Founders and entrepreneurs running Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales were recognised at our 24th annual Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 awards, held yesterday as a virtual interactive event. Sir Richard Branson, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Virgin Group chief executive Josh Bayliss paid tribute to guests.
It was the final Fast Track 100 awards event, ahead of Fast Track’s closure at the end of June.
Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, welcomed guests: “I’m delighted to be celebrating these 100 companies here today – 100 of the most innovative, impressive businesses in the country. This Fast Track 100 shows that imagination, ambition, diversity and quality are the cornerstones of today’s best businesses,” he said.
Josh Bayliss, chief executive of Virgin Group, congratulated guests on their success and said: “1,700 companies have made their way through Fast Track 100 league tables over the years – they have built innovative products, and created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the UK and around the world… Fast Track has been the benchmark annual survey of entrepreneurship in the UK.”
Sir Richard Branson, who has supported Fast Track for all 24 years, said: “Most people watching this will have been affected negatively in the last year – a few luckier companies will have been affected positively,” and added: “so as long as you’ve got a great idea, as long as you’re going to make a difference to other people’s lives, any time is a good time to start a business.”
Encouragingly, 100% of guests polled were very confident (72%) or confident (28%) about their company’s prospects over the next 12 months.
The Fast Track 100 ranks the UK’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales. Companies on the league table (published on 6 Dec 2020) grew their sales by between 38% and 441% pa, mostly pre-Covid-19, to a combined £4.4bn.
Managing rapid growth, responding post-pandemic and international expansion were some of the key topics on the agenda of the founders and entrepreneurs running the UK’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales who attended our virtual Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 awards event.
280 guests attended the virtual awards event, including founders and entrepreneurs from star alumni of the league table, such as Cult Beauty, Fever-Tree, Hotel Chocolat, Joseph Joseph, Seraphine and Trunki.
Guests heard from James Watt MBE, co-founder & captain of BrewDog, and Dr Gordon Sanghera, co-founder & chief executive of Oxford Nanopore Technologies.
James Watt MBE co-founded BrewDog in 2007 and it is now the UK’s largest independent brewer. It was valued at £1bn in 2017, and became carbon-negative last year. It featured on Fast Track 100 in 2020 for a record ninth consecutive time, and sales rose 11% to £238m last year. He told guests about BrewDog’s commitment to fighting climate change: “We are facing a huge crisis as humans – and I don’t think governments are going to get us out of this mess. It has to be the best, cutting-edge, forward-thinking businesses working hand-in-hand with leading-edge scientists.”
They then heard from Dr Gordon Sanghera, co-founder & chief executive of Oxford Nanopore Technologies, which develops handheld and ultra-high throughput DNA sequencing devices, and provides rapid tests for Covid-19 to the NHS and internationally. Sales rose 60% to £52m in 2019, and it has raised £808m, valuing it at £2.5bn. It featured on our 10 Tech Track Ones to Watch in 2016 and has ranked twice on Tech Track 100. He spoke about how the company has scaled its manufacturing, and said: “It’s not about bottom line profitability, it’s about serving a market, growing a brand new space, and creating that demand – that requires bold, aggressive, ambitious spend, and we weren’t afraid to do that.”
Following the keynotes, John Collingridge, deputy business editor of The Sunday Times, chaired a joint Q&A with the keynote speakers.
Virtual roundtables & 1:1 networking
After the Q&A, guests participated in small, virtual breakout discussion groups focusing on the challenges and opportunities for their companies post-pandemic. They also had the opportunity to participate in 1:1 video networking.
Q&A with Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson took part in a Q&A with guests, in a session chaired by Hamish Stevenson, founder & chief executive of Fast Track, who hosted the event.
The eight companies singled out to receive special recognition for their achievements were:
- Glencar Construction, which is building the UK’s new Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre in Oxfordshire, and whose sales grew by 441% a year to an annualised £97m in 2020, won the fastest-growing company award, sponsored by Virgin
- Beavertown Brewery, which sold a minority stake three years ago to brewery giant Heineken for £40m to strengthen its senior team and build the largest brewery in London, won the Best management team award, sponsored by BDO
- VetPartners, the vet practices group, which has made more than 500 acquisitions, and last year grew sales to £340m with operating profits of £45m, the highest on the league table, won the Outstanding achievement award, sponsored by Charles Russell Speechlys
- Lounge Underwear, which generates more than half its £40m sales from international customers and has grown exports fourfold this year to £28m, won the Excellence in international e-commerce award, sponsored by DHL Express
- Anthesis Group, the consultancy that helps governments and companies such as Amazon and Tesco to become more sustainable and is investing in early-stage, cleantech firms, won the Innovation award, sponsored by N+1 Singer
- Huel, which sells its plant-based nutritionally-complete meals in 90 countries, and expects sales to increase 40% to £100m this year, won the Innovative business model award, sponsored by The Office Group
- Ooni, the pizza oven company, which quadrupled sales to £55m last year, helped by high-profile customers such as Bruce Willis and Drew Barrymore, won the Emerging brand award, sponsored by The Sunday Times
- Lucy & Yak, which manufactures ethical and sustainable clothing in India and Barnsley and almost doubled sales last year to £9.7m, won the Ones to Watch award, sponsored by Virgin
League table award certificates
All companies on this year’s Fast Track 100 received a league table award certificate to recognise their success.
These were shipped in a goodie box, with gifts from our sponsors and our alumni companies: Cobra beer, BrewDog beer, Warner’s Distillery gin, Fever-Tree tonic and Fentimans soft drinks.
Recognising the achievements of all these companies is made possible by support from our sponsors Virgin, BDO, DHL Express, Charles Russell Speechlys, N+1 Singer and The Office Group.
More information on the league table
The 2020 Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 league table supplement was published on 6 December. To view the supplement, please click here.