The Sunday Times has once again revealed its list of Britain's fastest growing private tech companies - and this year's bright sparks include an Apple reseller, an innovative driving telematics firm and a company that manufactures powered metal for 3D printing.
Published each September, the compilation occasionally features a future business heavyweight that goes on to make megabucks. Valued at £1 billion, Oxfordshire-based anti-virus company Sophos is among its glittering alumni, alongside food delivery service Just Eat (£3.6 billion) and online property agency Zoopla (£1.4 billion), both of which are based in the capital.
You probably won't be surprised to discover that most of the 100 companies featured in the newspaper's 16th annual rankings are located in the South of England. London and its surrounding areas are, predictably, well-represented - but don't rule out the other end of the country.Looking up
Twelve companies from the North of England have landed a place in this year's rankings. Their sales have totalled £253 million over the past three years, growing by an average of 72 per cent, and together they employ 1,335 staff.
Is there another Sophos among them? Click (or tap) on ahead to find out more about why life isn't so grim up North for these 12 UK companies looking to take on the world.
- Position in table: 12
- Annual sales rise (three years): 148%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 12.4
- Staff: 8
Having to pay to use a train's onboard Wi-Fi is one of the many necessary evils in life, especially if you're not rocking a 4G connection for tethering your laptop to your smartphone. Newcastle-based Impulsepay, on the other hand, won't mind at all: the company's tech allows train companies to make oodles of cash by charging travellers to use their onboard Wi-Fi. Not the most popular of services, then, but at least it gives you one way of getting online on the 12.35 London Euston to Manchester.
- Hey, 5G connectivity - hurry up already
- Position in table: 27
- Annual sales rise (three years): 109%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 5.3
- Staff: 100
There's been an exponential growth in the number of tablets, smartphones, PCs and other internet-connected devices that consumers own in recent years, but what they being used for? (Apart from Pokemon Go, that is.) That's the question that RealityMine has set out to answer. The Manchester-based startup develops market research software built on patented metering tech to discover people's habits, behavioural tendencies and attitudes toward advertising when it comes to using their various gadgets. RealityMine, which claims to track more than 3 million smartphones in use today, sells its findings to media and other types of companies in 15 countries around the world.
- If you were wondering, these are the best smartphones out there
3. ESP Group
- Position in table: 34
- Annual sales rise (three years): 96%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 67.7
- Staff: 314
The only company from Yorkshire to feature in the list, Hull-based ESP Group is the issuer of Oyster travel cards for the London Underground. The fast growing transport ticketing company, which has issued more than 31 million smart cards in the past few years, has seen sales soar from £9 million to £75 million since 2012. The smart travel card maker is launching what it calls a "revolutionary" new system on October 1 that helps train operators automatically issue refunds to customers who have seen their journeys delayed. Knowing the state of the UK's rail network, its sales are in no danger of slowing down.
4. Performance Horizon
- Position in table: 37
- Annual sales rise (three years): 90%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 6.1
- Staff: 81
Established in South Shields, Newcastle, five years ago, Performance Horizon develops internet-based software that allows big brands to more effectively communicate with their marketing partners. The company's platform, which includes tracking, report, analytics, global payment capabilities and partner management, is currently used to connect more than 160,000 online marketers and affiliates in 183 countries.
- Position in table: 38
- Annual sales rise (three years): 89%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 8.9
- Staff: 114
It's a common occurrence: you visit an online retailer, throw a load of items in your virtual basket and then close the browser window without spending a penny. If you're a registered user on that site, you might even get a polite email asking why you didn't go the whole hog. Tyne and Wear-based marketing tech company Salecycle's job is help businesses answer that very question while encouraging their online visitors to spend. Some of its big name customers include Dyson, Ikea and Virgin Atlantic.
6. Trak Global
- Position in table: 49
- Annual sales rise (three years): 75%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 13.3
- Staff: 69
"Driving innovation" is a term that's often thrown about in business, whereas Trak Global is in the business of innovating driving. Launched in 2009, the Crewe, Manchester-based company develops vehicle tracking tech used to manage business fleets while evaluating the competency of their drivers. Earlier this year Track Global released its tracking product in the form of a smartphone app, claiming that it could save businesses money versus the cost of installing a black box monitoring device inside vehicles.
- Here are some of the best driving apps for your car
- Position in table: 50
- Annual sales rise (three years): 74%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 60.2
- Staff: 14
Some businesses, such as retailers (during busy holiday seasons) or football stadiums (on the days of major fixtures), are forced to call in temporary staff just to cope. Manchester-based developer Neuven looks to "restore calm from chaos" through its software platform, which allows businesses to track temporary workers rather than having to pay recruitment companies to do it for them. It also takes care of complex legal issues that may arise from bringing temporary employees into the workplace.
8. LPW Technology
- Position in table: 51
- Annual sales rise (three years): 72%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 7.3
- Staff: 36
Runcorn, Cheshire-based LPW is mainly in the business of selling metal powders used for 3D printing. Not the kind that you might undertake in your bedroom with a Makerbot, but full-fat industrial additive manufacturing used in tooling, aerospace and automotive industries. LPW's CEO Dr Phil Carroll started selling powders from his kitchen in 2011 and expects that the company will make £20 million in turnover by 2020.
- Intrigued? Check out the 10 best 3D printers on the market
9. Cloud Technology Solutions
- Position in table: 52
- Annual sales rise (three years): 73%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 8.6
- Staff: 34
From Docs to Drive, Hangouts to Calendar, Google's cloud-based apps are well known for their ease of use and collaboration features. It's not always easy for smaller businesses to get started, however, which is where Manchester-based Cloud Technology Solutions comes in. Its service include helping organisations decide which of Google's services to use while setting them up, providing training and migrating across existing business data. It also issues and manages Google hardware — from Chromebooks to Chromeboxes and Chromebases.
- Check out these 10 best Chromebooks you can buy
- Position in table: 65
- Annual sales rise (three years): 55%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 23
- Staff: 355
Co-founded by former Rochdale Football Club left-back James Wilkinson, finance specialist Zuto aims to make it easier for people to buy cars online by first matching buyers with a suitable finance option and then appropriate vehicles. Based in Macclesfield, the company has seen sales accelerate in recent years, and it's showing no signs of slowing down thanks to a £2.5 million funding package it received from Barclays bank in August.
11. GBM Digital
- Position in table: 82
- Annual sales rise (three years): 49%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 34.9
- Staff: 40
Apple has pushed the iPad as a tool for learning since it came out in 2010, and IT consultancy GBM Digital is one of the many resellers helping to get the popular tablet into classrooms. The Manchester-based Apple specialist, which has been around since the 90s, also supplies MacBook Airs and Mac Minis to qualifying schools for free as part of Apple's iPad Companion programme. It caters for businesses too, providing training in Adobe and Final Cut Pro.
12. Love Energy Savings
- Position in table: 99
- Annual sales rise (three years): 44%
- Latest sales (in £000s): 6.5
- Staff: 59
Bolton-based Love Energy Savings is looking to capitalise on what it says is a lack of transparency and regulation in the energy sector. It claims to have helped 90,000 UK businesses save on energy costs since 2007 through its "innovative" online price comparison service, which looks to highlight lower energy prices without charging hidden costs.