The Top 50 Rising Stars of 2011
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When times are tough, it only takes a few stars to remind everyone that success is achievable for all. We unveil our Top 50 Rising Stars of 2011: the annual list of the UK's most exciting fast-growth businesses.
When times are tough, it only takes a few stars to remind everyone that success is achievable for all. GrowthBusiness unveils its Top 50 Rising Stars of 2011: the annual list of the UK's most exciting businesses with the fastest-growing sales and profits in the past year.
Seeking to identify the 50 fastest-growing companies in the UK, the annual Rising Stars ranking is the only such research to consider both profit and turnover growth in its assessment. The Rising Stars have combined sales of £1.4 billion, up 7 per cent on last year's list, while total profits have reached £287 million,
As Wol Kolade, managing partner of ISIS Equity Partners and GrowthBusiness blogger, comments in his blog post this month, the Rising Stars of 2011 represent 'some welcome light at the end of a dark economic tunnel'.
Turnover: £25.7m (+202%) Pre-tax profits: £4.2m (+325%)
Sector: Internet Based: Edinburgh
It’s been a busy 12 months for the online dating business formerly known as Easydate. Beginning with its listing on AIM in June last year, Cupid has undergone impressive international development and achieved its goal of generating more than half of its revenues through overseas growth. A placing in April handed CEO Bill Dobbie an acquisition fund that led to the purchase of two German dating businesses for £2.5 million.
This was followed by the acquisition of IndianDating.com, which took Cupid into the vast sub-continent. And its latest deal, for two Brazilian websites, is not only potentially lucrative, but also means Cupid is active in seven core international regions. Dobbie says that Cupid is now butting heads with the big online dating players. ‘A year ago we were one tenth the size of Meetic (a European dating website merged into Match.com) whereas now we have increased that to one third,’ he adds. A truly impressive venture.
Turnover: £29.7m (+158%) Pre-tax profits: £8.9m (+197%)
Sector: Cleantech Based: London
Privately-owned green energy company PowerPerfector is playing a significant role in reducing the UK’s CO2 emissions. Established in 2001, PowerPerfector has developed technology, named voltage power optimisation (VPO), that saves energy, cost and carbon by optimising the incoming electrical supply voltage in commercial buildings. Its main feature is its ability to optimise and improve the voltage for a whole site and therefore cut energy costs.
In July this year, the company marked a significant milestone – VPO saved its billionth kilowatt of energy for PowerPerfector’s clients – the equivalent of turning off the power to London for nine days. CEO Angus Robertson comments, ‘The billion barrier outlines the pivotal role that energy efficiency can play in delivering a sustainable power supply in the future. We have saved our clients £85 million in energy spend to date, which in the current financial climate is of great benefit.’ And the company expects to sign up more clients to the technology as the leaner economic times continue.
3. GO Outdoors
Turnover: £75.4m (+83%) Pre-tax profits: £4.2m (+250%)
Sector: Retail Based: Yorkshire
It seems there is no end to the UK’s growing appetite for outdoor adventure, and Sheffield-based GO Outdoors has capitalised on this increasingly resilient retail space. The outdoor clothing, camping and equipment retailer, which began as the Camping & Caravanning Centre in 1969, has recently opened new stores in Manchester, York and Stoke, and now operates from 30 UK sites.
In April this year, private equity investor 3i acquired a significant minority shareholding in GO Outdoors from YFM Equity Partners, which originally backed founders John Graham and Paul Caplan in 1998 when the business had only one shop. YFM retained a partial stake in the business as part of the deal that saw 3i inject £28 million. A month later the business secured an additional £30 million package from Lloyds Banking Group. Chief executive Graham says the business’s ‘unrivalled offering to the market’ has been the key to success. ‘Our strength lies in the fact that we’re able to cater for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts across a number of activities.’ It is now planning to build online retailing.
