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Zinc’s Top 5 Start-ups and Scale-ups of 2019

Helen Gilroy-Powell

Helen Gilroy-Powell

17th December 2019

Since the Spring, Zinc has been based at 3Space in Brixton, which is a social enterprise co-working space that donates half of its desk space to charities, youth entrepreneurship and community initiatives. We love it because we’re surrounded by innovative and creative businesses like Gravity Sketch who have developed an immersive 3D design tool, Assemble—an architecture, art and design collective, and cyber-risk experts, KYND.  

Seeing so many people bringing their business ideas to life on a daily basis is invigorating and inspiring. As 2019 draws to a close, we’ve been reflecting on our favourite start-ups and scale-ups of the year. Here are our top five.

Bulb (chosen by Luke)

The environment and climate change have never been more prominent. Young activist Greta Thunberg was recently named Time magazine’s Person of the Year and climate crisis protests have been happening worldwide. With sustainability and renewable energy at the forefront of our minds, it’s no wonder that green energy provider, Bulb, is the UK’s fastest growing scale-up of 2019.

Luke has been a customer and advocate for years and has three referrals under his belt. We love Bulb because they make being sustainable that little bit easier, ensuring every unit of energy their customers consume is from renewable sources, accredited by Ofgem. Their 100% renewable electricity comes from a diverse array of renewable generators from hydroelectricity to anaerobic digestion, and for any green gas they cannot provide they carbon offset. We’re happy that we can rest easy knowing our nightly Netflix binge isn’t hurting the planet. 

Papier (chosen by Charlotte)

Design is important to us at Zinc, and we absolutely adore the designs of the beautiful personalised cards and stationery at Papier. Built as an upmarket competitor to cheesy online greetings cards retailers, their cards offer a mix of tactile paper, modern lettering and artwork meaning you get all the convenience of ordering personalised greetings cards without compromising on luxury. Charlotte recommends them for adding special touch at a wedding or celebrating an important milestone.

Over the past year they’ve showcased multiple design collabs with the likes of Disney, the V&A, and Matilda Goad so there’s always something new to excite us stationery addicts. They also have a full range of stationery, photo-books and calendars as well as wedding stationery—apparently 1 in 6 couples in the UK use Papier for their wedding. They successfully raised their Series-B funding this year, so we’re very much looking forward to seeing what they offer in 2020.    

Top startups of 2019

Koru Kids (chosen by Krushika)

Koru Kids is bringing childcare into the digital age using technology to match-make nannies and parents. They started off specialising in nannies for after-school care, a slot that is tricky for parents who work late or have a long commute, but cannot always afford a full-time nanny. This year they launched a nanny-sharing scheme making childcare even more affordable for working parents. 

Once their nannies are carefully selected (fewer than 10% of their applicants are accepted), they are vetted with DBS and reference checks and are trained in paediatric first aid. Only then are the nannies put on their app to match with local parents. It doesn’t stop there, all payments including tax and N.I. are handled via the app so there’s no more awkwardness around exchanging money. This year they raised an extra £10 million to be able to continue their work solving the problem of childcare for even more parents. 


best startups of 2019

Starling Bank (chosen by Sanjeev)

It’s no secret that investment in FinTech has seen a significant increase in funding over recent years with the global investment in FinTech reaching approximately 112 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. Banking has long been considered a stable market so it’s particularly interesting to see so many disruptive forces entering the field over the past few years. 

While there are multiple challenger banks on the market, our favourite is definitely Starling Bank. They have raised £263 million to date, including their latest injection of £30 million which they raised in October this year. With a growing partner base, including our friends at Digital Risks, they are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

We’re not alone in our love for Starling Bank. Last year they won three categories at the 2019 British Bank Awards: Best British Bank, Best Current Account Provider and Best Business Banking Provider. Their teal and navy vertical card design reflects how we use cards today, and serves as a reminder that this bank has a modern approach to money, saving and worldwide spending. 

Patch (chosen by Helen)

The botanical trend has been undeniably strong in recent years, from the rise in the sale of houseplants to prints and designs of tropical leaves on everything from notebooks to bedspreads. Patch has revolutionised houseplant ownership, particularly for plant-loving inner city dwellers or those with green-fingered aspirations.  

We love seeing Patch using tech solutions to bring plants into homes of a younger generation with less outdoor space, disrupting this old-school market. At Zinc, we’re all inner-city dwellers meaning we don’t always have access to nature on our doorstep. But as being around plants is proven to make you happier and more productive, we love that Patch makes it easier to buy more greenery and take better care of our new happy houseplants.  

Patch is one of our favourite startups this year, 2019

One thing our favourite start-ups have in common is the use of technology to disrupt the status quo and bring new solutions to old problems. We’re looking forward to seeing what 2020 holds in store for the start-up scene.

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