnership with KIDZANIA! As of today, Highbrow will be found in the ‘Early Years Highbrow Lounge’ at Kidzania London, Westfield Mall.

KidZania is a world-wide franchise. With 24 facilities all over the globe from Mexico City to Tokyo ​to London, KidZania receives more than 9 million visitors yearly in 19 countries, with 12 more facilities currently under development. Furthermore, KidZania has a very strong ethos of inspiring children and catering to their curiosity. The partnership just seemed like a hand-in-glove fit!

Here is Co-Founder Priyanka at the lounge!

Check out the press release on Kidzania’s website, or better still, head over to Westfield and see for yourself.


ASCEND SEIS IV’s StylePoints appoints London Advertising as its global comms agency

GDPR solution StylePoints appoints London Advertising as its global comms agency

StylePoints aims to meet the GDPR-based concerns of consumers, publishers and advertisers.

StylePoints, an innovative digital loyalty currency that rewards users for opting-in to share their data with approved brands and publishers, has appointed London Advertising to spearhead its forthcoming launch.

With data privacy a key concern for consumers, StylePoints aims to provide validation, control and a clear value exchange for online users when they choose to share their data. Likewise, with GDPRad blocking and botscreating challenges for publishers and advertisers, StylePoints enables publishers to convert unknown users into known, permissioned users and allows brands to gain deeper insight of who has viewed and engaged with their ads.

Commenting on the appointment, Andy Kulina, founder and chief executive officer of StylePoints, said: “We needed an agency that really understands the shifting digital landscape and could distill our proposition into a simple, powerful message on a global stage. I am delighted to say we found that partner in London Advertising.”

Michael Moszynski, founder and chief executive of London Advertising, which was named International Advertising Business of the Year at The Drum Network Awards, said: “We believe that StylePoints proposition is pitch perfect for today’s marketing environment where data sharing is both king and queen in the strategy chess game.”

London Advertising is positioned to offer an alternative to the traditional agency network, working with clients on every continent from one London-based office.

Source: The Drum

Congratulations to Vidsy, who will be working with Twitter as one of 5 Official “Creative Solutions Partners” globally.


Today, Ascend SEIS II business Vidsy, has joined forces with Twitter as an Official Partner

Brands turn to Twitter to connect directly with their audiences around the world. To stand out from the crowd and develop meaningful customer relationships, marketers need clear, fresh, and memorable content that performs at scale.

Today twitter has added six partners to the Twitter Official Partner program to address this challenge. Each provider offers a unique solution that expands the advertisers’ toolset and delivers high-quality creative for brands on Twitter.

Curalate helps brands sell more effectively online by getting more out of their content and audiences on Twitter. By improving the click-through experience, their software ensures that brands get the most value out of their “thumb-stopping” content on Twitter.

Jebbit creates interactive content experiences built to amplify any advertiser’s message, cause, project, or brand – transforming user attention and engagement into actionable data.

VidMob is a creative platform that connects marketers with a global network of expert video creators, animators, and motion graphics designers who develop high performance video communications at scale.

Vidsy offers a sustainable, long-term and agile content solution for brands to produce quality video advertising in an ever-changing mobile world.

Marketers around the world use Animoto to turn content they already have into high-performing videos that stand out in a video-first world. Videos can be created from scratch, or using pre-built storyboards specially designed for reach and engagement on social media.

Social Native‘s content platform creates consumer generated content on demand, that’s cost-efficient and high quality, and paired with a world of data to help inform media buying decisions.

Advertiser demand for an expanded content toolset lead us to focus our 2017 #Promote Innovation Challenge around Creative products and services. It was through #Promote that we learned which partners were delivering truly innovative solutions that added real value for marketers.

Twitter thinks of our partner ecosystem as an extension of our own team and we’re excited to continue collaborating to make marketing better on Twitter. If you’re an advertiser interested in working with a partner, you can find the best partner for your business needs at our Twitter Official Partner hub. If you’re a solutions provider interested in integrating with the Twitter Ads API,


Did you catch Curiscope on the Today Show in New York?

One of Ascension’s SEIS investments in the AR/VR sector, Curiscope is making waves on the other side of the pond.

Did you catch the Virtuali-Tee on TV?

Check out the Virtuali-Tee on the Today Show this morning with Katie Linendoll and Al Roker in their Spring Break Brain Boosters segment. Seeing reactions on TV never grows old and it’s great to see it alongside Nintendo Labo!

You can check out the full segment here:

Ascension Ventures invests in EIS and SEIS businesses that have the potential to scale and break into global markets. Congratulations to Curiscope.


CloudBounce dBounce ICO: Decentralized AI Audio Blockchains – ASCEND SEIS III Company Launches ICO



If you like music, today is your lucky day because the subject of our review today is CloudBouce, a music enhancement company which is having an airdrop soon.

What Is CloudBounce?

CloudBounce is a company which developed a mastering tool for music. By using the tool created by this company, you will be able to remaster your songs and make their audio considerably clearer and better.

Now CloudBounce has decided to create an open source project called dBounce. This project will be just like the original one, but it will be open to the community. The company is already launching a new cryptocurrency which will be used in this project.

The co-founders of this company are Anssi Uimonen (CEO) and Pekka Jääskeläinen (CTO), which had years of experience in the music industry before they decided to initiate this company.

CloudBounce already has many investors from the United Kingdom and Finland. These investors are the Finnish government funding agency Tekes, Ascension Ventures, Dave Hodder, Niko Punin and Noveltech Audio.

How Does CloudBounce Decentralized AI Audio Blockchain Work?

CloudBounce is a software which you can use to remaster your own songs and give them a better quality. You can pay for the service everytime that you use it or buy a monthly or yearly subscription.

The company is concerned with giving the best audio for its users, so it is constantly updating its software to create a tool which can help musicians who really want to sound professional and commercialize their products with high quality. CloudBounce uses a new machine listening technology which processes the audio and finds the spots in which the audio is bad and corrects it.

CloudBounce was so successful after its launch in 2016 that the company decided to create dBounce. This will be an open network for the production of AI tools to be used on audio. This can become a great solution for people who are looking for apps which can make their songs better.

This community will be powered by a new cryptocurrency token designed by the company, the DB tokens. These will be ERC20 Ethereum tokens which will use smart contracts, which will let all the users be safe in their transactions. dBounce will be a community in which all will be able to cooperate to make a better AI which will help everybody.

The platform will be used both on desktop computers and smartphones and its API will be available so people would be able to optimize their audio anywhere.

