High-Growth Companies Innovating
Without Equity Finance

26 May 2022

Share

From the UK’s most ambitious tech startups to our Fintech Top 50, our rankings place a lot of emphasis on the equity funding that high-growth companies have secured. Equity investment signals that a business has solid foundations and the confidence of investors, as well as the capital to accelerate their growth in the future—but it’s just one of several indicators of a successful startup, and doesn’t necessarily translate to a profitable business

In fact, 56% of the UK’s active high-growth companies have not raised equity finance. Many startups, from small businesses to later-stage ventures, look to alternative funding sources, while others will never raise external investment (self-funded or bootstrapped startups).

Bootstrapped companies use their own money (from revenues, for instance, or the startup founders’ personal savings) to fuel their growth, rather than external funding from venture capitalists, private equity firms, angel investors, and so on.

Here, we explore Beauhurst’s other high-growth tracking triggers in detail, and spotlight 11 high-growth businesses with strong potential yet no equity funding to their names. 

What are high-growth companies?

The catch-all term “high-growth” means different things to different people, with some definitions referring to sustained growth in employee count or turnover (OECD) and average annual growth rates (Octopus), and others to metrics like cash flow, revenues, valuation or sales growth. At Beauhurst, we currently track more than 40k high-growth companies on our data platform. Each of these private UK businesses has hit one or more of our tracking triggers, signalling high-growth patterns or ambition.

How we identify high-growth companies in the UK

Beauhurst uses eight separate triggers for tracking high-growth companies in the UK, which all indicate that a business is actively growing or creating ambitious growth plans.

Venture debt

Venture debt is a subset of debt finance, comprising mezzanine debt, convertible debt and debt provided by angel networks or venture capital firms. This trigger doesn’t include debt from high-street lenders and most peer-to-peer lenders.

MBOs and MBIs

Management buy-outs (MBOs) and management buy-ins (MBI) are transactions in which an incumbent or incoming management team takes a majority stake in a company. We also track secondary MBOs and MBIs, provided that a majority stake is sold as part of those transactions.

Accelerator programmes

We track company attendance at selected accelerator programmes that validate the ambition and growth potential of their participants, have a competitive application process and no or low attendance fees.

10% and 20% scaleups

Scaleup companies have an annualised average growth rate of at least 10% or 20% in turnover/headcount over three accounting years and at least £200k in revenue/20 employees in their base year.

Academic spinouts

Academic spinouts are companies that have been set up to exploit the intellectual property (IP) being developed by a recognised UK university. Spinouts are particularly common in the life sciences, pharmaceuticals and artificial intelligence sectors. 

Innovation grants

We track companies that have received large innovation grants, defined as a £100k+ (or €100k+) award for a specific innovation project. These include grants from Innovate UK, H2020/FP7, Scottish Enterprise, the Development Bank of Wales and Invest Northern Ireland.

High-growth lists

We cover high-growth lists, such as the Deloitte Fast 50 and LSEG’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain, that hold competitive and selective (but free) application processes which validate the ambition and growth prospects of chosen companies.

Equity investment

We track both announced and unannounced equity fundraisings. Around 70% of UK equity deals are undisclosed to the press but unearthed by our proprietary technology.

11 of the Top High-Growth Companies in the UK

These businesses were handpicked from a long list of high-growth companies in the UK. Whilst none of them have secured outside investment via equity deals, they have all hit at least three of our other high-growth tracking triggers.

Sector:
Industrials

Location:
London

Number of
high-growth
triggers hit:

3

Nanoforce Technology

Kicking off the list of high-growth companies without equity investment is Nanoforce Technology. Bridging the gap between academia and industry, Nanoforce Technology delivers state-of-the-art material solutions (like ceramics and polymer composites) based on advanced processing technologies. It has enabled the development of several products, including Zelfo, a self-binding cellulose material. 

Nanoforce Technology spun-out from Queen Mary University of London in 2011, with £3.1m of funding from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the London Development Agency (LDA), via the Micro and Nano Technology (MNT) competition. Besides being an academic spinout, the company hits two other high-growth triggers: it’s a 20% scaleup and has received 11 large innovation grants to date, amounting to £1.85m.

Sector:
e-Health

Location:
South West

Number of
high-growth
triggers hit:

4

My mHealth

My mHealth (previously Healthquest Solutions) is an eHealth company that develops personalised mobile apps for healthcare patients. These apps offer features such as medication diaries and lifestyle analysis.

The company’s founder, Simon Bourne, began his entrepreneurship journey through the first NHS Innovation Accelerator. For this programme, innovators must address a clear need for healthcare or patients. My mHealth also attended the University of Southampton’s Catalyst Programme, which accelerates innovation-led businesses in the Solent region. The companies selected are those with the highest potential to generate significant growth.

