Unveiling the Rising Stars: Meet the 32 Scale-Up Companies Redefining Industries
History tells us that some of the world’s best companies were forged in the fire of recessions and hardship. Airbnb, Groupon, Revlon and Morgan Stanley are just some of the household names that broke out of these seemingly impossible conditions.
In this Top 32 list, we highlight some of the scale-up companies that are powering through these troubled waters and forming the backbone of the economy despite the turbulent economic climate.
How have the Top 32 been chosen?
For each edition of our print magazine, we ask our readership to provide suggestions for our chosen list. We have also asked companies to provide their turnover, EBITDA and staff headcount to decide on the final list.
This list is in no particular order.
A community-driven marketplace reinventing ownership and founded in 2018, HURR aims to build the world’s most circular home for fashion. The company operates a hybrid model combining peer-to-peer marketplace, whilst powering fashion rental for the UK’s retailers including John Lewis and Flannels.
Focusing on sustainability, HURR taps into trends with access to 45,000 items of clothing on rotation, aiming to close the gap for circular fashion. In 2021, HURR Collective raised over £4m in seed funding, a round led by Octopus Ventures, which helped their aim of disrupting the global women’s fashion industry.
Talking Tables was founded by Clare Harris in 1998, offering ‘tablescaping’ decorations and items to help furnish small gatherings at home. The company offers products ranging from paper plates and outdoor rugs to candles and games.
Now a certified B Corporation, Talking Tables has successfully grown since it was founded over 20 years ago. With 50 staff, offices in three counties, and almost £20m in revenue, Talking Tables products can be found in places like Tesco, Amazon, and Oliver Bonas.
Sprout.ai is an end-to-end claims automation technology solution delivering fast, accurate decisions to better serve its customers. The company works in partnership with insurers to deploy AI and data-powered products. This provides accurate decisions to customers, driving high customer retention and improved claim handler efficiency.
Raising more than $15m to date from top-tier investors like Octopus Ventures, Amadeus Capital Partners, and Playfair Capital, Sprout.ai makes sure their technology can be used across any insurance vertical, extracting relevant information from claims documents provided by the customer.
Operating in 12 countries and recognised as one of the Financial Times’ Tech Champions, KeyNest aims to simplify the process of securely storing and exchanging house keys with contractors, guests, friends, and cleaners. With over 5,000 KeyNest Point locations, accessible 24/7 at newsagents, cafes, and petrol stations, KeyNest makes a point to be widely available.
Developed originally in 2016 for Airbnb hosts, KeyNest has expanded to become necessary for anyone who needs to keep a spare key close to home. With over 1.5 million users so far and the statistic of facilitating a key collection every 30 seconds, KeyNest is successfully expanding its services.
Co-Founded by CEO Babs Ogundeyi and CTO Musty Mustapha in 2019, Kuda is a fintech company that aims to make financial services more accessible, affordable, and rewarding. In 2021, Kuda raised $50m at Series B, bringing its total funding raised to $90m.
With ambitions beyond Nigeria, Kuda has styled itself as the money app for diasporic Africans over the world, and with their expansion plans, the company aims to operate across borders, connecting with customers across the world.
Stripe OLT has dedicated the last three years to growth and innovation. Evolving from its IT provider roots, the company has developed into a major Microsoft cloud and cyber security provider.
Having grown significantly, from 15 employees in 2019 to 70 in 2023, Stripe OLT now offers a broader range of secure solutions from Managed IT and Cyber Security to Incident Response and attack Simulation services. The cyber security specialist supports critical infrastructures in established organisations for the likes of Hargreaves Lansdown and National Rail.
Hamilton Barnes is a provider of talent to the network engineering sector, working with organisations that are powering the internet, such as BT, Sky, and Vodafone. During Covid-19 the company was able to triple its turnover and grow its headcount five-fold, from 20 to over 100 employees.