How To Invest In CloudBounce dBounce ICO Details

If you are interested in this new platform and you do not want to be left out of the investment phase, you can always invest in the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of the company. The private sale will happen on April 5 and 600,000,000 DB tokens will be available. The official price per token is 30,583 DB for 1 ETH, but you might get discounts during the private sale (in which you have to be whitelisted to participate).

The main sale will happen during the second quarter of 2018 but it still does not have an official date. A total of 1,000,000,000 DB tokens will be available during this sale.

CloudBounce Verdict

Is CloudBounce a great investment for you? It surely can be and here is why: this company is already successful. Even before it decided to create the dBounce platform, CloudBounce was already a very successful platform which was carving its place in the market. This considerably improves the chances of this new cryptocurrency platform being a good option.

On the other hand, the company definitely has more experience with music than with the cryptocurrency market and the blockchain technology, so there is the chance that this company might not be as successful as we believe that it might be and you have to take this into consideration while you are investing in this company.

Take your time and weight very well the pros and cons of CloudBounce. This company offers a very interesting service for musicians and music lovers, but it does have a small chance of not succeeding, so try to discover everything that you can before you make your final decision. You do have a lot of time to spare until the sale, in any case, so use this time well.

This was one of 12 SEIS investments that Ascension Ventures made in 2017 as part of its ASCEND SEIS FUND III. SEIS and EIS investing in Ascension’s ASCEND SEIS fund or CENTAUR EIS funds offers the opportunity for investors to be exposed to a diversified portfolio of high growth businesses. EIS and SEIS investments are tax efficient as they offer income tax relief, capital gains tax relief and loss relief should the investments fail.

CENTAUR EIS I Company ZigZag Global wins “Millennial 20/20 Ones To Watch Award”

Brand authenticity, trust, convenience, experiential, on-demand, mobile, online and personalised digital interactions are all values held dearly by today’s customers. Millennial 20/20 Summits showcase disruptive retailers, innovative brand campaigns, unique start-ups and solutions that are bringing the future of retail, marketing and commerce to life.

The MOWAs have been launched to celebrate the companies within our eco-system that are adapting, evolving and innovating to cater for the demands of today’s consumer. The six award categories recognise excellence in the market, acknowledge those embracing the evolving commerce landscape and building new brands, solutions, campaigns, technologies or platforms that are enabling change. Whether you are an established brand or retailer who has managed to reinvent your strategy to stay relevant, an innovative and disruptive start-up or a genius solution solving today’s challenges, the MOWAs want to hear from you.

Winners Europe 2018
Best Innovation Commerce-Enabler / Best Retail Solution

ZigZag Global

ZigZag is an award winning global returns solution for retailers. On the front-end we provide a retailer branded portal through which the customer can book a return from a list of convenient returns options in each country. On the back-end we provide a SAAS platform that help the retailer track all returned items throughout its network of 220 warehouses and 60 courier partners in 130 countries.

Ascension Portfolio company Aston EyeTech’ launches the eMap product at Vision Expo East in New York today


Eyoto eMap1


The eMap from Eyoto is a tool for the optical lab and the retailer

Having gone through SEIS and EIS rounds and securing £5m in funding in November 2017,  Aston EyeTech’s ophthalmic instruments brand, EYOTO, will launch the eMap at Vision Expo East in New York today (15–18 March, Javits Centre).

The new technology incorporates power mapping and lens surface inspection, as well as full refractive index and coating checks.

The company said that eMap can spot a lens defect through every stage in production and incorporates data collection, storage and cloud portal access.

CEO of Aston EyeTech, Carl D Francis, said that the eMap puts a powerful toolset in the hands of both the optical lab and the retailer.

“This is a fast, one button system that checks lens design, corridor width and height, reading zone fit, frame suitability, lens surface damage, manufacturing defects, and more,” he explained.

“In addition, it is a powerful and very visual consultative selling tool for the retailer. It all leads to dramatically improved margins and customer satisfaction,” Mr Francis said.

The retail version of the technology is binocular, measuring both lenses in a pair of spectacles simultaneously.

For further information, visit the Eyoto website. 

Source: AOP

Ascension Ventures’ latest deal, AgentCASH, adds Gift Aid to Charities Proposition

Gift Aid will be launched for the first time at the Action for Children ‘Spring Ladies Lunch’ event tomorrow. Now, benefactors can fill out a Gift Aid form digitally as soon as they donate – as part of one frictionless donation experience and without ever having to leave the AgentCASH payment app.

If your benefactor wishes to add Gift Aid at a later date, they can simply open their digital receipt at their own leisure, click on the Gift Aid link on the receipt and complete the form, which again is permanently attached to the original transaction invoice.

Pledging Gift Aid has never been faster, as most of the data fields are pre-populated from payment. Charities will have a permanent record of Gift Aid pledges from one portal as the form is digitally attached to the original payment invoice and customer record.

Extremely proud of AgentCASH development team for working tirelessly to ensure this solution is deployed in time for this weeks Action for Children events, to maximise collectible revenues for a fantastic charity.

ASCEND III’s Blokur is one of Music Ally’s 20 Music/Tech start-ups to watch in 2018!

20 music/tech startups we’ll be watching in 2018

Here at Music Ally, we covered a lot of new music/tech startups for the first time in 2017. We’ve now chosen 20 of them that we think have the potential to make an impact in 2018 and beyond, from analytics to artificial intelligence, and from blockchain tech to radio monitoring.

This app uses Spotify and Apple Music as the base for a new spin on user-generated radio. Anyone can link their playlist of songs and hit a button to chat live to their listeners. The trick was that each listener was streaming from their own account: if a station has 1,000 listeners, each track picked gets 1,000 streams.

Also known as ‘what Stephen Philips of We Are Hunted / Twitter Music did next’. PopGun is one of the startups exploring artificial intelligence’s ability to create music. Its AI is called Alice, and she listens to your piano-playing, then tries to play melodies to complement it.

Swiftly rebranded from its launch name of Hookd, this company went after the production-music likes of Epidemic Sound, who’ve been providing royalty-free music to YouTubers. Lickd wants to tempt those online-video creators to use music from labels, signing a number of indies to try.

United Masters
United Masters suffered when the TechCrunch article announcing its launch over-egged the ‘labels are dead’ pudding. $70m of funding from Alphabet, Andreessen Horowitz and 20th Century Fox also raised hackles. But a distributor with decent technology could be a boon to the industry.

The Bot Platform
If we learned one thing from British startup The Bot Platform this year, it was to call its products bots, not chatbots. The company worked with a number of labels and artists on bots for Facebook Messenger, demonstrating good engagement rates – and actual money for merch.

AI Music
Another UK startup, this plans to use artificial intelligence technology to remix songs on the fly for listeners. The idea being that a song might be an acoustic version in the morning; a pumped-up version for the gym, or a jazzy version late at night. Its first public demo is in 2018.