Alongside attending these accelerator programmes, the company is also an academic spinout from the University of Southampton and featured on the Tussell Tech200 high-growth list in 2021. The ranking showcases the UK’s fastest-growing technology companies, by calculating the annual growth rate of public sector revenue. My mHealth has also been awarded at least £2.41m in innovation funding, from four large grants, most recently for its new myHeart app project to support cardiac rehabilitation.

Sector:
3D print

Location:
East of England

Number of
high-growth
triggers hit:

4

Photocentric

Photocentric calls itself ‘the world leaders in LCD 3D printing’, with LCD referring to Liquid Crystal Displays. LCD printers use UV LCDs as a source of light, offering better quality, higher speeds, and larger volumes than alternative 3D printing methods. The company is currently hiring at its Cambridge headquarters. 

The company has hit numerous high-growth triggers, including reaching 20% scaleup status and receiving an impressive 19 large innovation grants, totalling £3.29m. Photocentric was named on the Queen’s Awards for Innovation high-growth list, in 2016 and 2020, and the Queen’s Awards for International Trade in 2018 (having made a minimum of £100k in overseas sales and consistent yearly growth). 

The company also secured a place in the Technology Developer Accelerator Programme in 2020, which supports businesses seeking to commercialise low-carbon green technology, particularly in the automotive industry. Photocentric attended the programme to accelerate the development of its manufacturing techniques to create batteries which significantly reduce vehicle emissions.

Sector:
SaaS

Location:
East of England

Number of
high-growth
triggers hit:

3

Agrimetrics

Agrimetrics is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that’s based in St Albans, Hertfordshire. Providers of a unique data platform for the agrifood sector, Agrimetrics supplies agricultural datasets such as weather and soil stats. This data is used by agrifood businesses, researchers, and policy-makers to address global food challenges and drive sustainability.

 

To date, the software company has received £27.7m via six large innovation grants, with its initial funding coming from Innovate UK, the UK’s national innovation agency. Agrimetrics graduated from Microsoft’s AI for Good programme in 2019, which accelerates companies using artificial intelligence (AI) to create a more sustainable world, solve humanitarian issues, and improve accessibility. 

 

Agrimetrics has also featured on two high-growth lists so far: 21toWatch in 2019 and Connect TVT’s Game Changers in 2018. The 21toWatch list ranks the companies, people and products that best represent innovation and entrepreneurship in the East of England. It assesses each submission on its innovation, challenge, influence, viability, and memorability. Game Changers, meanwhile, spotlights disruptive, fast-growth digital and tech companies in the Thames Valley.

Sector:
Clinical diagnostics

Location:
London

Number of
high-growth
triggers hit:

3

Brainminer

Brainminer has developed an automated system for analysing MRI brain scans, providing clinicians with easily interpreted reports to aid their diagnoses of dementia. The company aims to support the diagnosis of other brian conditions in the near future.

The company spun-out of University College London in 2015 and has received three large innovation grants so far, worth £1.31m in total. The latest of these was a £200k Innovate UK grant, awarded as part of the London Medical Imaging and AI Centre for Value-Based Healthcare project. Brainminer’s other grant funding was secured via two SBRI Healthcare awards—the Small Business Research Initiative enables the NHS to work with industry to help tackle health challenges.

On top of this, in 2016, Brainminer attended the Health Social Innovators accelerator. The programme focuses on the growth of ground-breaking, early-stage social health ventures, to stimulate innovation and create positive change in healthcare within England. With over 850k people suffering from dementia in the UK, Brainminer has the potential to help thousands of patients.

Sector:
Cleantech

Location:
Yorkshire & The Humber

Number of
high-growth
triggers hit:

3

Free Running Buildings

Free Running Buildings develops sustainable solutions to decarbonise the built environment. It designs and builds naturally ventilated and climate-appropriate buildings to cut carbon emissions (and costs). The University of Leeds spinout has received five large innovation grants so far, worth £1.04m in total. This includes a £650k Innovate UK award to develop and manufacture FreeCool+, new technology that could provide a lower-cost and zero-energy alternative to traditional air conditioning systems. 

The Yorkshire-based cleantech company also took part in Entrepreneur Accelerator between 2018 and 2019. The programme supports UK startups and scaleups, from multiple hubs across the country, and is the successor to the Entrepreneurial Spark programme. Managed by NatWest in England, Wales and Scotland, and by Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, it is one of the top corporate accelerators in the UK by size and growth.

Sector:
e-Health

Location:
Tayside

Number of
high-growth
triggers hit:

4

MyWay Digital Health

eHealth company MyWay Digital Health was founded in 2017 and is based in Tayside. It develops a self-management website for people who are aiming to improve health outcomes, based on information about their personal health. Originally named MyWayDiabetes, the company’s platforms are now being developed to manage a variety of other chronic diseases.

