Northern Powerhouse: 7 northern tech startups looking to change the world



Leeds Dock
Leeds Dock (Image credit: GP Bullhound)

This article is part of TechRadar’s Northern Powerhouse column, a series focusing on the development of the North of England’s tech sector.

How do you succeed as a technology business based in the North of England? A recent report by tech-focused investment bank GP Bullhound points to eight companies that might have the answer.

In Northern Tech Revealed: exploring its technology universe, the banking firm identifies the region’s eight ‘unicorns’ (or companies valued at $1 billion). They are: Sage; Autotrader; Skyscanner; Pace; Shop Direct; Moneysupermarket; The Hut; and Skybet.

According to the report, two of the challenges facing companies operating out of the region are securing access to investment, and attracting (and retaining) talent. In a bid to help the next potential wave (or is that herd?) of unicorns overcome the former obstacle, GP Bullhound recently held a pitching event at the Futurelabs co-working space in Leeds.

It was attended by a number of companies looking to secure early stage funding, and major investors including media company Bloomberg were in attendance. TechRadar went along to chat with the seven hopefuls and see what they had to offer.

1. B-Secur

B Secur


Belfast, Manchester & London-based B-Secur could be about to make the fingerprint scanner on your iPhone or Android smartphone look, well, a bit dated. The company is developing a super-strength biometric security that reads your heartbeat’s unique electrical waves to perform anything from unlocking an electronic device to opening a door.

The tech has been used as part of ECG scans in the heathcare industry for years, but it’s the first time a company has looked to adapt it for security purposes. B-Secur has developed an algorithm to make sense of the captured biometric data, which is obtained using a contactless surface that the company says is much more discrete than a physical sensor.

B Secur

Alan Foreman, CEO at B-Secur, says: “The world has gone digital in the last five to seven years. With more devices, apps and data out there more people are comfortable to share their personal and financial data, and that’s causing problems as hackers catch up. We’re working with the National Physical Laboratory to prove that the biometric data we have is as good, if not better than fingerprints as a unique identifier.”

2. Filmies



Film buffs have almost too much of a good thing these days. Almost. Filmies, the self-proclaimed ‘Spotify for Film’, is looking to solve the “problem” of hunting down a gripping flick through its personal film recommendation platform. It spans multiple viewing distributors – from Amazon to Netflix – and combines detailed search tags with social recommendations to help viewers choose what to watch.

By connecting to various movie databases using APIs from Netflix, film review site Rotten Tomatoes, and others, in addition to eventually hosting its own content supplied by independent film-makers, Filmies reckons its app will have the biggest film database around – consisting of around 260,000 picks.

Neil McClure, CEO and Founder of Filmies, says: “After some dodgy film recommendations from Netflix and Amazon, we thought that there must be a better way to find something to watch, so Filmies was born. Our mission is that we want more people to watch films and not spend time searching for them. Our research tells us that the average film fan takes twenty-two minutes to choose what to watch, which over the course of a year means they could watch every Tarantino film four times.”