2018 was such a wonderful year; the small business community did so many incredible things, and quite a few SMEs had a massive growth spurt.
So we thought this would be the perfect moment to take a little pause and reflect on some of the fastest growing startups of the last year and to ask them if they have any top tips or plans for 2019!
Now, let's meet our 3 incredible small businesses that made massive waves last year – and will likely be doing the same again this year!
Who were 2018's fastest growing startups?
In no particular order, here are our 3 fastest growing startups of 2018…
Riham Satti | MeVitae
MeVitae leverages data-driven cognitive solutions to solve the world’s most significant employment challenges, from increasing workplace diversity to people analytics with the vision of unleashing human potential, via a combination of autonomous augmented intelligence (IA) technologies. Their latest service is aimed at shortlisting top diverse talent for companies.
We first asked founder Riham Satti what inspired her to take the leap in the first place. ‘I had my life set; I was going into academia, contributing to science – study for a PhD and then become a neuroscience professor.’ She goes on to say from the start she was determined nothing would change it until she opened her mouth with an idea. The idea of MeVitae came from a conversation that she had with her now co-founder and CTO, Vivek Doraiswamy, where they ended up building the leading CV app to get Vivek a job at Microsoft.
The app then received >50k downloads in a few weeks, increasing 60–70 a day, usage of 30 minutes per user per day and ranked the top Windows Store App without any marketing... which is just incredible!
Shortly after, they started researching the human resource (HR) market and came to the conclusion that it was fragmented beyond belief, and that was the start of MeVitae in 2014. Still, she maintains that it was just a happy accident!
Anna Rasmussen | Open Blend
Open Blend is a people platform specifically for people managers, guiding them to have coaching conversations with their talent that actively support all aspects of the individual’s development journey, ensuring they engage in effective, meaningful and regular one-to-ones that accelerate performance for the whole team.
The modern workforce is demanding more from their employers, and a staggering 80% of employees see managers as the solution. The pressure on managers to be able to effectively and sustainably engage their people is huge and is increasing.
With 15 years of experience as an executive leadership coach to enterprise organisations, Anna is a well-respected specialist in leadership coaching.
And it was while coaching that Anna really started considering the notion of work-life balance. She was struck by how negative it felt and intuitively knew there was a better way to look at it.
The concept of Open Blend was born, Anna tested the concept with women she was coaching at the time and the impact was game changing. It became obvious very quickly that the conversations she was having in her coaching sessions should be happening between them and their managers. Open Blend was transformed from a scribble on a napkin to a multi-layered experience, and Anna as a coach now finds herself as the CEO of a software company.
Suzie | The Primal Pantry
Last, but by no means least, we have Suzie from The Primary Pantry.
They’re on a mission to get people making better food choices. They do this by providing a range of great-tasting, award-winning snack and protein bars.
Suzie was inspired to set up The Primal Pantry, whilst practising nutrition. She was working with clients, using the Paleo diet and lifestyle, and they really struggled to find great-tasting convenient snacks – so, in the summer of 2013, she got the blender out, grabbed some fruit and nuts, made some energy balls and then gave them to her clients to try.
The recipes were a success, and they’ve now launched them into supermarkets and high streets nationwide.
How to grow a company fast
We asked Riham what her and her incredible business had been up to during the last year, and you wouldn’t believe how much stuff they have achieved – well you might, actually, as they are in our fastest growing startup blog!
The biggest milestones for MeVitae were:
- Raising their investment round, which was led by Startup Funding Club. Others participating include Force Over Mass, VGC Partners, and the London Co-Investment Fund (launched by the Deputy Mayor of London).
- Dhiraj Mukherjee, (co-founder of Shazam), Simon Samuel (search and recruitment executive), and Geoff Hughes (Microsoft director and Honorary Research Associate at UCL) have also invested and joined the MeVitae board.
- Scaling the team up and hiring two scientists, Nathan Part (algorithm development manager) and Nathan Lamplough (algorithm developer). In fact, they’re hiring a business developer now too, and it sounds like the most incredible job!
- MeVitae is now in more enterprise companies all with the aim of increasing diversity and inclusion in the workforce, which is such an important message to be spreading at the moment.
