High-profile backing for wearables startup PlayerData

High-profile backing for wearables startup PlayerData

PlayerData, a startup aiming to become a major player in the global sports wearables market, has secured an early stage investment round from high profile backers including former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy, Blackcircles.com founder Mike Welch, who has been appointed PlayerData’s Chairman, and Quest Corporate’s Marcus Noble.

The company was co-founded in 2015 by University of Edinburgh computer science graduates Roy Hotrabhvanon and Hayden Ball, supported by Edinburgh Innovations. Its first product, PlayerData EDGE, which is in its late development stages, combines a base layer garment with sensors and a removable control module. It is aimed at multi-sport professional and amateur athletes.

PlayerData EDGE provides data on biometrics, performance and technique for both individuals and teams. The seed round will allow the company to expand development to a market-ready product by the end of 2018, with high value sports including running, football and golf being targeted.

Sales strategy

Chief Executive Officer Hotrabhvanon, a former international archer who has represented Thailand, and the PlayerData team are planning for the company’s first product to sell through multi-channels business-to-business followed by business-to-consumer. The team are scoping a longer term strategy that could see products developed for other sectors including gaming and healthcare.

Hotrabhvanon said: “With over six biometric performance indicators, we’re already ahead of all competitors in the market. Using the latest advances in artificial intelligence we are developing algorithms to give coaches actionable insight to athlete performances.

“As a team, we’re excited that our global ambitions are being matched by such a dedicated and high-profile group of investors and it’s great to have Mike Welch on board as Chairman.”

Welch said: “Roy and Hayden are inspiring founders with an incredible product that has a real chance to make a significant move into one of the fastest growing tech markets on the planet.”

Support ‘instrumental’

PlayerData received early-stage support from Edinburgh Innovations’ LAUNCH.ed service, as well as the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Hotrabhvanon said: “LAUNCH.ed and Edinburgh Innovations have helped me since the early stages of the idea. Giving the right advice at the right times has been instrumental to our fast growth.”

Multiple industry reports predict that the overall smart wearables market will grow in value to more than $15 billion by 2021.


From left: University archer Fiona Inglis wearing PlayerData EDGE, with Mike Welch, Roy Hotrabhvanon and Hayden Ball. Photograph by Stewart Attwood

Further coverage

The Scotsman

Business Insider

Gene breakthrough promises new medicines and biofuels

Gene breakthrough promises new medicines and biofuels

An Edinburgh Innovations client’s breakthrough using the CRISPR gene-editing technique means vast quantities of medicines and renewable fuels could be produced by algae.

Algae have great potential to produce biofuels, medicine ingredients and livestock feed that does not compete with agricultural products. They can also make environmentally friendly products for the cosmetics, plastics, food and other industries.

A lack of engineering tools has hindered research and industrial use of algae for decades, but researchers led by Dr Attila Molnar have now made a breakthrough using recently developed CRISPR techniques, dramatically improving yields of algae.

Genetic scissors

CRISPR gene editing uses molecules that act like scissors to cut DNA, allowing researchers to add new genes or modify existing ones. Until now, scientists have struggled to develop a technique that works efficiently in algae.

To overcome this, the team added CRISPR molecular scissors and short pieces of DNA directly to algae cells to make precise modifications to the genetic code.

Their new method is more specific and increases efficiency 500-fold compared with previous techniques. The discovery could unleash the potential of the global algae industry, projected to be worth $1.1billion by 2024.

‘Key advance’

Dr Molnar, of the School of Biological Sciences, said: “Our findings mark a key advance in large-scale algal genome engineering. Our technique is applicable to a wide range of species, and could pave the way for the development of designer algae, which has many biotechnology applications.”

The team developed its technique to work in a widely used species of algae – called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. The method could potentially also be used to engineer crops to increase yields, improve disease resistance or enable plants to thrive in harsh climates.

Funding support

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was funded by Phyconet, a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Network in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy, and the biotech company Scottish Bioenergy.

Edinburgh Innovations facilitated the successful Phyconet funding application and collaboration with Scottish Bioenergy, which is supporting a PhD studentship to validate the opportunities for this technology. EI has also helped with the patenting of novel tools that have come out of this research.

Further coverage

Science Daily

University news story

Shot Scope a big hit with investors

Shot Scope a big hit with investors

Shot Scope Technologies, maker of the must-have performance-tracking watch for golfers, has raised £1.6 million in its latest funding round.

The investment brings to £4.5 million the total raised by the company since its launch in December 2014.

The Edinburgh-based company, led by founder and CEO David Hunter, attracted investments from high-net-worth individuals, Scottish Investment Bank, Equity Gap and Old College Capital, the investment fund of the University of Edinburgh.

