Scaleup data bonanza at Scaleup Institute Annual Review

On Tuesday 12th November 2019, The Scaleup Institute launched their fifth Annual Review. This report has been informed by the views of 509 scaleup* businesses, a group that completed the survey in Summer 2019 and are generating £5.6bn in turnover (seeking to grow this to £9.4bn in 2020). The company’s responses have been combined with datasets from HMRC, ONS and Beauhurst to create the biggest UK-focused, freely available resource about the scaleup community yet. The analysis provides us with insights, actionable recommendations and enough data to take us to another galaxy (I guess you had to be there to appreciate the Star Wars link).

Fun fact number 1: In 2017, 5.7million SMEs generated £1.9trn for the UK economy, Of this total, £1.3trn was contributed by 36,510 scaleups.

Yes, they are a pretty impressive and exciting bunch of businesses and they make up a significant proportion of the traditionally defined SME community. They are also hugely varied in size, age and sector with the Health/Social Work and Wholesale/Eetail being the largest sub-communities.

Fun fact number 2: A large proportion of scaleups have annual turnover of £1million-£5million, with one in five having turnover in excess of £10million

They are a productive community of businesses that are good corporate citizens (56% offer opportunities to young people like work experience and internships), are international (two thirds are involved in international trade) and productive (generating £328k turnover per employee).

Fun fact 3: Visible scaleups* won 2.2% of the public procurement awards issued in Jan-Dec 2018

So if you work in the public sector, think twice before doing business with the big corporate behemoths next time. In fact, close to home it was great to see the University of West of England celebrated as one of the ‘top six buyers’ from visible scaleups.

What about the West of England aka Bristol and Bath?

ONS data for 2017 shows that there are 725 scaleups in the West of England LEP: 260 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 610 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 145 are scaleups that are increasing both employment and turnover simultaneously.

I was really pleased to hear a few stories told about Bristol and Bath (the West of England) both in print and at the event. The Scaleup Safari organised in Summer 2019 had special mention - it was an experiment that brought a team of founders from other regions to Bath and Bristol for a day of conversation, collaboration and discovery. The group of c. 40 people visited some of the regions’ tech giants (Ultrahaptics, Graphcore and Rocketmakers), enjoyed roundtable discussions and an event on a boat with a panel of people with useful scaleup focused observations about the area. Hosted with great energy by Oli Barrett, the event was felt to be hugely valuable - in building relationships, sharing good practice and finding new customers for some too.

Briony’s favourite bits from the day:

The dream team of Irene Graham (CEO) and Sherry Coutu (outgoing Chair) opened the event with their annual high-speed run down of the key insights in the report and this year they took it a step further with a short animated video and some great starters analogies. There was a lot more content to look forward to during the morning session, not least some great quotes from key speakers:

‘What you measure, you treasure’ from Anne Glover, Amadeus Capital as she celebrated the depth of analysis available in the report. She went on to describe how we handicap our companies by not giving them the capital that they need - the time between investment rounds is 3x longer than the US and we offer a third of the capital than the States.

“There’s a higher degree of optimism and energy at events like these that I’m just not used to.” Jan Alexander, Chief Economist at Arup brought some levity and humour to his insights.

“Complicated is solvable, complex is not. The issues we’re dealing with are complex. Brexit has thrown a massive spanner in the works…it’s down to us to get the work done ourselves.” Wol Kolade - Founder Livingbridge

After an energetic and focused presentation from Deputy Mayor for London, Rajesh Agrawal, about their international export programme 'Go to Grow', Oli Barrett was keen to remind us that ‘other cities are available’ - a sentiment which I think we all share! Oli's usual fun, factual and friendly style kept us all focused and provided lots of opportunities to meet other likeminded scaleup peeps from across the country too.

What next?

I went away from the event reflecting on how it is quite extraordinary what a small group of people can achieve with a collective mission, relentless dedication and a collaborative and inclusive approach. However, there is always more work to do and the report lays out some specific recommendations for the next 12 months - the question is, will our region take them on and continue our pioneering work in this area? I certainly hope so - and intend to keep championing all things scaleup in my new role with Rocketmakers.

There are a lot more terrific insights in the document, I’d really encourage you to take a look (the full version is very browsable online) and let me know what you think our priorities should be:

Briony, author of this blog, is now Scaleup Lead at Rocketmakers where she continues to champion the needs and challenges experienced by scaling businesses in our region. If you have suggestions for initiatives that could help our region become the best place to scale a business (as well as to start one) please get in touch -

*According to the OECD, a scaleup is a company that has grown 20% or more for three consecutive years either in turnover or staff numbers. To qualify they will also need to have had 10 or more people at the start of the observation period. That said, there are different sub categories of scaleup - I like to think of them as:

  • Visible scaleups - meet the OECD definition and submit full accounts to companies house.
  • Invisible scaleups - meet the OECD definition but don’t submit full accounts
  • Aspiring scaleups - are growing quickly (20%+) but haven’t yet done so for 3 consecutive years.