Future Fifty, Tech Nation’s growth programme for late-stage digital tech companies, includes 15 of the UK’s 72 ‘unicorns’ (those valued at $1bn or more). From Monzo and Revolut to Deliveroo, Just Eat and Zoopla, the programme boasts a glittering list of alumni companies that’s recognised throughout the UK.
Now welcoming applications for its eighth cohort, Future Fifty continues to lead through its ability to raise company profile, facilitate peer-learning through masterclass workshops, and connect founders with the UK Government. It adds 25 ambitious companies each year and runs for approximately two years.
Parveen Dhanda, Head of Growth Programmes at Tech Nation, has seen first-hand how competition for places has increased since its inception in 2013.
“Future Fifty has become synonymous with profiling raising, growth and success – and people want to be part of that,” Parveen says. “They want the accolade of being recognised as a Future Fifty company. As the quality of applications has increased over time, we look for founders who demonstrate passion – not just for their company, but for their sector and UK tech as a whole.”
Founded in 2011, crowdfunding platform Crowdcube has been around even longer than Future Fifty and was accepted onto the programme in 2017. Co-founder Luke Lang was attracted to the programme’s ethos of connecting like-minded and ambitious late-stage entrepreneurs.
“It felt like there was a prestige in being named on Future Fifty, which only a particular type of business gets on,” he says. “It gave us that extra bit of credibility which builds trust with people and recognises success.”
Ironically, Crowdcube went on to support Monzo and Revolut, which joined Future Fifty’s most recent cohort, in crowdfunding their way to unicorn status. Adzuna, Carwow, Festicket and Thread are further examples of companies supported by both Crowdcube and Tech Nation, and Luke believes that the two institutions attract a particular type of founder.
“They tend to have big ideas, new ways of thinking and challenging the status-quo, and a vision for the future – including how to leave their mark on the world.”
Series B+ funding stage
OR If revenue focused, generating annual revenues over £5m
Future Fifty isn’t purely about company founders, either. It is designed to serve members of a company’s C-suite, who can pick and choose which sessions to attend based on theme and business function. This worked for Midlands-based travel tech company Click Travel, which derived value from two particular events.
“Our Operations Director attended one of Future Fifty’s networking events, and it was really comforting for him to know that some of the challenges we are facing at Click were very similar to other companies who were there,” says CEO Gill Palmer. “It was useful for making contacts too – our Director of Engineering needed a supplier for penetration testing and other app development work, and we found them through Future Fifty.”
As every founder knows, in every new contact lies a potential opportunity. Based in Sheffield – The Floow, whose telematics data tech is used by insurers such as Direct Line – made the most of its spot on Future Fifty to discuss opportunities related to improving road safety with members of the UK Government.
“Future Fifty was very useful for us as we got onto panels ran by DCMS (the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport) regarding the industrial strategy and future of the tech sector,” he says. “We also went to Number 10 and chatted to a lot of people, and those connections were fundamental for us to expand our business. It also cast a lens over Sheffield which wasn’t there before.”
Though its sessions are based in London, Future Fifty’s reach is UK-wide and its cohort members have the opportunity to connect with Tech Nation’s 11 Entrepreneur Engagement Managers, which are plugged into a national network. This has proved of particular benefit to London-based founders such as Seema Desai, COO of small business finance lender Iwoca, who was considering opening an office outside of the capital when on the programme.
“Parveen put us in touch with people in Tech Nation’s Entrepreneur Engagement and Data and Insights teams, who were super helpful,” says Seema. “We were applying for job creation grants at the time, and by connecting us with stakeholders they saved us having to go online and research the cost of office space and recruitment salaries for various regions.”
Before you apply…
Our Future Fifty judges outline seven key areas when judging applications:
Value proposition: Needing to demonstrate a unique value where customers have clearly benefitted from the products and services that they are delivering, but in a way that differentiates them from their competitors.
Competition position: The products or services that you provide should be easy to understand while being able to differentiate yourself from alternatives in the market.
Achievements to date: Judges prioritise numbers and scalability as an achievement statement of the business – not awards and accolades!
Performance and funding: Numbers are key for judging applicants – especially revenue numbers and profit, in addition to volume metrics underneath.
Job creation in the UK: Judges will consider the potential impact on the UK economy, as well as the total number of jobs created.
Potential for further scalability: This is about looking at how managers articulate the company’s vision. Judges may try to look at whether the managers are able to eloquently articulate and illustrate a graph of their business dynamics.
Should the company be in Future Fifty?: This is useful to establish how they might participate in the ecosystem if so admitted.
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