Next, we asked Riham what her top tips would be for growing a company so fast, and we suggest you get a pen and piece of paper for this next bit!
She speaks first of how there are so many she wouldn’t know where to begin, but the 4 main things that she would have done differently and advice would be:
1. Focus on sales – It’s a no-brainer really; as to run your business, you must be able to sell. When first jumping into the business world, Riham was very introverted and shy talking to ‘strangers’. Networking wasn’t one of her strong points. But, for many, entrepreneurship is stepping out of your comfort zone – and so she really had to build up her confidence and just get out of there. As a result, she developed as a person and her business started growing, all by simply talking more to prospective clients or partnerships.
2. Stay dedicated & motivated – Riham advises that you should always remain dedicated and put 100% into your startup. She adds that it’s important to surround yourself with people that motivate you And to have mentors that believe in you and what you stand for.
3. Take a lean approach – According to Riham, the problem with being a scientist/engineer is that you become very detailed orientated as you’re trying to make sure that all your experiments run well – but in entrepreneurship, you need to use a lean approach; build quickly, release faster and modify as you go along repeating the cycle.
4. Just do it – Lastly, she simply said ‘Do not overthink! which we 100% agree with!
We then asked Anna what she and her team have been up to in the last year – and, very similar to Riham, they’ve been very busy!
In 2018, Open Blend saw massive growth, with a 105% increase in revenue, doubling the size of the team and winning leading organisations as clients, including Depop, Avios, and M&C Saatchi.
2018 also saw Open Blend successfully raising their biggest round of investment from a group of angel investors who add a huge amount of value to the business and their continued growth. With a fantastic rebrand and a new website, the company are firmly moving into the next stage.
It’s pen and paper time again, everyone! We then asked Anna what top tips she wished she had known when she first started Open Blend and the answers were fab!
- Get the right people in the right seats
- Take advice
- Hire people who are better than you
- Face the fear – enjoy the ride – dream big
Suzie also had some wonderful tips that we just had to share with you all!
‘Have a great product (with a clear product-market fit), a brand that consumers love and some cash in the bank to be able to tell as many people about it as possible.’
It’s also important to look at the thing that has gone wrong and been difficult – sadly the path isn't always smooth. She says how running out of cash, finding the right people to ensure they have a great team and the influx of competition that has appeared in the last 2 years have been their main challenges.
We also asked what she believes 2019 holds for The Primary Pantry, and she said, ‘Continue to grow, we have some exciting new customers that have just come on board and have just launched a new range of multipacks, which are really exciting.’
What are the challenges of fast company growth?
‘The main one is perfecting the product-market fit.’ Riham explains.
She describes how there’s a funny stage between being a startup and scaling, and this is the perfect time to experiment and try new things to ensure that you build a lasting scalable business that solves a pain point for clients. It’s all about talking to as many clients as possible and listening to the market (and its needs).
Lastly, we asked Riham what she believes 2019 holds for her and her business, and she told us she plans to ‘continue growing and scaling to help innovate the HR market.’
When speaking about the challenges she faced when first starting out, Anna added, ‘I love advice now I’m here. But I’m extremely glad that at the beginning no one tried to tell me what to expect – I’m experiencing this as my journey, not having expectations of someone else’s. No two journeys are the same.’. This is so important to remember – though we can plan and prepare, there will always be bumps... and, though others may have been through them too, they can be extremely exclusive to each business.
Lastly, we asked Anna what 2019 will hold for Open Blend. She shared that she hopes the business will double in size and by the end of the year will have doubled its revenue... which is a pretty good plan to have!
We then asked Suzie what, as a team, they’d been up to over the last year. ‘We carried out another funding round last year, which will allow us to grow the business further.’ She goes on to explain how the market has been challenging over the last 18 months – from one side, there are a lot of new players making their category very saturated and on the other hand, consumer confidence is at its lowest level, which makes it challenging for everyone involved.
Thanks so much to everyone who got involved with this blog! It’s been so wonderful getting an insight into your journeys, and to hear your top tips so that we can follow in your footsteps! And we’re already so excited to see what you get up to over the next year :)