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Leeds & Manchester Tech Unicorns

‘Unicorns’ are privately owned start-up technology companies with a valuation over $1 billion. The saying was first termed by American investor Aileen Lee in 2013 to represent the rarity of such businesses. The UK is the European hub for unicorns and has produced 35% of all unicorns from Europe and Israel since 1990; 60 out of the 169. At the moment, there are 15 unicorns living in the UK. The latest research, prepared for TechNation and the Digital Economy council by, shows that it isn’t just London responsible for forming these high growth tech firms. The UK’s regional cities, such as Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge have all produced at least two unicorns and are competing on a global scale with Europe’s capitals.

Manchester Unicorn Companies 

Manchester has become one the UK’s epicentres for rapidly growing e-commerce start-ups. It has produced five unicorns including Boohoo,, AutoTrader, The Hut Group and worth a total of $13 billion. This means the North West city has created as many unicorns as Amsterdam, despite having a significantly smaller population size. It received investment per capita of $490 in 2017, compared with Amsterdam’s $400, and now has 10 accelerators in the city (dedicated business centres helping entrepreneurs to create start-ups). Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, has said ‘We have an opportunity now to build on the great work that has been done to create these new technology businesses and forge a truly connected city for the people who live and work here, creating even more future unicorns’.

Leeds Unicorn Companies

Leeds is another northern tech hub, having produced two unicorns; Sky Betting and Gaming and Callcredit. Sky Betting and Gaming was sold for £3.4 billion to The Stars group this year and Callcredit was sold to TransUnion for £1 billion. Sam Gyimah, the universities, science, research and innovation minister said, ‘The success of start-ups in Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh shows how innovation and tech is driving growth right across the country’.

Looking ahead to the future, the UK is also leading Europe with the number of potential upcoming unicorns. Currently, there are 54 UK businesses valued between $250 million to $1 billion with an overall worth of $18.6 billion. Compare this with Germany, the UK’s nearest European competitor, which has 28 potential unicorns with a total value of $8.8 billion. These are promising statistics for the UK technology sector and this track record of success makes investing in the UK appealing to investors. A report by KPMG shows that the UK experienced £1.4 billion of venture capitalist investment in the third quarter this year; the highest in Europe.

At Sleek, we specialise in start-up consulting, accounting, entrepreneurship and tax advice. If you are starting or growing your business with the aim to become the next unicorn, do not hesitate to contact us to see how we can help.

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