Introduction to this year’s Fast 50

Overview

The Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50 programme recognises the world-class achievements of the UK tech sector and celebrates the innovation and entrepreneurship of high-growth tech-enabled companies. In this special 25th anniversary edition of the programme, our report focuses on 25 years of incredible success stories of Fast 50 companies and on this year’s cohort of Fast 50 companies, which are growing at a tremendous pace despite the volatile post-pandemic environment.

The Fast 50 awards programme has four categories: the Technology Fast 50; the Fast 50 Women in Leadership; the Regional Winners; and the Rising Star award. For the Technology Fast 50, Fast 50 Women in Leadership, and Regional Winners, rankings are based on four-year revenue growth rates. The four categories are described in more detail below. Of course, all companies must be technology companies, which requires them to meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Owns proprietary intellectual property or proprietary technology that contributes to a significant portion of the company’s operating revenues
  • Manufactures a technology-related product
  • Devotes a significant proportion of operating revenues to research and development of technology
  • Is technology intensive, or uses its own unique technology to solve problems


The Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50 programme categories

The UK Technology Fast 50 is a ranking of the country’s 50 fastest-growing technology companies, based on percentage revenue growth over the last four years. It has been produced every year since 1998.

The Fast 50 Women in Leadership category is new to this year’s programme and recognises those companies within the Technology Fast 50 that are either led by a female CEO or have a founding team comprised of at least 50% women. The ranking is still judged on the same percentage revenue growth over the last four years as the UK Technology Fast 50 and has the same entry qualifications.

The Regional Winners category recognises the fastest-growing business within each region of the UK, based on where the company is headquartered. The ranking is determined by percentage revenue growth over the last four years and entry qualifications are the same as the UK Technology Fast 50.

The Rising Star award recognises the innovation and achievements of UK tech businesses that are leading the way but have not been in operation for four years and therefore do not qualify to enter the Technology Fast 50 awards. Deloitte and the Fast 50 sponsors nominate and name a Rising Star as part of the programme.

Winner case study

Tripledot Studios

Tripledot Studios

Tripledot Studios develops a range of casual mobile games including Woodoku and Solitaire. Since launching in 2017, the company has secured £149m in equity investment via four rounds, the most recent of which was used to acquire US-based Live Play Mobile.
View case study

Top investors in the Fast 50

Equity investment can be critical for high-growth companies as it provides entrepreneurs and leaders with much-needed capital to help them grow and scale their businesses. It can also help companies to attract and retain top talent, as employees are often attracted to companies where they have the potential to share in the financial success of a company upon exit. Finally, equity investment can also give companies a valuable stamp of approval, which can help them to attract even more investment in the future. This breakdown provides some insight into the investors that have backed this year’s Fast 50.

Equity Gap is the most frequent funder of companies in this year’s Fast 50 based on a total of 245 equity investment deals since 2012. The angel investment syndicate focuses on high-growth companies based in Scotland. It often co-invests with Scottish Enterprise - a governmental body that focuses on the economic development of Scotland. The two funds co-invested into Sunamp (ranked 40), a company that develops thermal energy storage devices, on three occasions between March 2015 and October 2018, with the deals totalling £6.6m.

Equity crowdfunding platforms Seedrs and Crowdcube also feature among the top investors, having participated in 10 and five deals respectively. This shows the continued support crowdfunding platforms provide early-stage businesses and aligns with the investment activity in the UK’s wider high-growth ecosystem.

Winner case study

OKRA.ai

OKRA.ai

Ninth place overall
Fast 50 Women in Leadership Winner
4,227% growth

OKRA.ai builds intelligent Artificial Intelligence brains for healthcare organisations to accelerate value from data.
View case study

The impact of the challenging funding environment

Charles Claisse
Partner, Head of Corporate, Deloitte Legal

Whilst the funding environment has become increasingly challenging, there remain significant pools of capital available for investment from both venture funds and, in later-stage businesses, private equity. In addition, businesses are also able to look to venture debt from both banks and a variety of debt funds offering “venture debt”.

Despite the challenging environment, we are not currently seeing the level of down rounds (i.e. lower valuations than on the last round) for later-stage businesses that might be expected - businesses are looking to avoid the negative implications of down rounds through flat rounds, extension rounds and other mechanisms including convertible debt.

