From alternative finance to cycling apparel, 2014 saw some incredible companies grow in a range of diverse sectors. To give you a flavour, we’ve selected our favourites and spoken to a member of the founding team at each.
Sector: Alternative finance
In one sentence: Part of the growing crowdfunding phenomenon, Funding Circle has created an online platform matching businesses in need of debt finance with consumer lenders looking to get a better return on savings.
Founder(s): Samir Desai, James Meekings and Andrew Mullinger
From the horses mouth: James Meekings said: “It has been a successful year for Funding Circle. We are now one of the largest sources of finance to businesses on a net basis, having helped over 7,000 businesses borrow more than £450m since launching four and a half years ago. We have also begun to gain the support and trust of the wider financial services world, having partnered with Santander and PwC.
“Small house builders, who continue to struggle to access finance via traditional means, can now borrow through Funding Circle. More than £25m was lent to property developers in six months alone. Larger investors have also begun to lend to small businesses via the marketplace – notably our recent deal with KLS Diversified Asset Management, a US fixed income specialist, who will lend £132m.
“Next year has the potential to be even more exciting. Our plan is to continue to welcome a wider range of investors, which will allow us to help thousands more businesses access finance and create a sustainable marketplace for the long term. Marketplace lending is triggering a global revolution in the way small businesses access finance, and is on track to become an indispensable part of the economy.”
Read more about Funding Circle:
- How to get funding through Funding Circle
- Government’s Business Bank invests £40m in Funding Circle
- Santander to refer businesses to P2P lender Funding Circle
In one sentence: Secret Escapes has built a service around our preference to book holidays and short trips online, giving members access to exclusive offers for luxury hotels and holidays.
Founder(s): Alex Saint, Tom Valentine and Troy Collins
From the horse’s mouth: Tom Valentine said: “It’s difficult to pin-point what the standout moments of 2014 were for us. Some hugely important milestones were hit – worldwide membership reached 10m and we were able to say we had not only sold a million room-nights in total, but also sent a million people on their own secret escapes.
“Growth also came along in other ways too. In 2014, we made three company acquisitions – JustBook (Germany) in January, Travelist (Poland) in June and My City Venue (UK) in July – as well as launching our model in three new countries – Norway, Denmark and the US. All very exciting. We also hit the one million fan mark on Facebook, which has become a great, and very busy, community for us.”
Read more about Secret Escapes:
- Future 50 star: Secret Escapes
- Alex Saint: “We hand pick only the very best hotels”
- Growing Business Awards 2013 shortlist announced
Sector: Food and drinks
In one sentence: To subscribing customers ranging from office works to stay at home mums, Graze sends tailored snack boxes containing the likes of nuts, seeds, fruit and baked goods.
Founder(s): Ben Jones, Graham Bosher, Tom Newton, Edd Read, Tom Percival, Neil Thompson and Brendan Kay
From the horse’s mouth: CEO Anthony Fletcher said: “2014 has seen graze.com evolve into a successful international business. Since launching in America in December 2013, we have grown to over £50m in revenue and, by December 2014, had achieved a US run rate of over £20m – something that usually takes top tech companies two to three years to do.
“Seeing the positive effect that our product is having on peoples lives is another high point – we recently received a letter from a girl suffering from dietary issues who used graze boxes to rediscover her love of food. This is something we are very proud of and something that motivates us to continue delivering a fantastic product.”
Read more about Graze:
- Graze CFO harnesses data to sell snack boxes
- Hungry? You will be
- New Product of the Year goes to Graze
In one sentence: Started when two Danish ventures came together, JUST EAT brings takeaway establishments together on one platform allowing restaurants without online presence to access a wider group of customers.
Founder(s): Christian Frismodt
From the horse’s mouth: UK MD Graham Corfield said: “2014 has been a great year for JUST EAT. We’ve further cemented our clear leadership position in the UK, generating growth for the 22,500+ restaurants we work with across the country.
“But we’re not stopping there. Running any small business is tough and few sectors are as competitive as the takeaway restaurant industry in the UK. Visiting our restuarant partners around the country I can see how owners are constantly working to up their game to increase their customers.
“That’s why we’re keeping our foot on the gas and are always thinking about three things: how we can improve the customer journey, help our restaurant partners become more efficient and ultimately drive growth across the sector.
“As a result, we’ve invested significantly in our offering this year. We’ve made strategic acquisitions with the purchase of Meal2Go, an online takeaway firm with market leading EPOS technology, and Orogo, an innovative collection only app. We’ve also further developed our technology offer with JUST EAT Orderpoint and JUST EAT Orderpad, enabling JUST EAT’s partner restaurants to handle multiple orders simultaneously – saving time and increasing efficiencies. We’re looking forward to 2015 and will be continuing to innovate to deliver great service for our takeaway restaurants and great takeaways for our customers.”
Read more about JUST EAT:
- JUST EAT shares jump after profits nearly treble
- Online takeaway service JUST EAT finishes 2014 with a flourish
- How hungryhouse plans to beat Just Eat
Sector: Cycling apparel
In one sentence: With the rise in popularity of cycling, both in and out of cities, Rapha has developed a premium line of cycling clothing – supplying the likes of Team Sky – as well as rolling out its cafes.
Founder(s): Simon Mottram and Luke Scheybeler
From the horse’s mouth: Simon Mottram said: “July 2014 marked Rapha’s ten year anniversary, solidifying the company’s place in cycling culture. As a brand, Rapha are most proud of the role we’ve played in helping to increase the popularity of the sport with team partnerships and events, which is also the crux of our success: we love the sport, and everything we do is rooted in our commitment to road cycling.
“With multiple new Rapha Cycle Club locations increasing our bricks-and-mortar retail presence in Asia, Europe and the US, as well as exciting design collaborations and technical advancements in clothing, 2015 will see Rapha continue on its mission to make road cycling the most popular sport in the world.”
Read on to find out who else made the top ten.
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