Awarding rapid growth in a challenging business environment

Deloitte’s Fast 50 programme is an early signal of success, David Shanahan, programme lead, tells Jason Walsh

24th October, 2020
Awarding rapid growth in a challenging business environment
Duncan O’Toole and Paddy Finn, co-founders, Electricity Exchange, David Shanahan, Partner and Fast 50 Programme lead, Deloitte. Deloitte calls on Irish technology companies to enter the 2020 Technology Fast 50 awards, which rank Ireland’s fastest growing technology companies Pictures: Jason Clarke

Unique among business recognition programmes, the Deloitte Fast 50 awards do more than hand out gongs. Instead, they objectively measure entrants’ growth, selecting the top 50 fast-growing businesses and ranking them, as well as selecting winners from Multinational Patron award categories in association with Google, Facebook and Vodafone.

David Shanahan, tax partner at Deloitte, leads the Fast 50 programme. This year has proved a challenging one to run an awards programme, he said.

“In normal years we’d be approaching the ceremony now.”

Despite the difficulties, said Shanahan, things are moving ahead. “With everything going on, we moved online as we didn’t want to postpone any longer,” he said.

In fact, arguably it is more important than ever: Irish business has responded to a new business environment by throwing itself into digital transformation.

“There has been an explosion in activity and we don’t want all the recognition to go to Amazon and Netflix,” he said.

Of course, 2020’s Fast 50 is based on 2019 growth figures, so it will be next year before we see how Irish start-ups have fared. In the meantime, though, there is still plenty to measure.

In effect, the Fast 50, with its clear and transparent results-based financial methodology, is an attempt to not only recognise the present, but also predict the future.

“These are companies that are thriving in a virtual world. They have unique offerings that they have pushed forward in difficult times,” said Shanahan.

Former winners have proved this, he said.

“When you look at a business like eShopWorld, it has announced 150 new jobs recently, then you’ve companies like Global Shares that have also announced expansion.”

For Shanahan, who first took the reins of the Fast 50 in 2018, the programme allows often small companies to gain valuable recognition – not just in Ireland, but internationally.

Some could be the giants of tomorrow, he said. “There are a lot of these agile companies that have been able to adapt. Some of them are below the radar; they’re not an Amazon or Netflix, but who’s to say they won’t be in five years’ time? They could be the next multinationals,” he said.

Helping with this, Fast 50 winners are forwarded on to an EMEA list called the Fast 500.

“In any one year we might see five or ten Irish companies,” said Shanahan. “It gives them an international benchmark and visibility outside Ireland, putting them in the spotlight, as well as an ability to compare their growth in an Irish context to what is happening in other countries.”

Now in its 21st year in Ireland, Shanahan said the Fast 50 programme is special for Deloitte. “I think Fast 50 is unique. The joy is that the metric is simple: you rank the companies over four years so it’s extremely transparent. That objectivity brings more companies to the awards and gives them a proper benchmark, as they know it’s not a subjective decision,” he said.

Other measurements are noticeable too, though. For one thing, past winners are not only expanding, but also engaging in mergers and acquisitions. “When I look back over the last few years, the level of mergers and acquisitions among companies on the list is very interesting,” said Shanahan.

Indeed, in the last 12 months, past entrants Welltel bought out Novi and Intellicom and Arkphire bought Trilogy Technologies.

“We’ve also seen companies that have gone on to make an initial public offering, including Hostelword, First Derivatives, Fineos and others,” he said.

In the end, Shanahan said, Irish businesses are making waves around the world in fields such as e-commerce, e-learning and digitalisation.

“What we see with businesses is they’re internationalising almost from day one. Historically, Irish businesses might expand into the UK after five years, but now they might have a situation where the majority of their income comes from international customers,” he said.

This has a positive knock-on effect on the wider national accounts.

“It hugely benefits the economy and it creates a feelgood factor because it creates local employment – but it also shows Irish companies can scale up and become global players,” he said.

Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards

The Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards for 2020 have now launched. The awards are one of Ireland’s foremost technology award programmes, celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship. Now in its 21st successful year, it is a ranking of the country’s 50 fastest growing technology companies based on revenue growth over the last four years.

To enter the Fast 50 Awards, companies must meet the criteria listed on the website,, where applications can be submitted.

Deloitte 2020 Multinational Patron award categories

Entrants may also apply for the MNC Patron award categories. These include:

1. Innovative New Technology Award in association with Google

This award is for the company that has created or introduced a new or innovative product or service to International markets that has helped grow their business over the last four years.

2. Impact Award in association with Facebook

This award is for the company that has made the most significant impact within the current year.

3. Women in Technology Advocate Award in association with Vodafone

This award will be given to someone who has demonstrated through their actions that they are an advocate for increasing participation by and promotion of women in the technology sector.

Deloitte Alumni Award Category

This year, Deloitte will also be acknowledging our long list of Alumni in our Alumni Award category in association with Deloitte. Companies do not need to enter this category, but will be put forward based on their association with the Fast 50 awards programme over the last number of years.

Full details can be found at

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