Meet the Young Guns Class of 2013

Who made the elite list of entrepreneurs aged 35 or under this year? Read on to find out more about our latest Young Guns

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  • Ian Wallis

Superlative – that’s a good word for the Young Guns Class of 2013. And you’d run out of them trying to describe their soon-to-be fabled achievements.

Each year we challenge ourselves to come up with 30 companies that have excelled or show as much precocious promise as the last. And every year it seems an impossible task.

Surely the UK’s production line of highly gifted and talented young entrepreneurs can’t be turning out more to compare with what’s gone before. That well of success must be close to running dry.

Thankfully, it isn’t.

This year’s Young Guns – and there were 50 qualifying co-founders from the 30 chosen companies – boast average annual revenues of £7.2m despite the tender years of many of the businesses.

They employ an unnervingly round-numbered 1,000 (and that’s a genuine stat, although sure to be rising). And, on average, they are 30.3 years old, falling comfortably under the cut-off age of 35.

Evidence that it’s not just us who have recognised their aptitude can be found in the fact that 16 of the Class of 2013 have raised angel or venture capital funding totalling £42.8m – or an average of £2.7m per business.

As impressive – if not more so in terms of retention of valuable equity in a fast-growth company – 14 companies are self-funded.

When we say ‘talent’, we’re not talking reality TV garbage here – and Growing Business enjoys a dose of mindless television as much as the next publication.

What we’re talking about is indisputably important, value-creating, employment-generating, hard-working talent.

You could convincingly argue that One Direction has produced huge amounts of value for the UK, generated jobs for a swollen entourage, and no doubt put in lots of hard work performing a songsmith’s lyrics night after night.

Yet, there’s nothing manufactured-by-others about this group. Whether you like the term gazelles, have heard the phrase ‘engine room of the economy’ one too many times, or are wary about the Emperor’s new clothes approach to lauding Tech City’s next big thing, there’s real substance in this list.

Which was why we were so delighted to host them within the very exclusive confines of Kensington Roof Gardens. And why we hired top celebrity photographer Joel Anderson (check out his showreel here) to photograph them.

Finding the best of the best

Supported by accountancy firm haysmacintyre and legal firm Keystone Law, we hand-picked our 30 companies after sifting through some excellent entries, piles of newspaper cuttings, investor portfolios, and Companies House records.

We desired a group that represents British business at its very best – peers of an illustrious alumni, who conservatively employ tens of thousands.

If there was a tinge of disappointment it was that only five female co-founders were among our 50 and that geographically London dominated with 26 of the 30 companies – Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northants and Devon added regional flavour. Ultimately, gender and location were secondary considerations to success.

Of the 27 companies that shared their financials, pre-tax profits for the most recent financial year averaged £449,000. Given a handful of the businesses qualified on the grounds of funds raised rather than the turnover threshold, this makes the figures all the more impressive. And these are all companies that are investing heavily in growth.

The founders have managed to retain an average of 68% equity between them too, meaning that even with 16 companies having raised finance, the overall dilution remains more than sensible. One, Summly’s 17-year-old Nick D’Aloisio, has already sold his business – to Yahoo! for a reported $30m.

And if you’re looking for growth, which we were, it’s gratifying to see that the £7.2m average turnover is projected to rise to £10.6m next year.

An eclectic bunch

Finally, if you’re looking for diversity, look no further. Yes, all of the businesses are online, although not all deliver their services via the web. And yes, the service sector outnumbered products. This merely reflects wider business trends.

For tangible brands though you’ll find luxury organic beauty products, a shoulder bag innovation to stop straps slipping, an ethical farm/bistro, guilt-free soft drinks, a fast-rising fashion designer, home security technology, and a company behind revolutionary fitnesswear fabric technology. 

You’ll find three finance platforms for business in among our list, all of which have very unique aspects. There are four technologies developed for the advertising industry. Two of the Class of 2013 are niche recruitment firms.

There’s a tutoring service, a ‘LinkedIn for fundraisers’, services to deliver great food, save you money on consumer products, play the music you love (a ‘YouTube for radio’), a social network for property, and highly successful golf and spa bookings business.

We’ve got media and creative companies such as those managing young bands, the UK’s largest animation studio, and a design consultancy. And then there are mobile technologies and a telco.

What more could you ask for? Well, we got over-excited and decided to name five more, who we hope will form the basis of our Class of 2014. And there’s more brilliance there too. Superlative? Yes, go see for yourself!

Ian Wallis

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