Amuse styles itself as “the world’s first mobile record label”: part distributor for artists to upload their music to get it onto digital services, but part data-mining service that identifies breaking tracks then signs them up. It also provided some actual amusement in September when Will I Am joined as a ‘co-founder’.

After Apple and Pandora snapped up the main music-analytics tools a few years ago, it took a while for a new cluster of startups to emerge. Soundcharts got plenty of buzz this year, thanks to a Midemlab victory and $3.1m of funding in September to continue building.

Guts Tickets
If you’ve had a bellyful of blockchain startups promising to revolutionise the music industry, how about one that’s training its sights on the ticketing market? Dutch firm Guts Tickets is putting the blockchain to work in rooting out touts while still allowing fan-to-fan transfers of tickets.

The San Francisco-based startup’s system has been built by a team drawn from Apple, Uber and Salesforce, and is geared towards A&R and impact analysis. It was one of the smartest dashboards we saw this year. Taking data from Spotify, SoundCloud, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Jaak’s first public appearance was at our NY:LON Connect conference in January, but the company soon became a regular presence at other events. Blockchain is its focus, and it’s from the sphere of that sector that wants to help the music industry solve its metadata issues, with pilots underway.

Primephonic wasn’t a new company, but its classical-music streaming service was. It launched in June in the UK and US with a catalogue of more than 100k tracks, and licensing deals with Warner Classics and Sony Classical that would swell that total in the coming months. It charged £14.99 a month for its CD-quality audio – 16-bit FLAC files to be specific.

Haawk raised $2.5m of seed funding, and straddled the boundaries of copyright protection and content distribution: it’ll handle YouTube Content ID tasks for its clients, as well as rights management on Facebook, Vimeo and SoundCloud. But it also promises to distribute music to Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora and other streaming services, as well as working in the sync-licensing sphere.

Blokur was founded by former musician Phil Barry, who previously founded the startup (Ujo Music) that worked with Imogen Heap on her ‘Tiny Human’ project. It’s hoping to partner with collecting societies, publishers and artists to help solve their metadata woes, havinghired execs from Universal Music and 7digital for his 10-strong team.

Amper Music
Armed with $4m of funding and the backing of the Techstars network, Amper Music is the American equivalent of Jukedeck, using AI to create music initially for use in online videos, games and other production contexts. The company has grand ambitions for its music to be indistinguishable from human music in the coming years.

Vertigo Music
“What would you get if you crossed Spotify with video livestreaming apps like Periscope or YouNow?” we asked when we spotted Vertigo Music go live in the App Store. It’s a combination of live vlogging and music drawn from Spotify – and later Apple Music. Similar to Stationhead, each individual listener generates their own stream per song.

The World Airplay Radio Monitor (WARM for short) runs a service to help independent artists, songwriters, producers and managers track radio airplay around the world. It provides access to data from more than 21k radio stations in more than 100 countries, to help with people’s marketing, promotion and radio-plugging strategies.

Bandcamp-on-the-blockchain if you want our high-concept pitch for the merits of this startup. It’s an Ethereum-based “decentralised music streaming and downloading platform that aims to monetise independent artists” which was one of the first music startups we saw running an initial coin offering.

WAV was founded by label veteran Steve Rifkind and former Line exec Jeanie Han, capitalising on both their respective histories. It was an app for sharing video and music content, with WAV planning to support the better examples through label-style deals. It sits within the same group as Line and Snow, providing potential promotion.

Gimme Radio
Can single-genre streaming services carve out their own niches in a world of Spotify and Apple Music? Gimme Radio is giving it a try. Focused entirely on metal, it’s free to listen to with no ads, but using a radio-style model. Its plans to make money include sales of vinyl and merchandise.

Augmented Reality (AR) Education Market to Experience an Impressive Growth by 2025: Curiscope profiled

Augmented Reality (AR) Education Market to Experience an Impressive Growth by 2025: Application, Analysis, Demand, Forecast and Technology profiled by Key Players EON Reality, Magic Leap, Google, Curiscope, Chromville

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) is enabling the 4th wave of computing power. These technologies involve the integration of other technologies, such as sensors, Big Data, artificial intelligence (AI), and wearable devices, leading to enhanced spatial computing.

The report starts with a basic Augmented Reality (AR) Education Market overview, in this introductory section, the research report incorporates analysis of definitions, classifications, applications and industry chain structure. This Market report mainly focuses on Augmented Reality (AR) Education industry in global market. The major regions which contribute to the development of Augmented Reality (AR) Education Market mainly cover market in Europe, North America, China, Japan, Southeast Asia.


Anon AI is helping companies get ready for new GDPR laws in May

With GDPR just being months away, this startup aims to solve one of the biggest hurdles to being compliant with the new regulations.

Anon AI automates data anonymisation

Whether you’re a researcher at a university or working at a big conglomerate, sooner or later you’ll have to deal with sensitive data. But if you want to share this data securely, it can be a time-consuming endeavour to anonymise it. In fact, some companies have people employed full time to deal with these issues. Fortunately, Anon AI is aiming to solve this issue once and for all.

Using AI, the startup’s technology aims to make the process of anonymising data more effective. All you’ll have to do is to express your intentions and the system takes care of the rest.

And the technology couldn’t have come at a better time: not only have high-profile hacks like the WannaCry ransomware attack last year made more businesses focus more on cybersecurity but the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) also means that everyone from SMEs to huge corporates is taking a closer look at how they store data and protect consumers’ identities.

Given the need for its services, it’s hardly surprising that Anon AI has drawn considerable investments despite having only launched in January 2017. For instance, CyLon, the cybersecurity accelerator, invested £15,000 in March last year. And in January 2018, Anon AI raised an additional £340,000 in pre-Seed funding from the UCL Technology Fund, the London Co-Invested Fund, AI Seed and Ascension Ventures.

Commenting on this latest round, Harry Keen, CEO and co-founder of Anon AI, said: “This investment will enable us to create a tool that addresses one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today: avoiding the potentially catastrophic consequences of a data breach, while tapping into a vast source of opportunity.”

With so many businesses getting ready for GDPR, we’re betting that Anon AI won’t run out of customers any time soon.

