Thames Valley: New awards recognise region’s fast-growing SMEs

The first Thames Valley SME 100 Growth Index event took place at wine merchant Laithwaite’s showroom in Theale, organised by The Business Magazine.

The evening combined wine tasting and the inaugural awards that recognised some of the Thames Valley’s high-achieving SMEs.

The newly launched Index is compiled by The Business Magazine and lists the region’s top 100 SMEs with turnover between £2 million and £12m that have grown significantly in the past year.

More than 40 guests attended from companies in the Index and from the Index sponsors – business advisers Wilson Partners and law firm Herrington Carmichael.

As well as tasting some of the company’s wines, guests heard Tom Laithwaite recount how his father built up the business by selling Bordeaux wine direct to the public from a railway arch lock-up in Windsor to become a global enterprise with 800,000 customers worldwide.

TV-SME-100-2019-Tom-Laithwaite
Tom Laithwaite

“We celebrate our 50th anniversary this year and are still wholly family owned,” he said. “Our ethos is doing things beautifully and making the right decisions for the right reasons.”

A Sunday Times exposé in 1972 of underhand practices by some wine merchants prompted Tony Laithwaite to write to the newspaper explaining that merchants like him sourced products directly from vineyards to offer customers genuine quality wines.

From this, the Sunday Times Wine Club was born and Laithwaite’s business took off. Today, it operates wine clubs in the UK, US and Australia, and owns vineyards in France, Australia and Windsor Great Park.

Good customer service ensures a loyal customer base. “Our wine advisers build close relationships with every customer so they can offer them wines they will want to buy based on their preferences,” said Tom Laithwaite.


THE AWARDS

Growth Award (under £9m turnover)

Finalists:

Redbox Mobile

E3D-Online

Validus Risk Management

Rotolight

And the winner is… Rotolight

Judges’ comments:

A family founded and run SME based at Pinewood, this SME has been a disruptor in lighting for the film and photographic industry. The company has averaged 68% growth over the last three years and having now raised over £5m in funding it is well equipped to continue to build its impressive business in both Europe and the US.

“It’s fantastic to be recognised as a pioneer in a region that is not only at the forefront of economic growth, but also home to a community that I’ve become heavily involved with. Driven by a passion for creativity we’ve worked hard to provide photographers and filmmakers with unique innovative products that allow them to realise their vision. We’ve gone from designing and building our lights on the kitchen table to shipping over 100,000 products to more than 40 countries worldwide in less than 10 years, and we’ve got even more in the pipeline.” Rod Aaron Gammons, CEO, Rotolight


Growth Award (over £9m turnover)

Finalists:

Dawcul

Constantine Wind Energy

Payen (formerly Trustpay Global)

Semafone

And the winner is…. Payen

Judges’ comments:

A company who since 2010 had the objective of making it easier to maximise eCommerce sales revenues and conversion rates by reducing the number of transactions that are abandoned at checkout. The technology is built in-house to world-class standards and it is scalable, secure and robust. They have invested significant resources to ensure the platform will support the biggest online businesses in the world.

“The team at Payen are delighted to have won this accolade. This is recognition of all the hard work and commitment from the team over the past number of years demonstrating that if you focus on delivering innovative and flexible services that meet your customers needs, you will be successful.” Sandy MacAngus, CEO, Payen


Growing the Workforce

Finalists:

Labcold

PRISYM ID

Virtualstock

Semafone

And the winner is…Semafone

Judges’ comments:

This company with 110 employees has maintained a family culture within leading edge facilities with a flexible approach to employment. It provides contact centres with secure voice transaction software. They work with universities to find their employees of the future. They believe their Guildford location allows them to recruit the very best of talent from the surrounding areas and beyond.

“People are absolutely vital to our business, particularly in the dynamics between departments. We have a range of people from a variety of backgrounds. Having the university here in Guildford means we take on a lot of graduates. As we grow from a small business our HR team is working on maintaining the family feel. One way we do that is the open door policy of the CEO and all our managers, so anyone can approach them.” Will Mehta, channel manager, Semafone


Best Management Team

Finalists:

E3D-Online

PRISYM ID

Active Workplace Solutions

Labcold

And the winner is… E3D-Online

Judges’ comments:

Based in Chalgrove, this management team is focused on building one of the UK’s leading technology businesses with not only a market leading product but its employees at the heart of its strategy. The judges felt that they demonstrated not only entrepreneurial vision and passion but also a very structured and strategic approach to growing their business and motivating their workforce. 

“We have grown very quickly from three guys working in a bedroom to about 60 people. We try to enable our staff to be happy, fulfilled and enjoy an environment that is communicative, collaborative and centred on teamwork. As we have grown we have taken active steps to structure the company, organise people and introduce better management processes that will take us to the next level. The management side is exciting – I love working with our people, who all want to keep the company moving forward.” Joshua Rowley, director and co-founder, E3D-Online


Tech Company of the Year

Finalists:

Freestyle IT

Redbox Mobile

Virtualstock

Validus Risk Management

And the winner is… Redbox Mobile

Judges’ comments:

Born in February 2013 and now a leading app store optimisation and search advert agency with offices in Hungerford, London and New York. They have won and successfully managed accounts for over 50 major brands. They deliver every aspect of App Store Optimisation (ASO) and pay per click via a team built around established industry experts and young talent.

“I’m massively delighted. Everyone said we would never be able to build a technology team in the Thames Valley. We have, and it is here in Hungerford. We’re now taking our technology to Silicon Valley, where we are planning to open an office in San Francisco. Our two biggest suppliers are Google and Apple, and this is a really new market with products going live in the last couple of months. Every company that has an app can get them to do more.” Rory Mudie, CEO, Redbox Mobile


One to Watch

Finalists:

Validus Risk Management

Rotolight

E3D-Online

Redbox Mobile

GSR Technology Europe

And the winner is… Validus Risk Management

Judges’ comments:

Founded in Windsor in 2010 as a specialist in risk management advisory, this Thames Valley-based SME has demonstrated strong and consistent growth since its inception. Having built a market leading software platform, they are highly valued by their loyal customer base. The judges were particularly impressed by their ambitious and innovative approach – they continue to launch new products and solutions and are now expanding the business internationally in both the US and Asia.

“We’re very pleased to win this award because it recognises our positioning and the aggressive expansion plans we have for the future. Developing our own software is a key differentiating factor and gives us a strong competitive advantage. It means we can hire highly talented people to operate our systems who feel comfortable with the software. We are FCA-regulated, so clients trust our technology and our people.” Constantinos Tsolakas, partner and CFO, Validus Risk Management