Posted: 07 Dec. 2020 8 min. read

Tech stays strong in changing times

As a part of this year’s Deloitte Private UK Technology Fast 50 programme, we took a deeper look at the theme of agility, and the Fast 50’s ability to quickly make and execute decisions. As global markets and consumers continue to evolve, the Fast 50 have demonstrated their ability to respond and position themselves for success.

This year has been, and continues to be, particularly challenging, with the COVID‑19 pandemic impacting the livelihoods of consumers and businesses globally. The Fast 50 have demonstrated agility in their response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, where they have implemented changes to products, service, and ways of working rapidly and successfully. We consider the impact of these changes and their permanence.

The following is an excerpt from our 2020 Fast 50 CEO report, in which we dive deeper into the performance of this year’s Fast 50 cohort; we invite you to explore more on our other themes and findings in the full report.

Tech stays strong in changing times

Since our last report, the UK has faced a period of great change, shaped by factors including Brexit negotiations, shifting consumer behaviours, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The impacts have been widespread, creating a level of uncertainty for businesses and consumers. Against this backdrop, the performance of the UK technology sector has been relatively robust, demonstrating agility to adapt to these challenging dynamics. The Fast 50 are at the forefront of this sector, having delivered an inspiring average revenue growth rate of 2,898 per cent over the past three years, with £2.2bn overall revenue in the last financial year.

The UK is going through a period of unprecedented change. After the sharpest contraction in activity in more than a century, there is significant uncertainty around the strength and timing of the return to pre‑pandemic levels of outputs. According to the Q3 2020 Deloitte CFO survey, UK businesses have pushed back the timing for a full recovery, with more than 60 per cent expecting demand to remain below pre‑pandemic levels, until the second half of next year or beyond. In this environment, expansion has largely taken a back seat. Business transformation is prevalent with a strong focus on accelerating digital capabilities, automation and streamlining to strengthen businesses and drive productivity.

The UK is going through a period of unprecedented change. After the sharpest contraction in activity in more than a century, there is significant uncertainty around the strength and timing of the return to pre‑pandemic levels of outputs

Before the COVID‑19 pandemic, the UK technology sector was flourishing, with strong growth attracting significant investment. Since the start of the pandemic, business decline and social restrictions have slowed the economy, challenging supply chains and limiting investment, and the technology industry has not been immune to this. Despite this, the   sector has proven to be comparatively robust, particularly in HealthTech, EdTech and Cyber, with companies responding to the disruption and capitalising on digital acceleration.

Within the technology sector, the 2020 Fast 50 winners have delivered outstanding growth, achieving an average three‑year growth rate of 2,898 per cent. They employ over 10,400 people, including 2,000 in R&D functions, and generated total revenues of over £2.2bn in the last financial year.

This year’s Fast 50 winner is DivideBuy, the interest‑free credit provider based in Newcastle‑under‑Lyme. It deserves special congratulations having moved up from third place last year to claim the top position, with a revenue growth rate of 20,733 per cent over the past four years of financial performance.

FinTech businesses, including DivideBuy, make up 24 per cent of the overall Fast 50 winners this year, compared to 30 per cent in the 2019 edition. This includes four of the top 10 businesses, including last year’s winner Revolut, the digital alternative to established banking institutions (4th place overall, three‑year growth rate of 6,786 per cent). The others in the top 10 are Landbay Partners, the specialist buy‑to‑let mortgage lender (6th place overall, three‑year growth rate of 5,520 per cent), and Moneybox, the savings and investment company (7th overall, three‑year growth rate of 5,270 per cent).

Software remains the leading sector, accounting for 46 per cent of all winners. Popsa, the photobook specialist, leads, ranking third overall with a revenue growth rate of 10,576 per cent. iProov, the biometric authentication technology company, also places in the top 10 with a revenue growth rate of 6,351 per cent (5th place overall).

Geographically, London continues to dominate as the leading region, with 78 per cent of all winners headquartered in the capital, including nine of the top 10 winners. Leading the London cohort, and in second place overall, is Bulb Energy, the renewable energy specialist, which achieved a three‑year growth rate of 14,288 per cent. Access to a strong talent pool and the proximity of financial institutions and investors continue to support the role of the capital in the scale‑up landscape.

Outside of London, stand‑out performances across the other regions include the overall winner DivideBuy, VoCoVo, the communications specialist (11th place overall, three‑year growth rate of 3,217, South West and Wales winner) and Qmee, the rewards and surveys provider (24th place overall, three‑year growth rate of 1,693 per cent, South East winner). Dayshape, the planning tool for professional services (30th place overall, three‑year growth rate of 1,539 per cent, Scotland winner) is one of two winners from Scotland, and CrowdProperty, the property project finance specialist, heads up the Midlands region (41st overall, three‑year growth rate of 1,008 per cent).

In this, the 23rd edition of the programme, we take a deeper look at the theme of agility, and how the Fast 50’s ability to make and execute decisions has fuelled their impressive performance. As global markets and consumers change, the Fast 50 have demonstrated their resilience and ability to position themselves for success. This is evident in their response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, where they implemented alterations to products, service, and ways of working rapidly and successfully. We acknowledge the term agility is commonly used to reference a specific approach to software development. However, for the purpose of this report we examine agility as the ability for companies to rapidly respond to change in the development of strategy, business action and empowerment of their people.

We should also acknowledge that the growth rates and financial performance for the Fast 50 considered in this report aren’t reflective of the impact of COVID‑19. The impact of these actions will be evident in next year’s results and it will be interesting to examine this in a following edition.

You can also check out the highlights of this year’s report here:

Explore more of our findings on resilience and agility within the high growth industry, and the Tech Fast 50 more specifically, in our 2020 CEO Insights Report. Or see this year’s Fast 50 winners here.

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Key contact

Duncan Down

Duncan Down

Partner

Duncan Down is a Transaction Services Partner with 12 years’ experience of supporting clients on transactions. He specialises in supporting Mid-Market Private Equity Houses and their portfolio companies in acquisitions, bolt-on transactions/ refinancings and disposals across the UK. He works across a range of sectors, but primarily focuses on TMT and Business Services with specific responsibility for Deloitte’s involvement with high growth companies and is the lead partner for our Technology Fast 50 awards. Although focused on UK acquisitions, Duncan has also led transactions involving clients/ targets in the US, Latin America, Israel, the Nordics and Mainland Europe.