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Exclusive: Antler invests over £1M in their latest residency alumni

The 2024 Antler Residency participants.
Image credit: Antler

Global venture capital (VC) firm, Antler has announced more than £1 million in investments in eight UK-based startups. The startups, in AI, climatetech, and healthtech mean Antler has backed 96 UK startups in the past three years, and further cements their position as Europe’s most active privately funded early-stage VC firm.

It capped a big year for Antler, in which they made 42% more investments than the previous year, the only early-stage investor to increase between the two years. “2023 was a record year for Antler — we worked with more founders, and made more investments, than ever before,” said partner, Jed Rose. “We will continue doing everything we can to support the next generation of diverse founders that we see emerging in the UK and around the world.”

All eight startups were created during Antler’s latest founder residency. TFN spoke exclusively with three of the founders, about their journey and their plans.

Zero-day investing that supports diverse founders

Antler is playing a key role in increasing the diversity of startups. They have backed more than 1,000 startups globally, and collectively the founding teams represent 145 different nationalities and over a third have at least one female co-founder.

Mohamed Gaafar, co-founder of GRYD, had long wanted to build a startup, but noted it was difficult. “The challenges a first-time founder will face can often be attributed to lack of access to time, funding, knowledge and network; all of which are intertwined,” he said. “Underrepresented founders of all walks of life find this lack of access and exposure, along with the subconscious bias of others, can compound these already significant challenges to founding.”

Gaafar’s startup works with property developers to install solar panels on new-build homes, allowing new owners to generate and store their own power. Improvements in battery technology means it now makes more sense for homeowners to store electricity rather than sell it cheaply back to the grid. “Having energy storage as part of a home’s solar system also allows us to engage with dynamic time of use tariffs,” said Gaafar. “This means we can be paid to provide storage to the grid in times of excess load, generating additional revenue and savings for our customers.”

Driving innovation through startups

Antler’s funding is also helping founders create new services. Suzy Lockwood is co-founder of ditto, the UK’s first secondment marketplace. In her previous career at BAE, she could see the engineering sector making redundancies, but often hire to the same positions a few months later. “This sparked an idea — could we temporarily redeploy this talent to organisations genuinely needing them? The shared economy was everywhere else, from renting out your home on Airbnb, sharing your car on Turo, or sharing your clothes on HURR,” she said. “Ditto simply brings this to the permanent workforce.”

Lockwood also highlights that ditto can help address diversity issues. “I know first hand that engineering giants like BAE Systems are working hard to break down barriers, ditto is a way of accelerating it,” she said. By advertising secondment opportunities to a wider talent pool, organisations don’t just been from that talent, but also the diversity that can result. “Organisations will struggle to attract diverse candidates until they see themselves reflected at all levels in the workforce — ditto provides a route to do this.”

Solving national problems and improving individual lives

George Robinson is a long way from the standard founder template. Leaving a career as a barrister because she was frustrated by the slow pace of change and only being able to help one person at a time, she co-founded care business, Gladys. Care is not a sector often chosen by startups, which surprises Robinson. “It amazes me that care is not seen as ripe for start-ups. It’s a £27 billion industry in the UK and half of this is paid for by private individuals,” she said. “It is also a sector sorely lacking in innovation and technology. It is, therefore, one of the best industries out there for having a big impact.”

Gladys’ name was inspired by Gladys Knight, Robinson says, “we need to stop over-clinicalising care for people who need a bit of help. Gladys offers a message of hope, ‘live your best life, and we will take care of the things that get in the way of that’.” Gladys connects people who need a little help with carers in their area. “Gladys will be transformational in the way older people access much-needed support for a fair price,” Robinson told us. “The UK has a shortfall of 150,000 care staff. Gladys is already attracting best-in-class carers and an incredible pool of talent who’d never considered working in care before.”

Their next steps in helping people and the planet

All three founders are now building on the experience and funding that resulted from the Antler founder residency.

“Being part of Antler was critical to meeting such exceptional co-founders — Tom and Scott. We founded GRYD Energy together to realise the same vision of creating a fair and shared smart energy network,” said Gaafar. “With a multi-million-pound pipeline in place, we’re currently raising our pre-seed round, ready to scale the positive impact we can have on people and planet, and are keen to connect with investors aligned with our mission.”

Lockwood said ditto was already benefiting from her experience at Antler. “We’re hyper focused on building a marketplace that’s sustainable,” she said. “The Antler residency and securing our first round of funding allowed us to come out of the gates storming — we’ve already signed up a number of customers, and we have secondments live right now.

Robinson, meanwhile, is planning to change a climate that means the words ‘care sector’ and ‘staffing crisis’ are normally closely linked. “We will continue to expand our pilot into new regions and grow the business,” she said. “We will provide much needed lifeblood to tackle the staffing crisis by building tools that improve the lives of caregivers. I am looking forward to helping as many people as possible and bringing the care sector into the 21st century.”

The eight pre-seed startups joining Antler’s UK portfolio from the latest residency include: 

  • Gladys: a new platform transforming how people access care at home. It helps to match, book and manage professional Carers and Helpers to support older people in their communities
  • Cartd: turning content into commerce by making creator recipes shoppable, with AI-optimised groceries to make the most of your leftovers
  • Ditto: the UKs first secondments marketplace, normalising talent sharing
  • Lerno: a B2B Customer Recommendation Platform that enables global revenue teams to supercharge revenue growth by unlocking actionable customer insights
  • GRYD Energy: a fair and shared smart energy network
  • Merx: an AI platform that helps consumer businesses sell on WhatsApp
  • PlanningHub: providing AI-powered instant planning insights for property development
  • Iodo: an intelligent route optimisation solution for urban, last mile delivery logistics, using AI and dynamic data to help businesses understand, navigate and adapt to constantly changing urban environments

In addition, Antler has made two new seed investment in the second half of 2023: 

  • CipherX: developing microneedle tattoo-patches that offer a painless, safe and scalable solution
  • Debtstream: empowers consumers to take control with their white label self-serve solutions, providing businesses with end-to-end digital collections and recoveries capability.
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