Five British startups that came of age in 2014

Not long ago these startups were just a glint in someone's eye. Now they're showing they've got what it takes to compete with the big guys.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 15 Jun 2015

1. Funding Circle

Funding Circle co-founders Samir Desai, James Meekings and Andrew Mullinger. Credit: Funding Circle

There are so many financial technology businesses that could be on this list, but peer-to-peer lending platform Funding Circle is one of the most successful. Capitalising on the dissatisfaction businesses feel with banks and other sources of funding, the business has grown to be one of the leading lights of alternative finance.

Since launching in 2010 it's funded £470m worth of loans to small businesses.This year it attracted a whopping $65m (£43m) investment in a round led by Index Ventures, and also secured a first-of-its-kind referral deal with Santander. It's now truly playing in the big leagues.

2. Crowdcube

Financially troubled Formula 1 team Caterham raised money through Crowdcube. Credit: Caterham

Another alternative finance provider, albeit of a different genre, Crowdcube helps entrepreneurs crowdfund cash from investors who buy a stake of their company via its online platform, and was the first of its kind in the UK. In March, the Financial Conduct Authority recognised the growing popularity of crowdfunding by introducing bespoke regulations for the industry. Critics say these have 'taken the crowd out of crowdfunding', but most of the main platforms see it as a badge of honour.

In a testament to how well it has cultivated a pool of investors, the company broke crowdfunding records by raising £1.2m in 16 minutes through its own platform in July, just a week after landing £3.8m from professional investors led by Balderton Capital. Crowdcube also scored a PR win last month by playing host to a crowdfunding campaign aimed at keeping ailing Formula 1 team Caterham afloat.  

3. Just Eat

Credit: Gordon Joly/Flickr

There was a time when Just Eat was better known to hungry students than the investment community but that all changed this year thanks to its widely-anticipated IPO in London in April. The takeaway ordering app had a bit of a rocky start to life as a public company, but shares seem to have settled down and are now more than 20% higher than their 260p float price, valuing the company at more than £1.75bn. Originally founded in Denmark in 2000 by  Christian Frismodt, the business came to the UK and laid its roots here in 2006. It's now active in 13 countries including India and Canada.

4. JustPark

JustPark founder and chief product officer Anthony Eskinazi with CEO Alex Stephany.

The 'sharing economy' has been an increasingly influential buzzword among startup circles over the last couple of years, and JustPark is among the best British examples of success in this field, having grown slowly but steadily over the last eight years. Its app attempts to solve the age-old problem of struggling to find a parking space by connecting motorists with resident with a spare parking space.

Formerly Parkatmyhouse, JustPark rebranded in June this year after landing an investment of an undisclosed amount from Index Ventures. This follows previous investment from BMW, which this year unveiled plans to integrate the app into Mini dashboards. Handy.

'I was checking emails in the labour room' - Anthony Eskinazi, JustPark

5. Transferwise 

Transferwise has become known for its, er, provocative marketing stunts. Credit: Transferwise

Founded in 2011 by  Estonians Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus, Transferwise provides peer-to-peer money transfer services to help people beat banks' international fees. This year it garnered attention and raised eyebrows with a widely-reported publicity stunt involving half-naked models at Liverpool Street station. The venture is backed by legendary investor and PayPal founder Peter Thiel and this year also got backing from Richard Branson in a $25m funding round. It may not have stopped the big money fundraising there either - rumour has it the fintech startup is negotiating a $50m round that could value it at $1bn.

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