Source: Elite Business Magazine

Yi Xu, Human CEO, Chats to the FT about using AI in recruitment

 AI helps recruiters track jobseekers’ emotions

Facial recognition technology allows us to pay for lunch, unlock a phone — it can even get us arrested. Now, that technology is moving on: algorithms are not only learning to recognise who we are, but also what we feel. So-called emotion recognition technology is in its infancy. But artificial intelligence companies claim it has the power to transform recruitment. Their algorithms, they say, can decipher how enthusiastic, bored or honest a job applicant may be — and help employers weed out candidates with undesirable characteristics. Employers, including Unilever, are already beginning to use the technology. London-based Human, founded in 2016, is a start-up that analyses video-based job applications. The company claims it can spot the emotional expressions of prospective candidates and match them with personality traits — information its algorithms collect by deciphering subliminal facial expressions when the applicant answers questions. Emotion recognition technology helps employers … shortlist people they may not have considered Yi Xu, chief executive, Human Human sends a report to the recruiter detailing candidates’ emotional reactions to each interview question, with scores against characteristics that specify how “honest” or “passionate” an applicant is. “If [the recruiter] says, ‘We are looking for the most curious candidate,’ they can find that person by comparing the candidates’ scores,” says Yi Xu, Human’s founder and chief executive. Recruiters can still assess candidates at interview in the conventional way, but there is a limit to how many they can meet or the number of video applications they can watch. Ms Xu says her company’s emotion recognition technology helps employers screen a larger pool of candidates and shortlist people they may not have considered otherwise. “An interviewer will have bias, but [with technology] they don’t judge the face but the personality of the applicant,” she says. One aim, she claims, is to overcome ethnic and gender discrimination in recruitment.

ASCEND IV Company Bulbshare is helping FMCG businesses create product strategies

Some of the UK’s biggest FMCG and grocery brands are working with innovative new technology company Bulbshare to co-develop product, service and pricing strategies in direct collaboration with their shoppers.

Bulbshare’s co-creation technology allows FMCG brands to connect directly to targeted customer communities in order to gain insight around price, value-perception and shopping decisions – developing strategies that are jointly formed between shopper and brand.

By connecting brands to private customer groups through a mobile app, Bulbshare aims to bridge the gap between consumer and brand – helping organisation to ‘co-create’ products, campaigns and pricing strategies that better reflect the wants and needs of their customers.

Bulbshare founder Matt Hay says the technology is already changing the way FMCG brands connect to their customers: “We think many brands are failing to connect authentically with their customers and we believe the best way of solving this is to start building strategy and products directly with consumers. Technology plays a key role in facilitating this process and we’re thrilled to be able to introduce the Bulbshare platform as a tool that will make this possible for global brands and organisations within the FMCG space.”

Bulbshare works by setting incentivised briefs and challenges to customer communities, who respond through the app in written or video form with insight, ideas and content. It has already been used to inform pricing strategies at a number of major FMCG firms, as well as working with a host of major global organisations such as eBay, Vodafone, BBC Three, Unilever and MTV.

In January 2018, the firm also published a white paper on the power of co-creation, containing research that revealed a major disparity between how well brands believe they connect to their customers and the reality of how those customers actually feel.

To learn more on how Bulbshare works, visit their website and download the co-creation white paper.

Major FMCG Firms Using New Tech Tool To ‘Co-Create’ Product Strategies With Shoppers

Congratulation to ASCEND SEIS III The Best Learning Management Systems based on User Experience This Top 20 LMS list has been created using a holistic approach and is based on input from actual LMS users. The order of appearance depends on System Usability Score, Perceived Usefulness & Net Promoter Looop for ranking as the #1 Learning Management Solution based on User Experience

The Best Learning Management Systems based on User Experience

This Top 20 LMS list has been created using a holistic approach and is based on input from actual LMS users.
The order of appearance depends on System Usability Score, Perceived Usefulness & Net Promoter Score.

February, Ascend SEIS investment Looop, was ranked 1st by the e-learning industry on user experience.

Source :

Albert (UK’s top rated finance app) from ASCEND II, partners with Starling Bank

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Starling Bank partners with mobile invoice and expense platform Albert

06 December 2017  |  3203 views  |  0Source: Starling Bank

Starling Bank, which was the first of the banking challengers to offer a mobile-only current account in the UK, has today announced its latest partnership with mobile invoice and expense platform Albert.

Albert is the UK’s highest rated finance app for freelancers with over 1,000 five-star ratings in the Apple app store. By dramatically simplifying and automating daily bookkeeping tasks, it aims to take away stress and fear from business financial management.

The partnership with Albert follows Starling’s recent announcement that it will be offering business accounts to entrepreneurs, small businesses and sole traders in the early New Year. Registration has now opened for customers wishing to be early innovators (register at Selected users will be able to connect Albert directly with their Starling account which they can use for business and benefit from an experience that will be years ahead of any existing solution in the market, and a precursor to the new Open Banking regulation.

The unique Albert-Starling experience will be publicly available with the business account launch early in the New Year.

This integration will solve a major pain point for freelancers, sole traders and small businesses: time spent bookkeeping. Right now, it’s a slow and complicated experience to manually reconcile bank transactions with invoices and payments. This integration simplifies the process by automatically matching the transactions from Starling Bank with the invoices sent from the Albert app, so the two can be reconciled in a single tap, saving customers time and enabling them to spend more time on what they love: their business.

Other perks of having the two apps connected will be automated expenses (prefilled by Albert just after your payment is sent) and being able to see your account balance in real time directly from the App.

Starling Bank is the first UK bank to open its APIs in preparation for PSD2 in January 2018 and together with Albert will be the first to bring the benefits of PSD2 and Open Banking compliant partnerships to sole traders and small businesses.

Anne Boden, CEO and Founder of Starling Bank said:
To follow our announcement that we will be offering business accounts to small businesses, entrepreneurs and sole traders, Albert are the perfect partner for us as we continue to challenge conventional thinking in banking. Small businesses need to be agile and entrepreneurs should spend their time building on their ideas, not bogged down in paperwork. Starling and Albert are firmly on the side of the entrepreneur and this partnership will make their lives – and businesses – better.

Ivo Weevers, CEO and Co-Founder of Albert said:
It’s crazy that most self-employed people still don’t feel comfortable with their daily finances. These are the basic aspects of our lives that are supposed to be easy. To solve this, one needs to leapfrog the existing status quo. Albert is super thrilled to have found a perfect partner in Starling to make this vision a reality for all the self-employed.

Evening Standard: Mother launches Highbrow streaming site

A mother who feared her son would be exposed to “scary and violent” video content online quit her job at a City law firm to launch a child-safe streaming platform.

Priyanka Raswant, 31, came up with the idea after thinking about how to manage the screen time of her son Aahaan, who is now two.

With her husband Rahul, the former corporate lawyer founded Highbrow, a Netflix-style start-up backed by O2 that has grown to streaming 4,000 educational videos since launching six weeks ago. The couple, from Hammersmith, work with independent creators and all the ad-free content is vetted by staff before going live.