Funding for scale

“This investment enables us to scale up manufacturing, scale up marketing and scale up sales,” said Hunter. The company has pre-sales of its Shot Scope V2 in 30 countries, and expects to ship at least 20,000 units over the next year.

The funding round is the company’s third, following a £1.6m fundraising in 2016 and a £400,000 round in 2015. The company has also received £1m in government grants.

Shot Scope is the only wearable golf device that both automatically tracks a player’s performance and provides live “yardage” distances on the golf course. It enables players of all standards to closely monitor, analyse and ultimately improve their game, and it is approved by global rule-setting bodies the R&A and the United States Golf Association.

In GPS and GPS+Track modes – there is also a Pro mode – the watch’s screen displays distances to the front, middle and back of the green from the golfer’s current position.

The watch works with small tags placed in the grips of a player’s golf clubs, and performance tracking and live distance data is enabled through Shot Scope’s own mapping service and Smart GPS. Free, propriety smartphone apps or web interface enable detailed statistical analysis of every shot after the round.

Entrepreneurship support

Hunter, an electronics design engineer by background and a self-declared “golf addict”, came up with the idea for Shot Scope while studying to become a teacher at Moray House School of Education. Halfway through his one-year course he entered and won a competition run by LAUNCH.ed.

“For the next six months, I got really involved in everything offered by LAUNCH.ed,” said Hunter. “They ran training courses, I was meeting with them every couple of weeks, I was put in touch with the Scottish Institute for Enterprise and the Converge Challenge. I was doing everything I could.”

Support from LAUNCH.ed led Hunter to enter a sports technology competition run by Innovate UK, in the summer of 2013, and he won the £25,000 first prize. “That changed everything,” said Hunter.

Growing business

There followed rapid prototyping, a Royal Society Fellowship linked to the University, and a succession of business support grants and investments. Shot Scope today employs 18 people at its Edinburgh headquarters and works exclusively with Scottish suppliers and manufacturers, with the exception of an electronics supplier in Newcastle.

Among the Shot Scope board are Chairman Ken Lewandowski, an experienced technology and manufacturing chief executive; Dr Bill Buckie, a respected figure in the Scottish start-up scene; successful technology entrepreneur Ian Ritchie; and Rob Jones, co-founder of Fan Duel, the billion-dollar fantasy sports game launched in Edinburgh, who joined Shot Scope’s board in September.

Hunter is in no doubt that Shot Scope has a bright future. “The US is by far our biggest opportunity,” he said. “There are 30 million golfers in the US, and nearly 5 million in our target market. The product meets the needs of the golf market, the tech is revolutionary, the apps provide golfers with an amazing way to experience their golf game and we’re constantly improving the technology. This is an exciting time.”

Related links


Scottish Business News Network

UK Tech News

Edinburgh startups have the EDGE

Edinburgh startups have the EDGE

Edinburgh Innovations clients have triumphed at the prestigious Scottish EDGE awards, the UK’s largest entrepreneurship funding competition, taking a substantial share of the £1.1 million awarded.

Cell separation specialist uFraction8 won the Higgs EDGE prize for businesses focused on science, technology and engineering, and was awarded £100,000. The company provides scalable bioprocessing technology enabling biomass filtration, separation and dewatering, with no harm and no flocculants, unlike centrifuges, filters and membranes.

Crucial support

Edinburgh Innovations has worked closely  with uFraction8 on making business connections and sourcing investment opportunities, including working with Managing Director Dr Brian Miller and Executive Director Dr Monika Tomecka on their successful Scottish EDGE pitch.

“We wouldn’t be here without the help and support of Edinburgh Innovations,” said Dr Miller, a microfluidics and biosensors PhD graduate of the University of Edinburgh.

Young and wild

In the main Scottish EDGE awards, contact sports tech pioneer Sansible Wearables won £50,000. Sansible is the creator of LiveSkin, a wearable sensor to aid decision making after impacts in contact sports.

Young EDGE winners GetGuided, which connects travel suppliers with local tour guides, and Microspray Technologies, which aims to revolutionise ultra-fine particle manufacturing, were awarded £10,000 and £4,000 respectively.

And two EI clients were among the Wild Card EDGE winners and took home £10,000 apiece: Casta Spes Technologies, which is developing its Mantis Blade ground-based drone, and Birthing Solutions, maker of a mirror for midwives and birthing mothers.

The awards, in their 11th round, were announced at the RBS Gogarburn headquarters on 14 December, after finalists in the main Scottish EDGE category each pitched their business plans in three minutes. The judging panel comprised Rob Jones of FanDuel, Jo Bucci of People’s Postcode Lottery, Andy Lothian of Insights, Petra Wetzel of West Brewery and Majella O’Boyle of Royal Bank of Scotland.