With offices recently opening in Austin, Texas and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Hamilton Barnes has expanded its offering to a global scale, partnering with large telecoms companies, alt-nets, and ISPs to build a safer and more secure internet.
Founded in 2016 by Jamie Fraser, InterEx is a global staffing and talent delivery company specialising in cloud technologies, Microsoft, security, business intelligence, and data and consulting services.
Over the past four years, the company has placed more than 1,400 candidates in 38 countries. InterEx’s rapid growth has enabled expansion into the US with the opening of a Miami office, and the company looks towards a New York expansion in 2023.
Kirsty’s, a free-from ready meal manufacturer, increased its turnover by 26% last year despite challenging market conditions. Established 12 years ago with funding from Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne on Dragons’ Den, Kirsty’s expanded to take on its first ‘free-from’ factory in 2010.
Kirsty’s has grown 149% over the past three years, with a team of 49, thanks to the successful launch of new categories, retailer listings, and increased consumers. The company’s sales growth has been matched by EBITDA growth of 197% due to careful cost control and overhead management.
A global company responsible for delivering sustainable solutions, RSK is a conglomerate of more than 175 environmental, engineering, and technical service businesses, with more than 12,000 employees in over 40 countries. These companies provide practical and innovative solutions to some of the key challenges faced today.
The company operates in most sectors of the economy, including those critical to the future of global sustainability like water, infrastructure, mining, and waste.
Headquartered in Bolton and listed on the London Stock Exchange, AO World plc is an online electrical retailer whose mission is to be the global destination for electronics. AO sells major and small domestic appliances and a range of electrical products in the UK, as well as ancillary services like installations and collections.
AO has a majority equity stake in AO Recycling, a WEEE processing facility, allowing the company to ensure customers’ electrical waste is dealt with responsibly. This is just one of the ways AO looks towards sustainable practices, apart from the obvious consumer electrical circular economy. AO are also committed to becoming a Net Zero company and has plans for mapping greenhouse gas emissions and transferring to renewable energy.
PureGym Group is one of the largest gym and fitness operators in Europe. Founded in 2008 by Peter Roberts, the Group now has approximately 1.6 million members across over 500 gyms, with the selling point of affordable membership fees, no fixed-term contracts, and 24/7 access to facilities.
The Group is a scaled leader in growth markets, occupying top positions in each of its main markets: the UK, Denmark, and Switzerland. PureGym looks to double its number of sites, reaching more than 1,000 clubs by 2030 after securing over £300m worth of equity investment from KKR in 2022.
Co-Founded by Tom Carr and Richard Pearce in 2010, Verto is a zero-carbon housebuilder based in the South West. Verto holds the title of the first UK housebuilder to specialise in the design, build, and sale of smart homes that produce zero carbon emissions.
With the promoted message of ‘living zero’ being at the heart of their Zero Carbon Smart Homes for over a decade, Verto are looking to reach Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) with ratings of up to 125A, 35% more than the minimum score for an A-rated home. Since inception, this product has delivered revenues of £76.9m for the business, with its current pipeline having a total GDV of £378.9m.
Business Design Centre
The Business Design Centre Group (BDC) is a family-owned business founded in 1954 that began mostly in manufacturing and commercial property. In the 1980s, the Group rescued the Royal Agricultural Hall, which dates to 1862, and reopened it as the Business Design Centre in 1986, becoming an integrated trade and exhibition centre for events and showrooms.
Most recently, BDC was awarded Superbrand status in the 2022/23 listings, putting this company alongside some of the UK’s leading brands and businesses, and they are also looking to reduce their carbon footprint to net zero by 2030.
North Property Group
A fast-growing, independently-owned property agency in the UK, with a CAGR of 84.6% over the last three years, North Property Group aims to digitalise property sales and letting.