Highbrow, available on platforms including web browsers and iOS, is aimed at children aged one to 11.

Videos on the £5.99-a-month site cover science, cookery, the human body, travel guides, religion, culture, yoga, plus art classes on topics such as drawing dragons. There is also a section for youngsters with autism and hearing impairment. More…

Source – The Evening Standard

The Mirror: New X-ray T-shirt lets you take a virtual tour inside your own body

If you’ve ever been accused of wearing your heart on your sleeve then we think we’ve found the perfect garment for you.

Curiscope, a firm of Brighton brain boxes, has invented a T-shirt which gives you x-ray vision. When you hover your mobile phone over its front, its genius design gives you a virtual reality tour of not only your ticker, but everything else inside your rib cage.

“But Dave Desk ,” you ask. “How is that possible? And can I put it through a normal wash with my smalls?”

The Virtuali-Tee is emblazoned with a QR code shaped like a rib cage…

Source – The Mirror

Elevator Pitch Awards 2017: Announcing the winners (Vidsy & Anon AI)

On Thursday night, UKTN brought together some of the country’s most exciting tech startups to celebrate the Elevator Pitch Awards 2017.

Following the 14 superb live pitches delivered on the morning of Tuesday 26th September, a panel of experts ranked each business on variables such as originality of idea, the quality of the three-minute pitch and the long-term potential of the company.

The judges scoring the startups were: Suzanne Ashman, partner at LocalGlobe; Diana Krantz, VC investor at Draper Esprit; Eyal Malinger, investment director at Beringea; and Tom Wilson, investment manager at Seedcamp.

Here are your Elevator Pitch Awards 2017 winners…

AdTech / MarTech, sponsored by Kreeston Reeves – Vidsy

In the first award of the night, Vidsy walked away with the title in the AdTech / MarTech category.

The startup allows brands to link up with creators to produce mobile video ads.

Vidsy was commended for its simple objective to make mobile video easy for any brand or business, with the clarity of the pitch from Vidsy’s head of marketing Pedro Carvalho helping it to the top spot.

Cybersecurity, sponsored by Cisco – Anon AI

The final tech category to be announced was Cybersecurity – the winning startup: Anon AI. The company’s CEO Harry Keen gave a persuasive pitch for how the startup is overcoming the challenge of automatic data anonymisation using AI, with the panel buying into the relevance of the business’ proposition and the clarity of Keen’s presentation.

Standout Success – Vidsy

Having already secured the first prize of the night for the best startup in the AdTech / MarTech category, Vidsy rounded off affairs by walking away with the evening’s blue ribbon award.

Given to the pitch that secured the highest combined score of all startups at the preceding live pitch event, Vidsy’s head of marketing Pedro Carvalho wowed the panel with a slick presentation and compelling business proposition…

Source – UK Tech News

Curiscope raises a $1 million seed round

Curiscope, a U.K. augmented and virtual reality content startup, has raised a $1 million seed round led by LocalGlobe, the seed VC firm founded by Saul and Robin Klein. Ascension Ventures, Force over Mass, ustwo Adventure, and Richard Fearn also participated.

The backing follows crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo last year for the company’s The Virtuali-Tee product, an augmented reality experience that combines a t-shirt and app to let you explore part of the human body. Curiscope other’s product out in the wild is a virtual reality experience called Great White Sharks.

Specifically, The Virtuali-Tee is described as a high-quality t-shirt, partnered with a free app, that enables children and adults to discover the human body in fully animated 3D using immersive augmented and virtual reality.

“The t-shirt’s unique design is picked up by the camera function on the app, allowing users to jump into the pumping heart to bring learning to life, or pop their phone into a Google Cardboard to immerse themselves entirely in an anatomical adventure,” explains the Brighton-based company. It adds that the experience can be enjoyed with others or alone through a “selfie mode”…

Source – Techcrunch

City A.M – Meet the three startups joining Pfizer’s healthtech accelerator

Three tech startups have been selected by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to help tackle pressing health issues facing the National Health Service

An app offering social care on demand, Cera, and another offering prescription deliveries, Echo, along with GiveVision, a startup developing a headset to improve sight for the visually impaired, will join its new healthtech accelerator.

The 12 month programme will see the tech firms guided by the pharma firm and other partners with the ambitious goal of getting them into the NHS and available to patients within the year.

Academics and an NHS chief executive were among the judges selecting the three winning companies, which will have access to a £56,000 grant from Pfizer. No equity will be taken in the startups.

Cera, Echo and GiveVision “stood out with their ability to demonstrate how their technology could deliver real benefits across our health system today” said Pfizer UK medical direcotr Dr Berkeley Phillips.

“Pfizer’s knowledge of and relationships with the UK healthcare system will be invaluable in helping Cera scale over the year ahead,” said Dr Ben Maruthappu, co-founder of the startup which has recently inked deals with Uber and Gett to help transport patients and medicines…

Source – City A.M.

The Sun – Mutt Mongrel Review: Trendy and Cheap

THE founders of Mutt Motorcycles really mean business.

Benny, the hirsute face of the operation, has been creating ridiculously expensive and beautifully intricate custom rides under the name Boneshaker Choppers for years.

But he realised there was very little for townies looking for something small, nippy and stylish.

Enter Mutt Motorcycles. The Birmingham-based bike builder creates affordable machines with the uber trendy aesthetic of a custom creation that any hipster with a helmet is pining for today.

The underlying platform for the bestselling Mongrel is a simple twin shock frame with a Chinese 125cc engine slapped in the middle.

Mutt then adds a faux leather flat seat, scrambler bars, a cool paint job and knobbly tyres to complete the look.

Mutt designed the frame and has the final word on most of the parts but in reality, they are shipped from China and any savings are passed on to the customer.

An en vogue matte black Mongrel costs just £2,950 on the road yet manages to draw admiring glances.

That sort of money just about buys a comparatively square Honda step-through scooter, yet the Mongrel offers a fruity little exhaust note, an EU4 compliant fuel-injected engine, LED lights, combined braking system and cool styling…

Source – The Sun

UKBAA 2017 – Moteefe awarded ‘Best Angel-VC Scale-Up Investment’

Thursday evening (6th July) saw over 300 leading entrepreneurs and early-stage business investors gather at The Dorchester Hotel in London for UK Business Angels Association’s annual UK Angel Investment Awards 2017.

Emma Sinclair MBE, the successful entrepreneur, UNICEF ambassador and youngest person in the UK to have made a company public (aged 29), presented the 14 awards, which celebrate the UK’s high-growth entrepreneurs and the investors that have backed them on their growth journey.

