The Analysis: London Top 20 Fastest-Growing Companies


The Top 20 spans family-run industry stalwarts and technology superstars, West End musical masterminds and asset managers. What does the cross-section say about London?

Read the full results of the London Top 20 Fastest-Growing Companies

The thing about London businesses is that they’re not really London businesses. Companies base themselves in the city because they want to be bigger, better and faster-growing than firms elsewhere in the UK and beyond.

London thinks globally. So do the members of our Top 20, many of which operate internationally. Prizeflex and Double Helix Bio-Technology depend on markets as diverse as Nigeria, Dubai and Europe. Fixnetix has offices on both sides of the Atlantic. Bodystretch has manufacturing units in Bulgaria and Bangladesh. Avantage Reply has offices in Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Brussels and Edinburgh as well as its London HQ.

London is where the talent is, where the money is, where the creative minds are – where entrepreneurs sprout out of every winding passageway from Camden to Coulsdon.

London is a complex ecosphere of very different industries that co-exist harmoniously. Tech, finance, the creative industries, art, construction, West End entertainment, tourism and professional services – some of London’s most defining assets – are all represented in this list.

Business biodiversity is one of London’s greatest strengths. The thinking of different industries rubs off on each other. London produces agile industry hybrids. And so we find in our Top 20 the likes of Ixaris Systems, which straddles finance and tech with its online payments products. Fixnetix creates financial trading technology. There’s Moo Print, a regular favourite among London’s tech crowd as well as its creative scene because of its innovative digital approach to funky customisable business cards and stationery.

London’s tech scene is often pooh-poohed as the weedy little sister to Cambridge’s Silicon Fen – and, worse yet, a pale imitation of Silicon Valley. Yet tech has a strong presence on the list, with numbers five, seven, nine, 10, 14, 15 and 17 all having a strong digital leaning.

Good old-fashioned trading of products still has its place in our capital, though. Prizeflex, our number two, has excelled by wholesaling clothes, jute and mobile phones. “You just buy something and sell it a bit higher,” director Nishel Surana told us. Family-run private art dealership Thomas Gibson Fine Art considers itself a trading company, too – “we just trade in pictures,” as Thomas’s son Hugh explained, casually referencing the Monets, Picassos and Giacommetis it handles.

The Top 20 are also exploiting niches. The London Linen Supply has flourished by providing linen to restaurants. FirstCare provides 24-hour health advice and “absence leave management” to public and private clients, including the NHS and Coca-Cola. Montanaro Asset Management believes its team of 24 is the UK’s largest dedicated to researching and investing in European small cap equities.

Our smallest Top 20 company has only three employees, the largest more than 300. Turnovers range from £5m to almost £105m. One company manages £4bn in clients’ funds, another was bought by uSwitch.com in the weeks since our list was first compiled.

What binds them all is growth. Interestingly, many of the fastest-growing private companies have grown organically. A couple brought in VCs, though bank loans have for the most part been shunned in favour of investors, credit cards, personal savings and friends and family.

Our number one company, MJ Media, decided a few years ago to increase its annual overheads by £300,000 in a mission to increase turnover. Firstcare also structures growth, with the goal of increasing its client list from 120,000 to 500,000 in the next year. Others have simply got their heads down and watched the sales increase in a less controlled way.

Each company story is different, and we hope you enjoy reading about how each of the Top 20 has grown and evolved. As a collective, these companies prove that London is home to a hugely diverse business community, full of opportunities in established sectors, fledgling markets and niches.

The city is leaning towards technology, but has not left behind any of the other industries that make it an attractive place to do business. Whether you’re a West End musical producer or a risk management and compliance consultancy, as two of the Top 20 are, London is still the city for growth.

Read the full results of the London Top 20 Fastest-Growing Companies