Five leading incubators at the heart of UK tech

Ben Small
Partnership Manager - SuperscriptQ
08 March 2023
4 minute read

It’s no surprise that the UK is the startup capital of Europe, fostering a vibrant culture and economy. Dealroom data from 2022 shows that there are 40,495 startups, scaleups and grownups in the UK, compared to 20,650 in France, 19,659 in Germany and 10,143 in the Netherlands.

From London to Edinburgh, Bristol to Manchester, the UK's startup scene is diverse and dynamic, with a wide range of industries and sectors represented. The UK has a long history and legacy of innovation and entrepreneurship, which is buoyed by a strong support network of incubators, accelerators, and investors, as well as government initiatives aimed at fostering innovation, participation and growth.

A history of innovation

Over the years, the UK has produced many successful and disruptive startups that have changed the way we live and work. Companies like Deliveroo, Revolut, and Hopin all started on these shores and have now expanded to become well-known global brands.

This success is not limited to a few famous names, with countless startups in the UK forging a path in fields such as fintech, biotech, artificial intelligence and green energy.

However, like any other country, the UK startup scene faces its fair share of challenges. Access to funding, talent and regulatory hurdles are among the biggest obstacles that UK-based startups have to navigate.

Startup incubators play a vital role in helping founders get access to the resources, market intelligence, mentorship and funding they need to get their ideas off the ground. In this article, I’ll offer you a quick who’s who in the tech startup incubator space.

Entrepreneur First

Entrepreneur First (EF) pride themselves on connecting people with extraordinary ideas with their co-founders and people with means. EF has a highly selective three-month incubator programme, in which you’ll find a co-founder, get access to advisors and the opportunity to pitch for pre-seed funding from EF. Their list of successful alumni is really impressive and includes:

  • Tractable (valued at $1bn/£844m in 2021)
  • Cleo (valued at $500m/£422m in 2022)
  • Magic Pony Technology (acquired by Twitter for a reported $150m/£126m in 2016)

Level 39

Level 39 is a tech community and office-sharing space in Canary Wharf, comprising over 1,200 members across a variety of sectors including fintech, retail tech, smart cities and cybersecurity. The space offers highly flexible working and boasts a number of shared amenities for early stage entrepreneurs and innovators, including access to investors, mentors and advisors. Community alumni include:

  • Revolut (they’re only Europe’s most valuable fintech at $33bn/£28bn)
  • Digital Shadows (acquired by ReliaQuest for $160m/£135m in 2022)
  • Motive Partners (a well-known fintech investor)

Founders Factory

Founders Factory was started by Brent Hoberman and Henry Lane Fox, both serial entrepreneurs. Alongside a big team, Founders Factory provides other entrepreneurs access to hands-on support, capital and mentorship. Since its beginnings in 2015, its portfolio of 300 startups has raised over $700m/£590m follow-on capital, with 80 of these being designed and launched inside the walls. Its venture studio alumni includes:

  • Karakuri (restaurant tech that has raised £14.5m)
  • Acre (mortgage fintech that has raised £5m)
  • Nate (AI shopping tool that has raised $51m/£43m)


TechStars is one of the largest pre-seed investors in the world. It organises and hosts hundreds of ‘pre-accelerator’ events across the world, from ‘Startup Weekends’ where aspiring entrepreneurs get stuck into building a startup in 54 hours, to ‘Startup Weeks’, where connections are made between founders, innovation leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and advisors.

More than 3,000 companies have graduated from one of TechStars’ pre-accelerator and accelerator programmes, securing a total of $23.9bn/£20bn in funding. UK alumni include:

  • SendBird (in-app chat tech company, which became a unicorn in 2021)
  • Osper (children's mobile banking service, with over $11m/£9.3m raised)
  • Asset Reality (fintech specialising in digital asset custody control, which raised its $4.9m/£4.14m Series A in January 2023)


Seedcamp prides itself on being a mature network of founders, leaders and innovators. Investment from Seedcamp opens the door for fledgling startups to this network, which helps advise on go-to-market strategy, investment and talent, in an effort to ensure an “impactful Series A.”

Seedcamp alumni include nine European unicorns including the likes of Wise, Hopin and Pleo. Other successful alumni include:

A bright future

As the UK navigates its post-Brexit future and the global economy continues to evolve, the startup sector will play a vital role in driving innovation and growth. By staying agile, adaptive and resilient, UK startups will be well-positioned to seize the opportunities of tomorrow and shape the future of the global economy.

By building on its strengths, addressing its weaknesses, and leveraging its support networks, the UK startup scene can continue to thrive and lead the way in innovation and entrepreneurship. Incubators and startup communities will continue to be an important enabling force.

This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.

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