Jenny Tooth OBE, CEO of UK Business Angels Association, said:

“The shortlisted companies from across the UK competing for the 14 awards have raised a combined total of more than £210m in equity funding over the past 18 months from early-stage investors, ranging from business angels to crowdfunding platforms and VCs, and this has had a significant impact on their growth and success.

“The winners reflect the huge range of innovative technologies, products and services being developed here in the UK; and demonstrate a strong capacity for scale and market disruption. UKBAA is delighted to recognise and highlight the success stories of these fantastic entrepreneurs and the contribution made by their investors who bring such vital finance and support.”

The 2017 winners and ‘ones to watch’ are:



The judges said: ‘Moteefe has effectively used both angel and VC finance to scale, enabling its customers to access exciting new technology to design and sell their own t-shirts, sweaters and tops; and bringing new data-driven tools to exploit the explosive social media market.’

This award was kindly sponsored by NVM Private Equity

Source = UKBAA

Ascension Ventures Beefs Up Focus on Influencer Marketing Start-ups

Early-stage VC adds fast moving, high-growth, Influencer Marketing sector as an additional focus, by enlisting seasoned digital media and marketing duo Gregor Angus and Patrick Dowling to help identify the winners.

London, April 26, 2017 – Ascension Ventures’ appointment of Gregor Angus and Patrick Dowling, with a mandate specific to the Influencer Marketing sector, is testament to the importance the firm is placing on the growth of the relatively new marketing practice, after the successes of its portfolio businesses, Vidsy & Moteefe.  Gregor Angus, who recently joined the Ascension team as an investment advisor, is a C-Level digital media and marketing services executive.  Patrick Dowling, known for his role in the digital transformation of The Telegraph Media Group, has most recently led the investment and growth of a number of UK companies across influencer marketing, technology and managed services.

Jean de Fougerolles, CEO at Ascension Ventures shared, “we are seeing an accelerated volume, range and complexity of start-ups in the influencer space and without a proactive, deliberate plan, we will either get lost or miss opportunities altogether.  We are fortunate to have Gregor and Patrick focusing on this opportunity for us”.  In its role supporting digital media entrepreneurs from Seed to Series A, Ascension identifies the digital media verticals of particularly high-growth and value (e.g. ad tech, ed tech, digital music & sport, games/VR/AR, online video), all of which Influencer Marketing can slot across.

Many are calling 2017 the year of the influencer, due to an accelerating shift in marketing investment from traditional digital display advertising to social enabled influencer campaigns.

A maturing of influencer marketing practices from its current ‘wild west’ state is inevitable as budgets increase and more attention is paid to more elaborate strategies by the more sophisticated marketers and bigger brands”, commented Mr. Angus.

Guardian Media Group contributes to £1.3m funding pot for Vidsy (The Drum)

The Guardian Media Group (GMG), alongside Ascension Ventures, Delin Capital, Force Over Mass and Coral Reef, has contributed to a £1.3m funding round for London-based creator network Vidsy, a startup that helps brands like Unilever and Barclays connect with young talent to create mobile-first video campaigns.

The publisher has invested an undisclosed sum in the tech startup. The move follows on from it lending its backing to incubator outfit Founders Factory in 2016, to which it is an exclusive media partner.

As part of its accelerator deal with Founders Factors, the Guardian has been forging ties with disruptors in the industry to help it unearth fresh publishing models via innovation. As well as working with Vidsy the paper has been collaborating with tech platform Flourish which lets brands string together live data feeds to create data visualisations, and – an upstart designed to give individuals ownership of their data.

From 2015 to 2016 GMG ensured its worst ever financial results, announcing a pre-tax loss of £173m despite growing its readership to 155 million year-on-year; so while the trend of agencies working with startups is nothing new, publishers muscling in on the game makes sense given that traditional newspaper business models have paid the price for being slow to the advancements in digital.

Vidsy crowd-sources the production of micro-video content for brands, with a view to enabling them to develop a direct connections with a millennial audience and drive engagement online. Ascension Ventures made its initial investment from the ASCEND SEIS II in September 2015.

Gerard Keeley, Vidsy’s co-founder and chief executive, said the company wants to “disrupt the traditional advertising agencies and video production models that are struggling to stay relevant in a world of mobile, social and video.”

Article – Rebecca Stewart, The Drum

Pandora Partners with A Million Ads

Imagine a world where the advertisements you hear speak to you like a trusted friend. They get you. Your likes. Your perspective. And understand how to add value to your everyday life.

We’ve worked hard to make this level of personalization a reality for your music listening experience on Pandora. We already know how important it is to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right moment–so we are beyond thrilled to announce that we are entering an exclusive partnership with UK-based company, A Million Ads, to enable our advertising partners to do this at even greater scale and efficiency.

Together Pandora and A Million Ads are working to establish a new standard for data-driven creative in audio advertising. Not only will this partnership allow brands to further personalize their creative on Pandora, but they will also be able to look at performance across many more variants.

By applying dynamic creative technology to the world of audio, select Pandora advertisers will soon be able to test these enhanced features (that we plan to make widely available later this year):

  • Dynamic Creative at Scale: Serve real-time, tailored audio ads to Pandora listeners through a single tag. In addition to gender, age and zip, these ads also take into account variables like location, time of day and weather–letting advertisers create up to thousands of versions of an ad easily and efficiently. Combined with Pandora’s registration data, this puts the true power of personalization to work for your brand message.
  • Sequential Messaging: Tell a complete brand story with sequentially targeted audio ads. We’ve already seen how campaigns that prioritize storytelling over asking the consumer to make a purchase achieve more effective results.1 Now, we take that to the next level through an unstoppable combination of audio storytelling and sophisticated targeting technology.

Dynamic Creative Expected to Lead to More Effective Brand Messaging.

Can you imagine the possibilities of serving hyper-personalized, real-time audio ads to an audience who is already engaged and immersed in a personalized music listening experience? The end result is a brand message that actually connects with the listeners. Instead of serving the same coffee shop ad across regions and demographics, Pandora advertisers can easily tailor their creative to achieve more relevance to the listener. For example, listeners in Oakland, CA might hear something like this:


We’re also excited to be enabling musical personalization, where advertisers can leverage a variety of different music beds and sounds to match a listener’s current listening experience.

Key Performance Indicators Expected to Get a Boost

We’ve seen time and again that contextually relevant ads generate more resonance with their intended audience, leading to better performance in terms of engagement and recall. Through this partnership, we also expect to see key performance indicators get a boost, including the hard-to-move metrics of Brand Favorability and Purchase Intent.

