Has the recession been good for fast growth technology companies?

Interesting insights into the world of fast growth technology companies from research into previous winners of the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards over the past decade. This is one of the only global competitions to use hard numbers to rank technology companies and is celebrating its tenth year in 2010.

The UK always features very highly in the European rankings of the 500 fastest growing technology companies in Europe and so can perhaps be used as a bellwether for European technology companies more generally. What really struck me about this survey was the difference in attitudes between the entrants into the 2008 awards (going into a global recession) and the 2009 awards (right in the thick of it).

Impact of the Recession

  • The survey of 2008 entrants revealed that only 3% of them expected the recession to have a significant negative effect on their business.
  • In 2009, 14% of the entrants expected the recession to have a significant negative effect on their business.

This is a significant change but was counter-balanced by a far more interesting response.

  • In 2008, not a single company reported that it expected the recession to have a positive effect on their business.
  • In 2009, 18% reported that the recession had had a positive effect on their business.

Apart from showing that CEOs and founders were as spooked by the markets as much as investors were as the recession started, we wondered what was going on here. I would be interested in other opinions and views.

The fastest growing technology businesses, (a proxy for best run?), seem to have employed a combination of these issues in their organisations to profit from the downturn.

  • The internet as both a cost saver and a way of extending the geographical reach of a business. (Duh!). As many of the companies in the Fast 50 are Internet businesses, this factor is magnified.
  • Outsourcing and streamlining activities, especially back office functions, as a cost cutting measure.
  • More marketing. Many businesses actually spent more time, not necessarily more money, on marketing during this period. This meant that they were able to focus on cleaner customer propositions and make their marketing spend go further as the competition for marketing spend intensified.
  • Lower capital requirements Many CEOs recognised that raising capital was going to be very hard very early on. They adjusted their plans accordingly, got their heads down and didn’t waste time looking for sources of capital that weren’t there. Others didn’t, got hugely frustrated and were not running their businesses.
  • Excuse to Spring Clean Almost no business can claim to be running completely efficiently. The arrival of the recession gave many the opportunity to take a hard look at their staffing levels, activities – core and non-core, pet projects and make a whole bunch of hard decisions all in one go.

We would be interested to hear of the experience of others.

If you would like to enter the Deloitte Fast 50 awards, you don’t have long to do so. Closing deadline is 17th September. More information at http://www.fast50.co.uk

Download the Deloitte Fast 50 Survey here: Deloitte Tech Fast 50 Decade in Review

Here are the UK winners for the past 10 years:

  • 2000, Phytopharm
  • 2001, Sourcing Partnerships
  • 2002, Cambridge Display Technology
  • 2003, Active Hotels Ltd
  • 2004, Lastminute.com
  • 2005, Trigold
  • 2006, MX Telecom
  • 2007, ByBox Holdings
  • 2008, Thunderhead
  • 2009, Distribution Technology
  • 2010, ???????