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Michael Hayman MBE: Leap 100 companies have shown how much can be achieved in just two years

This article first appeared in City A.M. on the 15th March 2017

We’re living in an unprecedented time of change. Technology is accelerating at breakneck pace, changing the way we work, creating new industries and, with them, new opportunities for ambitious British businesses.

The UK is becoming an increasingly fertile nesting ground for new technology. According to London & Partners, the UK tech sector drew more investment than any other European country in 2016, having attracted £6.7bn.

Sir James Dyson revealed plans to build a 500-acre campus dedicated to artificial intelligence and robotics in the Cotswolds. Something of a rallying cry for Britain’s engineers and scientists to take on US giants, Google and Facebook.

Meanwhile, London Tech Week is on the horizon and promises to be an action-packed showcase of British tech talent and creativity – attracting attendees and speakers from upwards of 70 countries.

Speaking to a Shoreditch audience in his final throes as chancellor, George Osborne claimed that well over half of the businesses that will make up the S&P 500 in 10 years’ time do not exist yet. And indeed, who would have predicted the boom in new sectors like fintech and the sharing economy 10 years ago?

Consider this. Monzo Bank raised £1m in the space of just 96 seconds in its crowdfunding round. In two short years its users have spent more than £20m in over 130 countries. It has even found time for a re-brand. Business is moving fast and we’ve all got to keep up.

With the appetite for innovative British companies strong, the stage is set for The Leap 100, a list of Britain’s fast-growing new businesses. Over the past two years, the list has contained many examples of companies forging ahead in new sectors. Darktrace is leading the way in next gen cyber security, Deliveroo is flying the flag for the gig economy and Decoded is on the frontline, skilling us up so nobody gets left behind.

Making a difference is another common thread of the businesses that make up The Leap 100. With political uncertainty abounding, consumers are starting to demand more of business – looking to them to do the right thing and show a purpose beyond profit.

The 2016 list of firms includes the likes of Playmob, which helps charities to monetise the gaming industry. There’s also Pact, the coffee company with ethical, direct trade with farmers at its very heart. Or M Squared, whose innovative technology is supporting scientists in their quest to solve some of the world’s big problems. All are shining examples of how technology can be harnessed for the good of society.

As we head further into 2017, we look forward to welcoming the new Leap cohort of bright, young businesses. All no doubt on course to innovate, inspire and achieve great things in a short space of time.

Bill Gates famously said we often overestimate what can be done in two years but underestimate what can be done in 10. But maybe the sage of Microsoft called that one wrong. If the evidence of the last two years is anything to go by, we need to hold onto our seats.

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