Investors who are concerned about valuation are increasingly looking at how they structure liquidation preferences and whether any features beyond 1x return of money should be put into the capital structure to better capture risk and the cost of funds (indeed we have seen >1x preferences as being a mechanism to bridge differing valuation expectations, particularly to prevent a down round).

For early-stage businesses, the challenges in this environment are likely to feed more directly into a lower valuation but other terms are more standard - it is businesses at this stage that are typically having the most challenges raising capital but there are a number of tax incentives made available by the UK government that do support including R&D tax incentives and the ability to raise money using SEIS, EIS or fund VCT funds.

Winner case study

Wonde

Wonde

Second place overall
South East regional winner
31,762% growth

Wonde operates a cloud-based data management platform for schools, which allows them to control their school data and monitor those who have access to it. The edtech company made its first acquisition in August 2022, purchasing Secure Schools which develops an online tool to enhance cyber security in schools.
View case study

Sector breakdown

Software dominates the sector ranking for this year’s Fast 50 companies. Over the last 25 years, the sector has transformed the tech industry by making it possible for companies to offer new products and services that were not possible before and to create them faster and more cheaply. In the famous words of US venture capitalist Marc Andressen “Software is eating the world”. Fast 50 companies in this sector include Suffolk-based EO Charging, which develops software to support smart technology for electric vehicles, and London-based Cognism whose platform assists businesses in sourcing and ranking sales opportunities.

The fintech sector describes companies at the intersection of financial services and technology. Companies in this area provide a wide range of innovative and tech-enabled ways of delivering traditional financial services such as payments, lending, investing, and money transfer. The UK has real strengths in financial technology, reflecting London’s role as a major financial centre and the experience and expertise this creates in the economy. Layering this with the UK’s strengths in technology, supported by world-class universities, creates an environment in which financial innovation can flourish. Of course fintech can be found outside of London, for example Bristol-based LOQBOX which develops a suite of online financial tools for consumers, helping users to improve their credit ratings; and Railsr which develops an API that connects banks and fintech companies, facilitating the creation of new financial products and services.

While not as dominant as software and fintech, media and entertainment and healthcare, with four companies each, are also areas where the UK is historically strong. These are two sectors in which it is harder to scale companies, which is reflected in the lower population numbers. The environment for media and entertainment companies is increasingly volatile and companies in this area face significant competition as the barriers to entry are lowered by digital tools. Still, Fast 50 companies like Tripledot Studios are showing how creativity can be married with incredible financial performance.

Healthcare is also a challenging area as the sector is highly regulated. Wales-based Aparito, which develops mobile applications to deliver patient monitoring outside of the hospital, is showing how digital technologies can change the status quo.

Winner case study

Nonacus

Nonacus

Third place overall
Midlands winner
28,211% growth

Established in 2015, Nonacus develops non-invasive diagnostic tools for the healthcare industry. Located in Birmingham, the company partnered with the University of Birmingham in July 2021 to develop a non-invasive test for bladder cancer from urine.
View case study

Regional winners

Tripledot Studios, London

Tripledot Studios, London

Tripledot Studios develops a range of casual mobile games including Woodoku and Solitaire. Since launching in 2017, the company has secured £149m in equity investment via fourounds, the most recent of which was used to acquire US-based Live Play Mobile.
iamproperty, Yorkshire and North East

iamproperty, Yorkshire and North East

Proptech iamproperty offers estate agents auctioneering, conveyancing, compliance and moving services through its property auction company, iamsold. The Newcastle-based company acquired VTUK in March 2022.
Airtime Rewards, North West

Airtime Rewards, North West

Co-founders Adam Ward and Joshua Graham launched Airtime Rewards in 2014, developing a mobile rewards program for the retail industry that connects transactional data, brands and mobile networks. The Manchester-based company has raised £1.49m of equity investment across five rounds.
Nonacus, Midlands

Nonacus, Midlands

Established in 2015, Nonacus develops non-invasive diagnostic tools for the healthcare industry. Located in Birmingham, the company partnered with the University of Birmingham in July 2021 to develop a non-invasive test for bladder cancer from urine.
Wonde, South East

