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Two North East startups among winners of Tech Nation's Rising Stars competition – Business Live


Two North East tech companies have been named among the best early-stage scaleups in the UK.

Gateshead’s Zoa Rental, which enables retailers and fashion brands to offer rental services and Sunderland’s Settld, which provides software to help automate the process of notifying and resolving service provider accounts when someone dies, are among 10 winners of Tech Nation’s Rising Stars competition.

The firms were selected by a panel of seven judges including Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation; Nahu Ghrebremichael, partner at Singular Ventures and Jess Jackson, head of Investment at GC Angels.

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Zoa Rental and Settld – the first North East companies to be recognised in the competition – were selected based on value propositions, competitive advantage, market traction, team experience and potential to scale.

Zoa Rental, founded by former Young Business Person of the Year Isabella West, is part of Hirestreet and offers a platform that enables retailers and fashion brands to adopt rentals. In December, the firm revealed it was helping Marks and Spencer to launch a dress hire venture.

Ms West said: “At Zoa, we are transforming the way customers shop, one rental at a time. We have a big vision – a more sustainable future for the fashion industry. Being recognised as a Tech Rising Star will help us build credibility and awareness in a year where rental is forecast to boom. COVID has posed a significant challenge over the past two years, so I am delighted for the team that their hard-work has been recognised by Tech Nation!”

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Julie Wilson, Settld co-founder
Julie Wilson, Settld co-founder

Bereavement tech company Settld – founded by mother-and-daughter team Julie and Vicky Wilson – automates bereavement notifications to more than 750 companies, from banks to social media players and says it can turn an average six-hour workload into a 15-minute task.

Last year the firm said it had secured £800,000 of investment since launching in early 2020.

Vicky Wilson, co-founder and CEO of Settld, said: “We are over the moon to have been chosen as a Rising Stars Winner. It’s a testament to the hard work of our small team, and it shines a positive light on the way Settld is using technology for good. We would like to dedicate this Award to our bereaved customers and to all those dealing with end of life admin.

“Settld is fixing a major pain point in people’s lives. Dealing with piles of account admin when someone close dies, can be unnecessarily stressful and time-consuming.

“We are also streamlining the system for businesses, which helps them better support their customers at a time of need. Our mission is to simplify end of life admin and be a strong voice for bereaved consumers everywhere.”

Tech Nation said this year’s awards, the fourth instalment of Rising Stars, saw the most regionally and gender diverse set of winners with seven out of the 10 firms based outside of London and the South East. Six out of 10 of the winners have a female founder or co-founder, including both North East businesses.

According to data from Tech Nation, the North East received £215m ($283m) in venture capital investment funding last year, a 66% increased on the £72.9m ($96m) received in 2020.

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Nahu Ghebremichael, partner at Singular VC and Rising Stars 4.0 Judge, said: “It was a pleasure to serve as a Judge in this year’s Rising Stars competition; it’s so important that we, as a startup community, continue to invest time, energy, and funds into fueling entrepreneurship across the UK.

“I’ve been inspired by the level of engagement from founders, operators, advisors, and investors alike across the programme, and I’m so enthusiastic about how we’re continuing to evolve as a collaborative tech ecosystem. Congratulations to all of this year’s participants, as well as the winners, and thanks to Tech Nation.”

Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation and Rising Stars 4.0 judge, said: “With the tech talent shortlisted, this was a tough competition to judge. It’s amazing to see the results reflect a truly enterprising nation with founders from across the UK and a high number of firms started by women.

“Winning this accolade is sure to set them up for the next stage of growth and at a time when the economy needs the innovation and driving force of entrepreneurs, I salute all the founders who took part and made it to the finals and the winners list.”



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