4. Pathology Group
Turnover: £27.9m (+94%) Pre-tax profits: £1.8m (+88%)
Sector: Recruitment Based: London
This venture cites itself as the only specialist recruitment consultancy in the world that operates in the pathology space. An extensive pathologist candidate database and the support of leading NHS consultants affords the group the means to supply the NHS with a steady stream of only the highest calibre of pathologists. CEO Louie Evans says, ‘In the four years we’ve been around we’ve made big steps in terms of developing the company, as a different skill set is required as you grow from a small company into a medium-sized one. It starts with having a good product and being passionate about what you do, getting good people on board and seizing opportunities and gaps in the market.’
5. Alliance Pharma
Turnover: £49.9m (+60%) Pre-tax profits: £16.4m (+90%)
Sector: Pharmaceuticals Based: Wiltshire
Acquisitions have driven growth at this pharmaceuticals company. CEO John Dawson claims that the purchase of Cambridge Laboratories in 2010 had a ‘big impact’, adding 18 new prescription products to the company’s portfolio. The business’s expertise lies in its dermatology and urology and oncology products, which Dawson explains form the ‘bedrock’. Of the pharmaceuticals industry, he says, ‘It’s not as affected by general economic factors as other sectors and there’s a fair amount of innovation, so it’s buoyant.’ Alliance intends to remain on the acquisition path, adds Dawson.
Turnover: £52.8m (+89%) Pre-tax profits: £3.3m (+200%)
Sector: Retail Based: London
As the co-founder of an international wine trading business, you would think that life would be non-stop long lunches. Not so, says Fine+Rare chief executive Mark Bedini – he’s too busy winning new business. Fine+Rare offers products from all over the world to its large client base, which is chiefly from the UK and Europe. But it is growing in the Far East where it boasts an office in Hong Kong. The business is currently seeking to attract some ‘heavyweight’ investors to continue development of its online trading platform. Bedini credits the surge in revenue and profit last year to the ‘emergence of China as a major player’. He adds, ‘We were also coming out of the credit crunch, so on the back of the China surge there was a return to confidence in the UK and other traditional markets.’ Bedini and buyer Bud Cuchet founded the company in 1994.
Turnover: £43.8m (+20%) Pre-tax profits: £4.6m (+45%)
Sector: Software Based: Manchester
Chief executive Andy Makeham has presided over a transformational year at K3. Following an intensive period of building its internal infrastructure, which involved some careful management team integration, the Manchester-headquartered business is fuelling growth by targeting acquisitions that will deliver more customers. It has the funds to do so – its surprisingly helpful bank recently matched a placing pound-for-pound to give the company a handsome war chest. ‘In the past six months we’ve been offered almost an acquisition a day,’ says Makeham.
Turnover: £72.7m (+38%) Pre-tax profits: £6.3m (+200%)
Sector: Semiconductors/Technology Based: Cardiff
The rapid adoption of smartphones has seen semiconductor business IQE achieve rapid growth during the past year. In 2009 it had to endure de-stocking in the supply chain. But 2010 saw new markets open up as 3G smartphones became widespread – IQE currently supplies chips for devices from the iPhone to a raft of Android products. Chief executive officer Andrew Nelson says that the versatility of semiconductors has meant that IQE has been able to ride the waves of various technological surges, with its products capable of being applied in a number of different ways. With further growth now coming from tablet computers, Nelson says growth for the next year looks assured.
Turnover: £32.9m (+71%) Pre-tax profits: £4.2m (+102%)
Sector: Transport Based: Leeds
Neil McCrossan is steeped in the transport sector. Over three decades he’s done it all, from being a driver at Swan National to vice- president of sales and marketing at National Car Rental. He always wanted to run his own business, though, and achieved this goal in 2008 via the management buy-out/buy-in of short-term vehicle rental company Nexus. Since the £11 million deal (backed by private equity firm Isis), McCrossan has made two successful bolt-on acquisitions and continued to grow sales. The acquisition of FMG Support transformed the scale of Nexus and it ‘burst through the glass ceiling’, hoisting profits from £1.2 million to £2 million. One of its most recent claims to fame was supplying two caged tipper trucks for an episode of the BBC series The Apprentice.
