We reveal the shortlist for this year's Young Company of the Year award. These are the new businesses giving Britain a fighting chance.
Here is the shortlist for the Young Company of the Year gong for this year's Growing Business Awards...
- Climatecars: Climatecars is an eco-friendly car service – a green competitor to the black taxi. It was launched by Nicko Williamson in 2007, when he was just 23. The company turned over £2.2m last year and has been profitable since 2009. It currently employs 18 office staff; has a fleet of 75 Toyota Priuses on the road; and around 650 account holders, ranging from eco-friendly celebrities to corporate giants such as Unilever. Climatecars covers the whole of Greater London, with plans to expand into other UK cities.
- Borro: Launched in August 2008, borro is the world’s first online pawnbroker. It offers short-term loans from £100-£1m against a wide variety of personal assets including luxury watches, fine art, antiques, sculptures, jewellery and prestige cars. It's an impressive operation: valuers are ex-Christies and Sotheby’s, and a former CEO of Egg and the founder of Sportingbet sit on the board. The company will turn over £5m this year and is set to expand internationally in 2012.
- Ovo Energy: Stephen Fitzpatrick was so fed up dealing with large energy companies with complicated, expensive and confusing tariffs, he decided to start his own firm. Cirencester-based Ovo Energy launched in 2009 and aims to become the most trusted energy company in the UK. This is a business with a social conscience: it has partnered with environmental charity Cool Earth to protect an acre of rainforest on behalf of every customer. It has more than 50,000 clients (which it plans to double by June 2012), 66 staff and a turnover of £10.2m.
- QualitySolicitors: You might have spotted QualitySolicitors' advertising on Coronation Street or News at Ten. This company is made up of many of the UK’s law firms, which have come together to create a national legal brand with locations across the country: QualitySolicitors' aim is to create the legal equivalent of Specsavers. It currently has 200 branches in the UK and aims to cover every town and city in the country before the end of 2012. It also has an exclusive long-term deal with WHSmith, with concessions (known as Legal Access Points) in the retailer's high-street stores, shopping centres and travel stores.
- Shutl: Shutl's technology works by connecting retailers with local same-day couriers in a virtual marketplace. The London-based company, founded by Tom Allason in 2008, recently completed a successful trial with Argos, which saw the retail giant’s customers given the option of having products bought online delivered in as little as 90 minutes from only £4.95. Shutl is looking to expand internationally in 2012.
- Wonga.com: Wonga.com has turned the short-term borrowing market on its head. The London-based company, founded by Errol Damelin in 2007, offers small, short-term loans online with more speed, convenience and flexibility than banks and high-street lenders. Customers choose how much money they want (from £1 to £1,000) and can vary the period over which they repay – between one and 31 days – thereby determining the cost. Last year, the company raised £73m in Series C funding, led by US technology VC firm Oak Investment Partners.
Winners will be announced at the Growing Business Awards, held on November 14 at the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square. Book your ticket here.