Three companies show what’s fuelling disruption and invention

So you’ve got a great idea to disrupt complacent industry giants or you’re inventing products and solutions that consumers will crave.

It’s about offering something fresh and appealing to consumers and businesses. Opening up choice, driving down prices.

And when it comes to UK talent, their grit hasn’t gone unnoticed. Business Secretary Greg Clark launched a new £900 million investment in the UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship Scheme in June.

For sure the UK is a powerhouse of innovation, but how do they do it?

This week, the 100 Stories of Growth campaign is focusing on three of the many inspiring companies that we’ve been featuring. We believe they are great disruptors, inventors and innovators. Here’s why.


Smarkets is shaking up online betting

Online betting platform Smarkets continues to disrupt the market by undercutting competitors’ rates thanks to its proprietary technology.

If fact, its tech is driving its goal of cutting “margins to as close to 0% as possible, offering customers the fairest price”, says lead team member Marco Bilello.

While the first few years started slow and steady for Smarkets, after the 2014 World Cup year the company scored big time.

Since then, Smarkets has handled over £5bn worth of transactions on its peer-to-peer betting platform. But it goes to show that success can be achieved with limited external financial capital.

Compared with other tech companies, we’ve received almost no investment. We’re an anomaly, a true bootstrap business.

Smarkets has secured £3.5m in funds, using this capital towards recruiting top-notch engineers from companies such as Facebook, Google and Goldman Sachs.

Most recent figures for 2016 showed a turnover of £25.4m with a profit increase of 160% to £13.7m. And it’s not all about tech as its headcount has grown from five in 2010 to 109. [Read the Smarkets story]


Cafepod mixes a perfect blend to take on coffee giant

Energised by his passion for a great cup of coffee, co-founder Brent Hadfield seized the opportunity to tap into the lucrative coffee capsules industry in the UK. First up was finding the right blend of support.

As Nespresso’s patent was coming to an end Cafepod won a crucial vote of approval from friends and family in 2012 to secure vital start-up capital.

At that point we basically knew nothing about coffee, marketing, branding or distribution — we just drank a lot of coffee.

With the support of its coffee producer Lincoln & York, the company gained “all the external skills and resources” needed to thrive.

Today, Cafepod has sold over 600,000 kilos of coffee through all major UK retailers, notching up an impressive 25,000 distribution points across the UK. All with a team 18 staff in London.

Cafepod added cream to its success by attracting high-net-worth investors who collectively provided £5.2m of equity capital, thanks to support from the Enterprise Investment Scheme. [Read the Cafepod story]


Matrix APA’s A-grade team is the mother of invention

Founder and CEO Charlie Bradshaw was convinced that it was all about ideas and design that drove success for his product design and manufacturing business.

He’d started the business at 19 and was going great guns 10 years in. But he had a eureka moment about his team when he went on a Cranfield University founders programme.

For many years I’d believed the most important part of my business was how we created products, but then I discovered that it was nothing to do with the product but everything to do with the people.

Overnight, he convinced his wife to quit her HR role at Accenture and join him as his talent director. They then set out to build a team of A-graders.

Matrix APA looks for four non-skills-based competencies – drive, curiosity, relationships and ownership – in anyone who’s in the team.

“These are the four core values that guide how I run the business,” Bradshaw says.

It’s great human capital that drives inventions and product design today. Matrix APA has achieved a compound sales growth of 80%, yielding a turnover of £20m, with a headcount of 120. [Read the Matrix APA story]


Join the 100 Stories of Growth campaign as we continue to explore how fast-growth companies are using financial, human, intellectual and emotional capital to successfully scale.
Follow us on Twitter to be the first to find out new and inspiring stories @100stories