Exceptional pitches

Scottish EDGE CEO Evelyn McDonald said: “The calibre of businesses we’ve seen pitching today has been exceptional and our judges had their work cut out deciding who should be awarded funding. We received a total of 242 applications for Scottish EDGE round 11 from around the country, representing businesses in every sector.”

Sir Tom Hunter, renowned Scottish entrepreneur and supporter of Scottish EDGE, said: “Through EDGE we’re seeing a renewed spirit of entrepreneurship developing in Scotland, heeding our nation’s proud tradition as innovators.”

Scottish EDGE funding is awarded as a 40% grant and a 60% loan, with the loan paid back to help fellow entrepreneurs on their pathway to success. In addition, Scottish EDGE provides mentoring, training and access to professional support.

Related links

Scottish EDGE


Sansible Wearables



Seed funds for Marty maker Robotical

Seed funds for Marty maker Robotical

Robotical, maker of the educational robot Marty, has received seed investment of £285,000, allowing the company to scale its manufacturing operation, create new jobs and target export markets in 2018.

The investment round follows a crowd funding campaign on the Indiegogo platform that raised £90,000 for the company in 2016.

Innovation Cup

The company was founded in 2016 by Dr Sandy Enoch, who was supported by LAUNCH.ed when studying for his robotics PhD and won the 2015 Innovation Cup in LAUNCH.ed’s annual Inspire Launch Grow competition.

Marty, Robotical’s first product, is a fully programmable robot that can walk, dance and play football. Sandy established Robotical because he wanted a real robot to help his niece learn how to code, and to meet demand from makers, educators and hackers for a reasonably priced robot.

With support from Edinburgh Innovations, Dr Enoch went on to secure a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowship, which funded and guided the early development of his company. He has also been supported by Edinburgh Innovations’ Virtual Board scheme.

Angel team

The latest investment comes from five angel investors with experience across the IT, manufacturing, gaming and Robotics sectors. Rob Dobson, Chairman of DevicePilot and Float; Gareth Williams, CEO of Skyscanner; Donald Houston, Director of Rain Dance Investments; Professor David Lane, of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics; and David Doak, formerly of video game group Rare will work closely with the Robotical team to take advantage of the growing educational robotics market.

Dr Enoch said: “I can’t imagine a better group of people to have on board to help take Robotical to the next level and fulfil the company’s dream to get more kids excited about robotics.”

Robotical aims to inspire the next generation of roboticists and engineers, at a time when governments are emphasising the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) education.

Rob Dobson said: “It is fantastic to be working with the exciting Robotical character, Marty, to bring a new face to education in STEM subjects.”

Related links


VertAx signs C-Gen agreement

VertAx signs C-Gen agreement

VertAx Wind Ltd and the University of Edinburgh have signed the first commercial licensing agreement for the C-Gen Permanent Magnet Generator developed at the University.

The worldwide agreement enables VertAx to build the technology into its multi-megawatt vertical axis wind turbine currently under development.

Expanding market

VertAx Chairman Peter Hunter said: “This allows us to take the next step as we develop our turbine to compete in the expanding offshore market. The C-Gen concept is the right generator design for our large-scale vertical axis turbine, and we look forward to successful collaboration and further development of this advanced permanent magnet generator.”

Markus Mueller, Professor of Electrical Generation Systems at the University of Edinburgh, said: “I’m very pleased VertAx has chosen the C-Gen technology. The partnership with VertAx will enable further advancement of the technology leading to full commercialisation.”

Lightweight design

C-Gen is an air-cored, lightweight design with no “cogging” – cyclical variations in the force needed to turn the generator. Its development started in 2005 under the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Programme, and it has since been demonstrated at various scales up to 1MW. The design has proven highly scalable, and is suitable for tidal and wave energy applications as well as wind.

“This technology has great potential, and it’s always wonderful to see the University’s expertise and innovation meeting industrial and societal needs,” said Dr John Jeffrey, Business Development Manager at Edinburgh Innovations.

Edinburgh Innovations has supported C-Gen’s development at every stage, from early progression of the technology and identification of funding opportunities through to commercialisation, which includes managing the intellectual property and licensing.

VertAx, based in Guildford, Surrey, was established in 2007. Its vertical axis wind turbine design contrasts with the horizontal axis turbines that currently dominate wind power globally.

The company’s aim is to further reduce the cost of offshore wind energy while re-establishing wind turbine manufacturing in the UK.

Further coverage

Windtech International

Windpower Monthly