Founded in 2017 by Oli Banks and Tim Coen, the pair have grown their initial £4,000 investment into a business with revenue exceeding £5.5m. The business has sold more than £500m worth of UK property over the last six years. Specialising in new-build property sales and lettings, primarily buy-to-let investors, North Property Group looks to grow its headcount of 75+ staff by the end of 2023.
Green Power Solutions
Green Power Solutions Ltd is a B-Corp accredited company specialising in renewable energy solutions. With two sub-brands, iJo Power and Maximisemy.energy, the company has experienced strong growth since its inception.
iJo Power design and deliver solar battery options for homes, businesses, and farms, which significantly reduces electricity bills for customers with an average return on investment of four to five years for domestic properties. Maximisemy.energy is a SaaS platform that helps customers optimise their energy usage through automation and forecasting.
One of the largest technology consultancy firms in the UK, ROCK aims to empower its clients to navigate the digital age by continually evolving their capabilities. Since 2008 and beginning in a garage belonging to the Founder Rob Dance’s parents and with £1,000 in the bank, the company has evolved to a team of over a hundred people.
With the heart of their ethos being to transform the lives of their clients, this mission has led ROCK to have a 10X increase in profits from 2021 to 2023 and over 30% growth in revenue and headcount in the current financial year.
High-growth global flight-booking brand, Alternative Airlines, offers a wide range of airlines, destinations, and payment options, with an innovative approach to design to make booking flights as easy as possible.
Alternative Airlines continues to experience international growth with increased revenue in 2022 due to the significant increase in booking volume globally, which grew more than 200% compared to pre-pandemic 2019.
Amdaris is an extended delivery teams outsourcing partner providing software development, strategy and consulting, product development, data solutions, and managed services to companies around the world. Amdaris’ international expansion led to 94% year-on-year revenue growth in 2022.
Run by co-CEOs Vlad Nanu and Andy Rogers, and headquartered in Bristol with locations in five additional countries, Amdaris is committed to maintaining a positive company culture and showing dedication to upskilling through mentorship and growth schemes.
Bell Contracting is the Contracting Division of K. W. Bell Group, aimed to diversify the company’s service offering. Bell Contracting is the largest division under the company, with an annual turnover of around £50m per year and almost 500 skilled operatives in their workforce, who operate across the South West and South Wales.
Over the past 18 months, Bell Contracting has invested almost £3m into tech that aims to cut down labour costs and create a quicker and safer way to carry out complex tasks.
Founded by Rachael Flanagan when she was 17, Mrs Buckét is a commercial cleaning business delivering services to businesses in the public and private sectors across the UK. Now worth over £7.5m and with more than 120 partnerships with successful companies, Mrs Buckét strives to be the UK’s first choice in commercial cleaning.
With 360 people working for Mrs Buckét, the company has grown by more than 40% already this year, with expectations to exceed £10m in revenue by the end of 2024 with an additional 120 people employed.
Founded in 1998 in West Sussex following a tornado strike, Checkatrade is a digital marketplace designed for finding quality tradespeople from plumbers to painters. Transforming the business from a paper-based directory to a digital marketplace, Founder Kevin Byrne sold the company to shareholder Homeserve Group in 2017.
Checkatrade now has over 500 employees across Portsmouth and London with over 47,000 trade members across the UK. The company has experienced much success with the website having over 24 million visits a year and six million customer reviews.
n2s has seen sales turnover double over the past three years to £10m. With significant private investment in place, the business is strongly positioned for rapid growth by leveraging the demand for reducing the environmental impact of IT hardware equipment and cabling, used in delivering enterprise, data centre, and cloud computing.
Central to this growth is their Technology Lifecycle Management solution that includes a sustainable ‘bioleaching’ solution to enable ‘urban mining’ of valuable metals from printed circuit boards. This will ensure hardware manufacturers and their users can meet their ESG objectives and obligations including Scope 3 emissions.
