As we move into the final furlong of a tumultuous year, the Fast 50 is set to return, the Deloitte business awards programme that measures and rewards rapid revenue growth by technology businesses.
Previous winners such as artificial intelligence developer Everseen, who took the top spot in 2020, and 2019’s winner Electricity Exchange (now called Viotas) have demonstrated the breadth and depth of the Irish technology industry, but this year’s awards will have an additional dimension, which may result in a shift in the overall make-up of this year’s ranking.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Irish awards are being led by David Shanahan, tax partner at Deloitte Ireland. This year’s awards, which will measure 2020 revenue, will of course reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“While no one in business will have enjoyed the uncertainty of the last 18 months, the response has been impressive and, without doubt, it was technology and the tech sector that kept the wheels on the global economy.
“Many businesses were able to disrupt or indeed their growth has accelerated because of the pandemic, and for this reason we may see a lot of new entrants. That’s really exciting and we are encouraging them to use this opportunity to benchmark their performance,” Shanahan said.
“Last year, six of the top ten were first-time entrants. It’s great to see new companies being recognised, as this reflects new and emerging Irish success stories,” he said.
The relevance of the Fast 50 awards in the industry is evidenced by the calibre of patrons who partner with Deloitte to sponsor individual awards: names like Google, Facebook and Vodafone are like a roll call of tech pioneers, and this year they are joined by a new supporter.
“Scale Ireland, an independent non-profit that supports and advocates for Irish start-ups is sponsoring an award this year and they’re an ideal fit for the programme,” Shanahan said.
The key to the ongoing success of the Fast 50 is the credibility the programme enjoys as a result of its objective nature. Rather than being judged by a panel, the winners are selected on the basis of revenue growth alone. This gives a certain confidence to those who rank, said Shanahan.
“Companies like the ranking because it’s black and white. There's no room for subjectivity and there’s no judging panel,” he said.
Which areas of the tech sector will rise up the ranking remains to be seen, but this year may see the emergence of a number of sectors. Fintech and e-learning are likely to rank highly, but another area that is very interesting is sports tech, including Irish pioneers STATSports.
“That could be a really interesting area, and one that we are keen to see in the mix, as Deloitte is an official partner to Team Ireland.”
“E-commerce and med tech, with companies such as LetsGetChecked and NearForm coming to prominence in the past 12 months, will invariably feature. So too will companies in emerging areas like the remote and hybrid working space, such as Abodoo, or in, greentech and sustainability – for instance, FoodCloud has a solution for sustainable waste,” Shanahan said.
The programme reflects the entire Irish tech landscape rather than just start-ups, and Shanahan said this is one area of the economy that is in rude health.
“The Irish ecosystem is thriving. There’s a can-do mindset with Irish entrepreneurs, and technology is enabling them to compete and lead on a global scale,” he said.
The proof is there, too: the Fast 50 has seen ranked companies such as Fineos, Hostelworld, First Derivatives and others go on to initial public offerings, for example.
“It’s no surprise that these companies are attracting venture capital and private equity investment and it’s encouraging to see many companies harbour an ambition to IPO rather than to seek a more traditional route of being acquired,” he said.
Indeed, while the traditional route to expansion was to grow nationally and expand into Britain, today Irish businesses have found a new path forward, starting with a focus on the EU, US or even the entire world from day one.
“A lot of these companies are international from day one. Technology opens up the world stage,” he said.
The challenges are real, of course, and Shanahan said that moves could be made domestically in order to support the sector.
“Getting the early-stage ecosystem right is really important. There is more that could be done in terms of the tax system, for instance, and one of the challenges for these companies is access to capital. Improvements to the EIIS and extending entrepreneur relief to angel investors should be looked at in the upcoming budget,” he said.
Nonetheless, the 2021 Fast 50 programme, which remains open for entries until November, with an awards ceremony in December, will be there, plugging away for Irish growth businesses which continue to drive innovation in these challenging times.
“We want to hear from these businesses and to recognise their success,” Shanahan said.
Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards: the search begins
The search for this year’s Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards winners has begun. The awards are one of Ireland’s foremost technology award programmes, celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship. Now in its 22nd 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, Fast50.ie, where applications can be submitted.
Deloitte 2021 Patron award categories
Applicants may also apply for the Patron award categories. These include:
1. Innovative New Technology Award in association with Google
This award is for a 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 a company that has made a 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.
4. Scale Up Award in association with Scale Ireland
This award is for a company that has demonstrated an impressive ability to scale up/expand overseas over the last four years.
Deloitte Alumni Award Category
This year, Deloitte will also be acknowledging our long list of Alumni in our Alumni Award category. Companies do not need to enter this category, but will be put forward based on their association with the Fast 50 Awards over the last number of years.
Full details can be found at www.fast50.ie