With average sales growth of 78% a year over the last three years to a total of £3bn, the 23rd annual Fast Track 100 ranking shows the UK’s fastest-growing private businesses are achieving impressive growth despite economic and political uncertainty — and have a record number of female founders. See below for an overview, or click here for our detailed research report.
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From fashion to aircraft parts, restaurants to TV production, the entrepreneurs running companies on the 23rd Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 league table are robust, innovative and resourceful. Over the past three years they achieved sales growth of between 44% and 284% a year to a combined £3bn — and added more than 11,000 jobs over the same period to a total of 16,800.
The 100 firms’ headquarters are spread across the UK. London is home to the highest proportion — 30 firms, down from 34 in 2018 — while the next best-represented regions are the southeast with 19, and the northeast and northwest with 11 each. To find out more, view the full supplement.
Top of the league
Less than 10% of the billions of plastic products produced each year are recycled, and as eco-awareness grows, consumers are calling for reusable products to replace single-use plastics. The number one company, Chilly’s Bottles, has stepped in to meet this demand and grown sales by an average of 284% pa since 2016, to £31.5m in 2019.
In 2010, James Butterfield, 30, was at university when he had the idea for a steel drinks bottle. He and co-founder Tim Bouscarle, 31, secured £9,000 in crowdfunding to develop the company. It now makes 3.5m reusable bottles and coffee cups a year, with a third of sales overseas. Last year it featured on our Fast Track Ones to Watch.
Female founders blazing a trail
28 female founders, co-founders or chief executives are running 26 businesses on this year’s league table. This is the highest number in the 23 years of the Fast Track 100 league table, and a significant increase on the seven female-founded companies that featured in our inaugural Fast Track 100 in 1997.
This year’s entrepreneurs include Nisha Katona (pictured above) who set up the Indian restaurant chain Mowgli Street Food (No 45) after 20 years working as a barrister, and Charlotte Tilbury, founder of Charlotte Tilbury Beauty (No 46).
Detailed research findings
Detailed research findings can be found in our 30-page research report – please click to download.
Fast Track 100 companies are typically young, with 96 founded since 2000, and 18 launched in the last five years. Combined operating profits of the 100 companies were £272m in their latest year 2018/19, up more than fivefold from £48m three years ago. Online menswear retailer END. achieved the highest operating profits for the second year in a row, making £27m on sales of £134.7m in 2019.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Group, which has supported Fast Track for all 23 years, said:
“While these are uncertain times, there is one thing I am certain of: entrepreneurs are the ones driving innovation, chasing improvements and challenging the norm. There are so many inspiring examples of this on the Fast Track 100 league table and it’s heartening to see the power of entrepreneurship to create jobs and positive change across Britain.”
In the 23 years since its launch, Fast Track 100 has featured 1,633 companies, many of whom are now household names. ARM Holdings, B&M Retail, Carphone Warehouse, Fever-Tree, Hotel Chocolat, and NET-A-PORTER are all Fast Track 100 alumni stars that either went on to float on the stock market or were acquired by other businesses.
Disruptors to Watch
Our ‘Disruptors to Watch’ list, now in its fourth year, aims to highlight 10 companies with disruptive potential from a cross-section of industries, rather than claiming to identify the most disruptive. This year’s companies include Cazoo, which aims to disrupt the £50bn used car market with its online platform, and Tokamak Energy, which is developing fusion power to meet global energy demand.
The 10 companies we selected have raised more than £550m from investors, and range from space technology companies to fintechs and biopharma firms. Last year’s winner, Graphcore, the computer processor maker founded in 2016, is now worth an estimated £1.3bn. Ben Davey, CEO of Barclays Ventures, was the chairman of the judging panel.
For the full list, see the Disruptors to Watch page.
Ones to Watch
The Fast Track ‘Ones to Watch’ features 10 promising companies that did not meet the criteria of the league table, but have either achieved or are forecasting strong sales growth. This year’s companies include Fullgreen, whose ready-to-eat plant-based meals are available in more than 5,000 stores across the US, and WhiteHat, which aims to provide an alternative to higher education through its apprentice placement portal.
Previous Ones to Watch include this year’s number one-ranked company Chilly’s Bottles, burger restaurant chain Five Guys and energy supplier OVO Energy.
For the full list, see the Ones to Watch page.
National conference and awards dinner
We look forward to welcoming the founders and directors of the Fast Track 100 companies to this year’s invitation-only afternoon conference and networking awards dinner. Here is a video of this year’s event, which took place in Oxfordshire in May.
For opportunities to meet and build relationships with the founders and directors of Britain’s fastest-growing private companies, contact us about becoming an awards sponsor for Fast Track 100.