A website that allows you to compare the cost and features of a wide variety of insurance policies, financial products, and energy tariffs, Go.Compare was the first comparison website, formed in 2006, to focus on displaying policy details. Making money through fees paid by the providers of products that appear on the site as opposed to charging people for its services, Go.Compare has proved successful in the market.
In 2021, Go.Compare agreed to a £594m takeover of the company from Future plc, expanding the company’s price comparison e-commerce capabilities.
Oli Bristowe, Founder of Pets Purest, a natural supplement, treats, and grooming product for pets, has grown the company to £10m in turnover and a £1m EBITDA business in less than six years. With 130% sales growth over the last three years, Pets Purest has supplied over one million dogs with natural, healthy products globally.
Despite economic challenges, the company’s ability to navigate these tough times has led to successful global expansion, growing the team from two to 10 people and securing a six-figure growth investment in 2021.
ACE Money Transfer
An Authorised Payment Institution recognised by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK, Australia, and Canada, ACE Money Transfer provides remittance services to over 100 receiving countries, aiming to connect families and friends across the world through secure and cost-effective money transfers.
Founded in 2002 in Bolton, with minimal services and a small customer base, ACE Money Transfer has expanded to build a network of over 350,000 pay-out locations and 1.3 million customers worldwide.
IDVerse (formerly OCR Labs) uses generative AI to empower true identity globally. Using Zero Bias, AI-tested technology, the company trains neural network systems to protect against discrimination. They help automatically verify users in seconds using their face and smartphone in over 220 countries.
Following their Series B investment in 2022, IDVerse has grown across EMEA and APAC, launched US operations, and hired staff to drive international growth.
GA Pet Food Partners
GA Pet Food Partners is a European premium dry pet food manufacturer, providing solutions from new product development to manufacturing and dispatching. GA also provides private-label pet food opportunities for partners across the globe, and as a result, exports to over 50 countries with some of the biggest and smallest pet food brands.
Compared to GA Pet Food Partners’ beginnings in 1992 as arable farmers, in 2023 the company now employs over 860 people and sells 80,000 tonnes of pet food per year.
Virgin Incentives, the corporate arm of Virgin Experience Days, looks to offer fun days out for the masses. Partnering with UK and US corporations to create a thriving employee culture, Virgin Incentives offers flexible corporate reward solutions to help businesses reward their employees.
Over the past two years, Virgin Incentives hired new staff at managerial levels to boost brand awareness and client retention. Recently, Virgin Experience Days acquired US experience gift provider Cloud 9 Living to boost US experiences.
Just Eat Takeway.com was created in early 2020 after the merger of Takeaway.com (founded in 2000 in The Netherlands) and Just Eat (founded in 2001 in Denmark). The company is now a major global online food delivery marketplace, with its platform operating in 20 countries. Just Eat has over 692,000 connected partners offering consumers a wide choice of food.
In 2021, Just Eat acquired Grubhub in the United States, expanding its North American facilities.
Juro is an all-in-one contract management platform that enables business teams to agree and manage contracts in one unified workspace. Since its founding in 2016, Juro has raised more than $32m in venture backing from US and European VCs, including the investors and founders behind Twitter, Coinbase, SoundCloud and Indeed.
Juro’s headcount has tripled in the last two years, with employees now working in its London, Lisbon, Riga and remote hubs. Having more than doubled revenue in each of the last three years, Juro now powers contracts for more than 6,000 companies in more than 100 countries, with customers including Trustpilot, SoundCloud, WeWork and Deliveroo.
Argus, founded in 1970, is an independent provider of market intelligence to the global energy and commodity markets offering price assessments, news, analytics, consulting services, and more.
Headquartered in London with 1,300 staff, Argus has 29 offices in the world’s principal commodity trading hubs and is trusted by companies and governments in 160 countries. Some of their most recent achievements include launching a non-Russian origin diesel price, partnering with OMJ to add transparency to UK/Ireland downstream petrol prices, and completing the Peruvian switch to Argus for fuel import pricing.