Accelerating the Internet of Things from Yorkshire
IoT Tribe is an equity-free accelerator for startups working on Internet of Things innovation. It is based in Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre, running cohorts for three months to support them as they develop their product, giving guidance on product and service development, business planning and how to reach a larger market. They work to bring together startups and large corporates, including sponsors like Rolls Royce. There’s no focus on a particular vertical – applicants can be working on consumer IoT, industrial, wearables, health and more, as well as along the entire IoT tech stack, potentially incorporating immersive or AI into the mix.
Progress so far
IoT Tribe has run in R&D mode for eight cohorts before launching last year with their first at the Digital Media Centre. Tanya Suarez, Founder at IoT Tribe said, ‘we started out five years ago, when IoT was well before the hype. We saw the technology as a key enabler of business. However, when we started sensors were still expensive and sending data to the cloud was a new frontier for many businesses. The idea was to explore the potential of the internet of things. The R&D has allowed us to offer something a little different to the usual accelerator.’ The initial cohorts were part- funded by the EU and were part of Startup Europe.
So why Barnsley? The Yorkshire locale is a former industrial town not known for its forays into tech. Tanya said: ‘It could have been London, but we felt that London was already over served by accelerators and, although it’s a great place, not everyone wants to move there. The Digital Media Centre, particularly Tracey Johnson has been key in us installing ourselves here, offering brilliant support. The local council too, ensuring that our cohort, which travelled from everywhere from Lincoln through to Germany, Poland and Columbia, have settled in and been made to feel at home. They sourced dongles to allow them to get connected straight away, for example, and made connections with local businesses that will last into the future.’
Another key factor in the location is the industrial nature of IoT itself. Manufacturers don’t tend to locate their production facilities in London. Setting up in a former industrial town made sense.
The first cohort has already seen some success. The cohort refined their products, worked on their marketing and developed their business models. Between them they have raised over £1million in follow on investment. One of the startups has travelled to Singapore with their smart garden tech to work on their equivalent of Kew Gardens, thanks to the links that IoT Tribe has developed with South East Asia.
IoT Tribe is going to be recruiting their new cohort in September to start in January, working with ten startups to take their ideas and spread them through the IoT ecosystem. There’s also already talk of another UK location for the programme as well as a permanent hub in Asia to ensure that there’s a good connection with the manufacturers there.
However, attracting people to Barnsley, both startups and employees of IoT Tribe continues to be a challenge that they face. Tanya said: ‘Barnsley is a traditional town. It doesn’t scream tech or investment. It certainly isn’t Shoreditch. However, that means that rent is cheap. There’s no obligation to be seen in the coolest bars – just time to focus on the business. Everyone here is really welcoming – they know the tech startups are bringing something special to the town. Two of our original cohort like it here so much they’re thinking of setting up here permanently.’
Some of the startups that have gone through the IoT Tribe programme include:
Bead – IoT device that analyses and learns a building’s occupancy, environmental changes and use-patterns to help create healthy and efficient buildings.
Greenywave – A smart meter for electricity and water, from small scale home to commercial applications that also creates a mesh network.
Metis Labs – AI powered platform to optimise industrial processes.
Proxigroup – A cloud based Virtual Reality warehouse that offers a real time view of manufacturing and inventory levels.
Tended – Wearable technology that uses machine learning to allow users to quickly and simply have their safety monitored.
Gartenzwerg – A fully automated smart garden, so anyone can grow fruit, herbs and vegetables any time, anywhere.
Armnet – AR app that allows field technicians to see where and how the elements of a network are placed, view technical details and update records.