Wonde, South East

Wonde operates a cloud-based data management platform for schools, which allows them to control their school data and monitor those who have access to it. The edtech company made its first acquisition in August 2022, purchasing Secure Schools which develops an online tool to enhance cyber security in schools.
OnBuy.com, South West and Wales

OnBuy.com, South West and Wales

Cas Paton founded OnBuy.com in 2016, an online marketplace for products across a range of categories including sports equipment, electronics and homewares. In February 2022, the company moved into its new offices in Bournemouth.
Amiqus, Scotland

Amiqus, Scotland

Lawtech firm Amiqus develops software for anti-money laundering, identity and compliance checks. In June 2022, the Edinburgh-based firm announced a partnership with AMLify, an arm of the commercial law firm MacRoberts Group, to improve the company’s anti-money laundering offering.

Winner case study

Elvie

Elvie

Focussing on solutions for every life of a woman’s life, Elvie is widely regarded as one of the most innovative technology companies in the women's health sector.
View case study

Training for growth

Ayman Omar
Head of Partnerships, Commercial and Sales Academy, Multiverse

Most businesses don’t succeed in scaling.

The unifying factor of those that do is a laser-focus on two areas. Firstly, on people: recruitment, development and retention. Secondly, on skills: building the technical capabilities that are needed to succeed today and in the future. The good news is that these two foci - people and skills - intersect. Developing skills means developing people: contributing not just to business capabilities, but also to building a diverse and talented workforce.

“The unifying factor of those that do is a laser-focus on two areas. Firstly, on people: recruitment, development and retention. Secondly, on skills: building the technical capabilities that are needed to succeed today and in the future.”

Companies are searching for a mechanism to deliver skills that are relevant, up-to-date, and ready for application in the workplace. There’s a name for this already: the apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are often viewed as an alternative to university for school leavers taking their first step into a career. For this function, they are brilliant. Apprenticeships open up access to top careers for young people that simply aren’t being reached through traditional grad schemes. The numbers speak for themselves: 41% of the apprentices we place meet an indicator of socio-economic disadvantage; 23% are Asian heritage; 21% are Black; 52% are women - groups that are typically underrepresented in tech. Apprenticeships are developing a cohort of future leaders that truly reflects the country at large.

It’s a no-brainer for companies like Student Beans, which launched a drive for apprentices in a bid to grow its tech teams by a third. They’re making an investment that doesn’t just solve the business challenges of today but creates a lasting legacy of talent.

But apprenticeships are not just for young people. One shot of learning at the start of a career is not enough to meet the demands of the future. Apprenticeships offer lifelong learning for established professionals.

We offer programmes for career development. For those that use data in their role (which is surely now the majority of us), we offer a Data Literacy programme to fill those gaps that schooling and university may have left behind. For those who find the direction of their career changing, we offer programmes that enable reskilling in areas like Data Analytics or Software Engineering.

The impact is immediate. The charity Anthony Nolan was driven to develop its data maturity and used our Data Literacy programme and our degree-level Advanced Data Fellowship - driving both knowledge and agility across functions.

Skills development is vital to growth - and it’s accessible through apprenticeships.

In partnership with Deloitte, Multiverse is facilitating the funding to support several hundred apprenticeships, through levy donations from big organisations towards startups and SMEs.

Through this funding, a growing business can launch an entry-level apprenticeship programme, attracting new talent from diverse backgrounds into the business. Or, they can plug skills gaps by developing people already in the business - whether it’s enrolling a marketing professional on our Digital Marketing course to expand into Google Ads; or a business leader on our Data Fellowship so they can make data-driven decisions based on the trends.

What it comes down to is thinking ahead, to overcome the odds when it comes to growth. It’s about investing in people and skills and laying the foundations for scale from the start.

As a sponsor of the Deloitte Fast 50, Multiverse is offering fully funded professional development opportunities to all entrants of this year’s awards. If you recognise these challenges and want to explore how apprenticeships can help, the easiest way to start is to reach out to Kariel Parian from Deloitte Private.

Fast 50 Insight Report 2022

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