Turnover: £86.8m (+56%) Pre-tax profits: £10.5m (+42%)
Sector: Retail Based: Portsmouth
In the late 1990s, during the birth of online retail, Harvey Jones and Mitch Dall quickly recognised the opportunity that the internet presented as a sales channel for cycle accessories, and co-founded Wiggle.co.uk in 1999. Wiggle acquired a loyal following and within five years had a turnover of £11 million. In the summer of 2008, Wiggle started to push overseas sales, translating the website into different languages and handling other currencies. Within six months, international sales had increased tenfold. Since then, sales have risen notably, with the company reporting a massive increase in turnover from £33.15 million in 2009 to £86.79 million in the year ended 31 January 2011. Profits have also soared from £4.51 million to £10.53 million in the same period.
Turnover: £50.1m (+63%) Pre-tax profits: £5m (+121%)
Sector: Advertising Based: London
Outdoor advertising business Primesight has been operating since 1984 and boasts over 20,000 advertising boards placed throughout the UK. The purchase of competitor Titan’s roadsdie assets in September 2009 doubled the size of the business. CEO Naren Patel observes that audiences aren’t declining in the outdoor sector, which puts Primesight in a ‘good place’. ‘Most of our energy is going into the digital space – it’s an exciting area,’ he says, explaining where the company’s focus will lie in the coming 12 months. Internally, the business is keen to foster a culture of communication. The emphasis is on establishing goals that are ‘realistic but challenging’ and that everyone can work towards, says Patel.
12. Judges Scientific
Turnover: £16m (+42%) Pre-tax profits: £2.8m (+75%)
Sector: Science/Manufacturing Based: West Sussex
Growth at scientific instrument manufacturer Judges Scientific has been driven primarily by acquisitions, a strategy that CEO David Cicurel says is the only realistic route to achieving the £50 million market cap he is striving for. Cicurel is optimistic that the next year will see two new business purchases, adding that there are an array of attractive targets for his venture to choose from. But it’s not all about buy-and-build. Cicurel says much of Judges Scientific’s success can be attributed to being located in a thriving sector. ‘We are on an up escalator right now,’ he argues. The recent uplift in sales and profits would seem to add a lot of weight to this claim.
13. La Fosse Associates
Turnover: £7.5m (+129%) Pre-tax profits: £726,339 (+15%)
Sector: Recruitment Based: London
La Fosse Associates serves the technology sector and was founded by CEO Simon La Fosse in 2007. Its growth trajectory has been impressive and its plans include expanding beyond its two offices and increasing employee numbers tenfold. ‘I want to reinvest as much profit as I can in growing,’ he says. ‘The truest measure of growth for me is people.’ And to keep them happy he says that 40 per cent of the business’s equity is made available to the ‘people that help run it’. It’s this opportunity for wealth creation that La Fosse believes will sustain his venture.
14. INTO University Partnerships
Turnover: £10.3m (+71%) Pre-tax profits: £708,000 (+291%)
Sector: Education Based: Brighton
John Sykes, group managing director of INTO University Partnerships, estimates that there are four million students studying outside their home countries. Founded in 2006 by current chairman Andrew Colin following an initial joint venture with the University of East Anglia, the business has expanded rapidly and now operates 12 university-based study centres across three continents. He says the company’s ‘robust management’, £250 million investment in learning centres, and a global sales and marketing infrastructure has helped its growth and reputation for academic excellence.
15. Your Golf Travel
Turnover: £27m (+64%) Pre-tax profits: Approx. £900,000 (+350%)
Sector: Travel Based: London Durham
University friends Ross Marshall and Andrew Harding founded Your Golf Travel after graduating. The duo used their industry contacts to set up the golf packages business, financed by credit cards and their own ‘limited savings’. The company boasts a high recurring booking rate, with 51 per cent of people who booked with them in 2009 doing so again in 2010. Data capture technology is now helping to target customers. With the launch of a couple of sister companies, SpaBreaks.com and RacingBreaks.com, the focus is on building those brands and marketing the group of companies. Marshall observes, ‘Now our technology is more sophisticated, the future of our business is going to be technologically driven.’