The Startups 20 Winners

Over the last two decades, our Startups 20 winners have shaped, disrupted, and transformed both their sectors and the UK economy

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Bryn Glover - Startups is 20-years-old this year. And in the last 20 years, we’ve seen the UK’s business landscape change a lot: from the start of the new millennium to the global financial crash in 2008, on to the new challenge of COVID-19 in 2020.

We still don’t know what eventual impact the recession caused by the coronavirus will have on UK business, but we do know that the last crash introduced new ways of working and new businesses that went on to become world-leading brands.

From the gig economy through to app-led products and services, businesses have transformed how the world works over the last 20 years. With coronavirus rocking the foundations once more, who knows what new innovations will shape the next 20.

And at a time when the business landscape looks bleak, these 20 businesses testify to the endurance of great ideas. They’re no strangers to hardship themselves and, as you’ll see, each story of success is equally inspiring and equally unique.

We’ve featured thousands of great businesses over the years – from our annual Startups 100 campaign to our Young Guns awards – and many deserve a place in this list.

But the Startups 20 is a chance for us to recognise and celebrate the most successful, the most disruptive, and the most inspiring of those businesses.

The Startups 20

The criteria for the Startups 20 was simple. First, we identified every one of the UK businesses founded in or since 2000 that we had featured on the site over the last 20 years.

Next, we reviewed this list of thousands of businesses to sort the wheat from the chaff. Only high calibre businesses stood a chance of making it onto our longlist.

From there commenced the gruelling process of choosing just 20 businesses from among hundreds.

It was tough, and many amazing companies didn’t quite make the final cut. But in the end, we’re sure we’ve chosen the businesses that have really shaped, defined and disrupted their sectors, and that represent major change in the UK startup scene at large.

So without further ado, here’s our list of the top 20 startups of the last 20 years.

JustGivingZarine Kharas, Anne-Marie Huby2000
MumsnetJustine Roberts, Carolyn Longton2000
ZopaRichard Duvall, Tim Parlett, Giles Andrews, James Alexander, David Nicholson2005
Ella's KitchenPaul Lindley2006
GoCompareHayley Parsons, Lee Griffin2006
Not On The High StreetHolly Tucker2006
BrewdogJames Watt, Martin Dickie2007
Levi Roots Reggae Reggae FoodsLevi Roots2007
ZooplaAlex Chesterman, Simon Kain2008
Crowdcube/SeedrsLuke Lang, Darren Westlake, Jeff Lynn2009
TransferwiseKristo Käärmann, Taavet Hinrikus2010
DeliverooWill Shu, Greg Orlowski2012
GymsharkBen Francis, Lewis Morgan2012
Pip & NutPippa Murray2013
Tails.comJames Davidson, Graham Bosher2013
What3WordsChris Sheldrick, Jack Waley-Cohen, Mohan Ganesalingam, Michael Dent2013
Mindful ChefMyles Hopper, Giles Humphries, Robert Greig-Gran2014
Starling BankAnne Boden2014
BulbHayden Wood, Amit Gudka2015
CazooAlex Chesterman2018

Written by:
Bryn Glover - Startups
Bryn Glover has been Editor of since 2017. Running the site's content strategy, Bryn spends a lot of time speaking to entrepreneurs and preparing for Startups' annual editorial campaigns. Having worked in journalism for just under a decade, Bryn wrote for sites like The Times, Reader's Digest, Independent and Times Higher Education before moving into the small business world.
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