“We share Pandora’s vision and value for personalization within the unique and intimate audio environment,” said Steve Dunlop, founder and CEO of A Million Ads, “and I’m delighted to partner with Pandora to bring this to market at scale. Dynamic creative represents a significant step in innovation for digital audio advertising and we look forward to building on this partnership as we grow.”

Pandora advertisers can expect dynamic creative functionality to be widely available later this year.

Ascension backs audio processing masters: CloudBounce

Ascension Ventures is pleased to announce its investment from the ASCEND SEIS Fund III into music start-up CloudBounce, an instant digital audio mastering service.

CloudBounce helps musicians and audio content creators sound better during the creative process, providing the user with an invaluable tool for instant feedback on an audio track.  Its modular audio processing engine can be modified for every use case, including song mastering and enhancement, audio processing for mobile video, and adding effects to voice messages.  The (artificially) intelligent machine, unlike Shazam or Echo Digital Audio, makes processing decisions based on context, therefore delivering the most relevant mastering; mastering Pucci’s ‘Tosca’ requires very different enhancing to Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’.

Anssi Uimonen, founder and CEO of CloudBounce commented:

Since launching the first version of our intelligent mastering service in January 2016, we have seen pretty good growth, especially in the amateur musician segment.  During the past 10 months, we have validated the definitive need for high quality, fast and affordable solution for online mastering in the global market.  Along with this, we secured our first deep integration with a notable Digital Audio Workstation software company, Tracktion, and now have multiple partners already integrating the mastering API into their own services.  We clicked with Ascension on the very first day we met and are delighted they are on board as investors; they get what we’re doing!”

CloudBounce’s recent partnerships were formed around the need for mastering, coming from multiple areas of music.  If you are within the creative process, you can master during the mix directly via the Tracktion T7 digital audio workstation.  When you are making your next music video, you will soon have the ability to master during the video creation process on Rotor (another Ascension Ventures portfolio business).  Similarly, when you are publishing or sending out a demo, you can soon master with Demobox and Mixnauten.  Or, if you just want to be discovered and sell your tunes, you will have the platform to master files before publishing them on Orfium.  As Chris Mohoney, CEO of Orfium, puts it, “Well mastered music gets played more, shared more, and purchased more.  All music by any serious artist should be mastered before uploading to Orfium.”

Kieran Hill, COO at Ascension Ventures commented:

“I was hugely impressed by CloudBounce’s vision from the moment I met the team during the Abbey Road incubator programme. Their audio processing engine is more than just a music mastering service; it has the potential to be the go-to-technology for any audio enhancement purpose. Along with this, the company has been smart with the partners it has chosen to launch the service, which includes another Ascension portfolio business, Rotor. In the Music tech space, there are multiple startups offering complementary services throughout the music supply chain, many with different audiences and users. By partnering and leveraging each other’s user bases, they can witness strong growth very quickly. He added, We’re delighted to be investing in CloudBounce and look forward to them partnering with the other music tech companies in our portfolio.”

Libby Clegg, a partially-sighted paralympian, gets to see boyfriend clearly with GiveVision’s goggles

The partially-sighted Paralympian Libby Clegg has seen her boyfriend more clearly than ever before thanks to a new set of hi-tech goggles.
The gold medal runner tested the prototype at the London offices of its creator GiveVision.

Ascension makes move on digital gift cards

Ascension Ventures is pleased to announce its investment, from ASCEND SEIS Fund III, into software start-up WeGift, a platform that unlocks the value of real time digital gift cards for retailers and corporates by delivering increased sales volume and customer retention.

WeGift is the creation of Aron Alexander, a Cambridge University graduate and mobile retail entrepreneur.  Other backers in WeGift’s Seed round include Fuel Ventures, Guan Quan Investments and a number of angel investors from the marketing and payments industries.

Despite the global gift card market being valued at over $300 billion, retailers still struggle to introduce digital gift card solutions.  90% of the gift card market is still analogue, meaning that retailers are neglecting almost the entire audience of 16-25 year olds; businesses still have to order and send gift cards in the post.

WeGift solves this problem through seamless integration into all gift card processors (there are 7 processors in the UK, WeGift has agreements to integrate into 6 of these, with the 7th in discussions for a February 2017 integration) and the creation of a real-time connected network that generates eGift codes on demand from any brand.  This enables retailers to easily launch a branded digital gift card programme on their website through WeGift’s turn-key white label eCommerce solution.  Similarly, businesses can use WeGift’s API to instantly payout using any gift card brand, and save up to 15% through the discounts that retailers offer when buying in bulk through WeGift.

Aron Alexander, founder and CEO of WeGift commented:
‘With gift cards accounting for 5-8% of retailers’ top-line revenue, we have seen a real demand for innovation in what has been an important, but neglected sector.  In B2B, corporates are relieved that someone is finally solving the problem of sourcing content from multiple brands in real time.  In particular, brands are becoming more aware of the need to engage with their younger audiences and offer online experiences that are congruous with their other digital interactions. There has been a lot of excitement around being able to surprise and delight customers through personalised gifting experiences and the ability to acquire insights into purchasing behaviour.  The software is already working brilliantly for some well-known UK retailers.  This latest round of investment marks the start of an exciting phase of development for WeGift, and we’re very happy to welcome Ascension Ventures on board.”

Ascension Ventures CEO Jean de Fougerolles commented:
“I loved the idea of WeGift from the first time I met with Aron, and felt the gifting card market was huge and ripe for a digital makeover.  Aron has a clear vision of how he wants to scale the business and is one of these exceptional entrepreneurs that seems to have signed up another blue-chip client every week!” He added, “I’m also delighted to be co-investing with Fuel Ventures again and can only hope that WeGift shares a similar rocket-like growth trajectory as our last co-investment in Moteefe, exactly 12 months ago.”

Ascension Ventures will be announcing further investments from the ASCEND SEIS Fund III over the coming weeks.

Ascension Ventures win Silicon Canal Award 2016 – ‘Best Angel or Seed Investor’

Silicon Canal Awards 2016 - Best Angel or Seed Investor

Silicon Canal Awards 2016 – Best Angel or Seed Investor

Ascension Ventures win Silicon Canal Award for “Best Angel or Seed Investor”

Ascension Ventures were proud to be announced winners at the Silicon Canal Awards 2016, in the “Best Angel or Seed Investor” category. The award recognises Ascension’s continued commitment to supporting tech startups in Birmingham and across the West Midlands.

The inaugural Technology Awards were held on Wednesday 2nd November at Boxxed, Faraday Wharf, Birmingham. The awards showcased success stories emerging from the Birmingham tech and digital media ecosystem. Across nine categories, Silicon Canal celebrated a diverse range of technology companies, from early stage startups to established entrepreneurs. We have been hugely proud of the way the city has come on in recent years and would recommend any early-stage investor to take note of the companies popping up every week. We will continue to use Birmingham as one of our key sources of deal-flow, across all of the funds we manage”.

