Disruptors / Ones to Watch

Fast Track researches and compiles two annual sub-tables, published in our Fast Track 100 supplement with The Sunday Times, featuring 10 of the most promising private British companies from a cross-section of industries that do not qualify for the main league table but deserve special recognition. One table focuses on companies with the potential to disrupt their market and the other on companies that are set to grow rapidly in the future.

The 10 finalists for each programme are selected by a judging panel and are featured in the Sunday Times supplement. Their senior directors are also invited to the awards dinner, where they receive a certificate, with one overall winner presented with an award.

Disruptors to Watch

Disruptors to Watch aims to highlight 10 companies with disruptive potential from a cross-section of industries, rather than claiming to identify the 10 companies with the most disruptive potential.

This year’s judges included Fast Track and past Disruptors to Watch finalists Tom Blomfield, founder of Monzo, the mobile banking app and Peter Roberts, founder of PureGym, the low-cost gym chain; and the overall winner in 2017, Ali Parsa, founder of Babylon Health, the mobile health care app, who was presented with its award at our national awards dinner.

Company HQ Location Disruptive activities
BulbRenewable energy provider Central London More than 850,000 households have signed up to its single, transparent green energy tariff since 2015, attracted by its renewable credentials, innovative technology and customer service. A £60m funding round in August reportedly valued the company at more than £400m, although it is operating in a competitive industry in which seven rivals went bust this year.
CallsignAuthentication platform Central London Its artificial intelligence-driven cyber-security software removes the need for customer passwords, using data to enable smartphone users to confirm their identity with a single swipe. It raised $35m (£27m) in 2017 from investors including Accel to expand in the UK and US, and was valued at more than $100m.
Culture TripLifestyle content platform Central London This company’s online lifestyle, cultural and travel content — created by editorial hubs and more than 300 local freelancers — is viewed by 18m people a month. It uses AI to recommend content for its millennial audience. It has raised $103m in funding, including $80m in April, to drive revenue through booking links in the 1,600-plus stories it publishes each month.
Evox TherapeuticsDrug therapy developer Oxford Its technology delivers drugs directly to patients’ brains and central nervous system, overcoming the limitations of traditional therapeutics, and potentially providing a new way to target cancers and rare genetic diseases. It raised £35m in September from investors including Google's venture capital arm.
FiveAIAutonomous vehicle developer Cambridge Aims to develop and operate a fully driverless shared urban taxi service for Europe’s $400bn transport market, using AI-driven software and hardware that can be integrated into any modern car. It has received $35m in funding from venture capitalists, the highest sum for an autonomous car firm in Europe.
GraphcoreComputer processor manufacturer Bristol Says its computer processors are 10 to 100 times faster than existing products, with the potential to revolutionise advances in machine learning. It has raised $110m to launch its first product from Silicon Valley investors such as Sequoia Capital and UK angels including Robin Saxby, co-founder of ARM.
MoneseMobile banking service Central London Offers a smartphone-only, multilingual current account that can be opened in minutes, even without a UK or EU address — making access to banking easier for those who travel for work or study. The business has attracted more than 650,000 customers in 20 countries since 2015 and raised $60m in September from investors including PayPal.
NestedOnline estate agent Central London Its data platform helps calculate the value of a house, on which it is prepared to offer sellers a cash advance of up to 94%, removing problems associated with property chains. It has sold more than £100m worth of property since 2016 and raised £165m in funding, including £120m in November from investors including Northzone.
Owlstone MedicalDiagnostic breathalyser developer Cambridge Aims to save 100,000 lives and cut costs for healthcare providers by $1.5bn a year with its breathalysers that can detect cancerous cells earlier and at a lower cost than existing alternatives. Its products are being used by Glaxo Smith Kline and it has raised £56m from investors including Foxconn Technologies.
Oxford NanoimagingMicroscope manufacturer Oxford Makes the world’s only portable super-resolution microscope, which offers resolutions 20 times higher than room-filling legacy models. The product is generating interest from life sciences researchers and pharmaceutical companies. The company completed its third funding round in July, raising an undisclosed sum from investors including Oxford Sciences Innovation.

Ones to Watch

Ones to Watch showcases a cross section of companies whose sales growth falls short of the strict criteria for the main league table, but who are set to grow rapidly in the future. All shortlisted companies are visited by the Fast Track research team and assessed for inclusion. Last year’s judging panel included senior representatives from our sponsors Barclays and BDO, and Fast Track’s founder, Hamish Stevenson.

The 2017 winner was Pip & Nut, the nut butter brand, with its founder & chief executive Pippa Murray presented with its awards at our national awards dinner. The two runners-up were Wattbike and Filmore & Union.

Company HQ location Year end Sales £000s Staff Founded Comment
Churchill Contract ServicesFacilities services provider Hertfordshire Jun 13 73,198 7,639 1991 Founders started with a cleaning van in 1991 and now employ more than 7,600 staff, having expanded the company partly through acquisitions
Express EngineeringPrecision engineer Gateshead Mar 13 29,443 218 1973 Growth has come from investment in manufacturing facilities in Britain and Brazil, and the firm recently secured funding from LDC, a private equity firm
Grace ColeBeauty products retailer Cheshire Feb 13 7,664 21 2007 Its bath and body products are sold in stores such as Harrods and Debenhams, and it also exports to more than 70 countries
LoungersCafé and bar operator Bristol Apr 13 ‡22,143 850 2002 Runs 40 café bars and plans to double this within three years. It sold a significant minority stake to Piper Private Equity for £16m last year
Metcalfe’s Food CompanyRetail food brand Central London May 13 ‡3,687 15 2010 Set up by Pret a Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe and run by Robert Jakobi, it sells food and drink under the Itsu Grocery and Metcalfe’s Skinny brands
Orchard Valley FoodsFood supplier Worcestershire May 13 11,988 38 2004 Customers include home cooks inspired by the BBC’s Great British Bake Off, as well as national chains such as Marks & Spencer, Pizza Hut and Greggs
Ovo EnergyEnergy supplier Bristol Dec 12 102,940 162 2009 Founded four years ago, it already has 140,000 customers and managing director Stephen Fitzpatrick is aiming for a million by 2017
Saltire EnergyOil drilling equipment provider Aberdeen Jun 13 32,993 52 1986 Supplies drilling tools to the global oil and gas sector, and sales have grown 50% in the past year to £33m, with operating profit of £18.6m
The Training RoomTraining provider Poole May 13 ‡8,592 114 2006 Has taught 3,000 fitness instructors in the past year, and links up with gym providers such as Fitness First to help personal trainers secure jobs
WoolOversKnitwear retailer West Sussex Mar 13 15,218 58 1989 Has evolved from a market trader to an online retailer, selling to countries as far afield as Canada, Russia and New Zealand

* supplied by company   † annualised figure