MyWay has attended more accelerator programmes than any other company on this list of high-growth firms: the NHS Innovation Accelerator, Post-Covid AI Accelerator, Entrepreneur Accelerator, Unlocking Ambition, and DigitalHealth.London Accelerator. As the name suggests, the Post-Covid AI Accelerator was launched to drive economic growth and recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on data-driven AI scaleupsMyWay was selected for its solutions for end-to-end diabetes management.

The company is also a University of Dundee spinout and has secured growth capital from numerous alternative funding sources. In 2017, it secured a £40k debt investment from Scottish EDGE, which runs a competition to identify and support Scotland’s high-growth entrepreneurial talent. Alongside this, MyWay has received eight large innovation grants, totalling £2.29m. 

Sector:
Cleantech

Location:
West Midlands

Number of
high-growth
triggers hit:

3

Vivarail

Vivarail is another environmentally sustainable company in this list of high-growth, successful companies that are innovating without equity finance. It manufactures the UK’s only battery and battery-hybrid trains, providing emissions-free travel and reducing the need for diesel with renewable-charging batteries. Vivarail’s innovative technology was showcased at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in 2021, ahead of its launch to the global market. Most recently, in February 2022, Great Western Railway agreed to trial Vivarail’s battery-only train and battery-charging technology on one of their lines in West London.

 

Based in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, Vivarail is a 20% scaleup company. In 2018, received an Innovate UK grant worth £430k, to accelerate innovation in noven battery technologies. Then, in June 2020, it also secured a £1.5m debt round with MEIF (Midlands Engine Investment Fund) Maven Debt Finance. This loan allowed Vivarail to relocate in order to scale up operations and expand its workforce.

Sector:
Edtech

Location:
Yorkshire & The Humber

Number of
high-growth
triggers hit:

4

Glean

Growth-stage company Glean (also trading as Sonocent) develops technology for students to aid their learning, such as its Sonocent Audio Notetaker, which allows users to capture speech as text. Developed as a way to aid learners with dyslexia, Glean’s solutions allow for inclusivity in education. The Leeds-based edtech business was founded in 2007.

In 2019, the 20% scaleup won an Innovate UK Smart Grant for its pitch to rethink the modern classroom. These smart grants are aimed at SMEs (micro, small or medium-sized enterprises). Meanwhile, in 2022, Glean entered Tech Nation’s Upscale accelerator programme, which supports the UK’s fastest-scaling tech companies. Glean has also been featured on GP Bullhound’s Northern Tech 100 high-growth list, consecutively from 2017 to 2021, as well as the FT 1000 and Deloitte Fast 50 rankings of high-growth businesses.

Sector:
Advertising and branding services

Location:
London

Number of
high-growth
triggers hit:

3

Transmission

London-based Transmission is a global B2B (business to business) agency which specialises in digital marketing for technology companies. As well as content marketing, Transmission works on web development and search engine optimisation. It’s also the company with the highest number of employees on this list, and is looking to expand further. 

The company is a 20% scaleup and, in 2018, joined London & Partners’ Business Growth Programme, an accelerator for London-based SMEs with turnover between £500k and £40m. Transmission has also featured on the Fast Track 100 high-growth list, which ranks private companies with the fastest-growing sales, and the FT 1000 ranking of Europe’s fastest-growing companies (in 2019 and 2020 for both). In 2018, it also appeared on LinkedIn’s Top Startups in the UK.

Sector:
IT consultancy services

Location:
Yorkshire & The Humber

Number of
high-growth
triggers hit:

3

The Data Shed

Last but not least is Leeds-based The Data Shed. Founded in 2013, The Data Shed provides a range of digital design and consultancy services. The company’s co-founders have combined tech, marketing and commercial skills, along with common sense, to create “value-first” data solutions to meet the needs of their clients.

As well as being a 20% scaleup, The Data Shed has taken part in the PwC Scale Programme, a tailored accelerator for companies approaching Series A or beyond, with validated products, finance, and scalability. The company has also proved its growth potential by being featured on a number of high-growth lists: the revenue growth-based Northern Tech 100 (in 2021 and 2020) and 100 SmartTech Innovators (in 2020).

More leads, more clients, less churn.

Get access to unrivalled data on all the companies and funds you need to know about, so you can approach the right leads, at the right time.

Book a 40 minute demo today to see the key features of the Beauhurst platform, as well as the depth and breadth of data available.

An associate will work with you to build a sophisticated search, returning a dynamic list of organisations matching your ideal client profile.

“It’s taken us an eternity to find the same companies that Beauhurst listed in just minutes!”

Sign up today to get a free demo where you can access the platform.

We’ll help you navigate the platform, so you can:

Everything will be customised around your business and needs, so you can explore relevant data and get the most out of the platform.

Did you know? Beauhurst is the only provider of unannounced fundraisings data—which account for 70% of all fundraisings. Don’t miss out! Sign up now.

Enter your info now to try Beauhurst:

Beauhurst is a single source of truth on the UK’s high-growth economy – it truly is our guiding light in finding the right businesses to approach.

Propel.svg
BGF.svg
BGF.svg