In collaboration with Finance Birmingham, Ascension have been investing in Birmingham City Council’s £6m early stage Creative Fund for the past two years, and have been a keen supporter of the ecosystem since 2012. To date, Ascension have invested in over twenty early stage businesses based in and around Birmingham. Their latest deals include a bespoke Vintage Motorcycle brand, Mutt Motorcylces, and Natural HR, a cloud based HR management software company.

Banneya London nominated for Digital Innovation at the Walpole British Luxury Awards


Established in 2001, the Walpole British Luxury Awards are a celebration of exceptional brands and individuals that make the luxury industry the world-leader it is today. The awards were created to honour those who demonstrate excellence in the luxury sector within Britain – where the luxury industry is now worth over £32 billion.

The Walpole British Luxury Awards will take place on Monday 14th of November at The Dorchester.

The event is co-hosted by Walpole CEO Michelle Emmerson, with winners selected by an esteemed judging panel of luxury leaders led by Michael Ward, MD of Harrods and Chairman of Walpole and including Lucia van der Post, Sarah Anderson, (Head of Brand & Partnerships, GREAT Britain Campaign), Peter Ting, Gillian de Bono (FT How to Spend It), Marcus Waring (Restaurateur), and Richard Carter (Rolls-Royce Motor Cars).

The shortlist is as follows:

British Luxury Brand of the Year, in association with Laurent-Perrier
Charlotte Olympia
Charlotte Tilbury
Jimmy Choo
Princess Yachts
Ralph & Russo

Best British Cultural Experience, in association with London Advertising
Fashioning a Reign exhibitions at Her Majesty The Queen’s official residences
Royal Ascot Ladies Day
Tate Modern
Vogue 100 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery
World of Wedgwood

The Champion of British Luxury Manufacturing, in association with G.F Smith
Holland & Holland

Best British Luxury Craftsmanship
Johnstons of Elgin
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
Savoir Beds
Simon Rogan
Soane Britain

Digital Innovation in British Luxury
Anya Hindmarch
Banneya London
Magic Mirror

The Champion of British Luxury Overseas, in association with Freight Brokers
Jaguar Land Rover
Johnnie Walker
Soho House Group
Stella McCartney

The Champion of British Luxury Sustainability, in association with Premier Tax Free
House of St Barnabas
Rêve en Vert

The prestigious Leader in Luxury and Outstanding Achievement in British Luxury category winners will be revealed on the night, as will the Walpole 2016 Emerging British Luxury Talents, in association with Mishcon de Reya. Last year’s winners included Victoria Beckham, Goodwood, Charlotte Olympia and Valentino, with the Best Luxury Brand Ambassador award presented to Charlotte Olympia, by British Fashion Model and Writer, Laura Bailey.

Ascension Backs Content Marketing AI, Concured

Ascension is pleased to announce its investment from the ASCEND SEIS Fund III into Concured, a predictive artificial intelligence platform for content marketers that helps solve one of the biggest issues in the $150b industry: “what do I write about to engage my audience”.

Additional backers in the Concured’s round include a list of value-added angels: Potential VC (Doug Scott), Steve Pankhurst (Founder, Friends Reunited), Kerry Ritz (former Managing Director, Mass Challenge), and Phil Wilkinson (Founder, Kelkoo).

Concured has on-boarded a number of clients including Nationwide, Barclays, and TSB.  The company is in late-stage discussions with multiple organisations that are seeking real data on what is contextually engaging their audience and what topics they should create content on next.  The technology Concured uses enables them to gather unstructured data from the customers’ website, publishers and social channels, and gives them contextual meaning.  Then, using a proprietary algorithm and billions of data points, it notices upward trends and displays the guidance in a simple to navigate, but rich dashboard.

Tom Salvat, Founder and CEO of Concured commented:
“I have been working in this industry for over 6 years and truly believe Concured will solve the problem of miscommunication between companies and their audiences.  I see Concured as the missing central puzzle piece that connects all companies together and creates a more transparent and effective content market.  I am delighted to have Ascension on-board pushing us to the next level, with their strategic input and access to multiple potential distribution partners.”

Jean de Fougerolles, CEO of Ascension Ventures added:
“I am tremendously impressed by the way Concured has progressed, they have already won key blue-chip clients in the past few months and have a great pipeline of qualified leads.  It’s always exciting and rewarding when a business, like Concured, starts off on its own and accelerates quickly.  We are excited to be co-investing alongside some great angels and Potential VC, who will add a lot of value on the companies product development with their proven tech expertise, particularly with machine learning.”

Ascension will be announcing further investments from the ASCEND SEIS III over the coming weeks.

Business Founder with a big Idea? Thinking about pitching to Ascension Ventures? Read on.

If you know someone who knows us, have them recommend you to one of our team members. If we do not have a mutual contact, then send us an intro email to All mails will be read and considered (eventually), but a warm recommendation will be given the attention that may otherwise go missing.

Subject: name of your business and a tag line that is no longer than 75 characters (see our portfolio section for the types of tag lines we are looking for).

Body: one paragraph that explains the problem that you are solving, and why no-one else is/or can do what you are doing. Your target raise (in £GBP), and whether you are currently SEIS compliant (this is not a deal breaker).

Attachment: Your SLIDE DECK

Be concise – remember that less is often more. Your slide deck should cover most of the following points:
1: Vision and value proposition
2: The problem
3: Target Market and opportunity
4: The solution
5: Revenue model
6: Traction and validation/roadmap
7: Marketing and sales strategy
8: Team
9: Financials
10: Competition
11: Investment and use of funds

If we like what we see, we will be in touch. We hold regular office hours for new businesses at our London and Birmingham offices, and if neither of these are convenient then a Skype call works just as well.

This is where we get serious, and you can start to get excited. Discussion over valuation, terms, and structuring, followed by a written term sheet.

Once we have confirmed that we are on the same page over valuation and terms, the fun begins with our due diligence: reference checks, customer calls, market analysis, code review etc.

When we have a green light, it’s over to the lawyers.

We’re very excited to look at businesses in the following sectors: online video, SaaS & Ecommerce, edtech, games, adtech, music & eventtech, & social enterprise. See our portfolio section for the types of businesses we have previously invested in.

We have made exceptions before and fully expect to again, but by definition, exceptions are rare, and so if your business does not fall inside our sweet-spot then your business is less likely to grab our attention.

If you want to find out more about what we offer please get in touch

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