Exits in the UK tech sector are delivering great returns to their early backers. Brian Bollen looks at TouchType, the latest company to be snapped up by Microsoft.American tech giants have been paying top dollar for UK tech businesses in recent times. Perhaps the biggest was in 2014, when Google paid about $500m (£349m) for DeepMind – the artificial intelligence (AI) business that recently grabbed the headlines when its AlphaGo programme beat the Go world champion. In February, Microsoft crossed the pond – the tech giant acquired TouchType for $250m – the latest in a series of notable acquisitions of UK IT companies by US giants such as Amazon, Google and Apple.
The app creator TouchType is best-known for the SwiftKey AI predictive keyboard, which is installed on millions of smartphones. SwiftKey has also been part of an ambitious project to enhance the communication system used by world-renowned scientist professor Stephen Hawking.
The company was set up by Cambridge University graduates Jon Reynolds and Dr Ben Medlock in 2008, and is the latest UK AI firm to be bought by a US tech company. The sale made a tremendous return, not just for the two founders, but also for Octopus Ventures (which had backed the company for more than five years) Index Ventures and Accel (for about two years), and a collection of angels who had joined in financing rounds over the intervening period.
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