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The Businesses Defying the Threat of Brexit

3 minute read

We've conducted an analysis of the UK’s fastest growing businesses and revealed five organisations which have gone from strength to strength and continue to thrive since launching themselves around the time of the Brexit referendum on 23rd June 2016.

‘Brexit’ - a word we’ve all been unable to escape over the last few years. Now, more than 1,000 days on, and the UK is still a member of the EU, with MPs seemingly unable to agree on the best course of action. Deals and amendments have been rejected and new deadlines set as parliament voted in favour of an Article 50 extension. Whether we leave the EU with a deal or not - or whether we leave at all - remains to be seen, but one thing everyone can agree upon is that progress has been slow and the process chaotic.

Despite feeling like there’s nothing else going on in the news at times, the British public have continued to go about their day-to-day lives, and while Brexit has led to some businesses being reluctant to invest, others have thrown caution to the wind and have been able to thrive at a time of uncertainty. To show that it’s not all doom and gloom, business intelligence specialist Creditsafe has looked into some of the companies that were set up around the time of the referendum and have made vast improvements and progress over the last 1,000 days. Here are five to inspire. 

Chapter 1

Mush

Launched by Sarah Hesz and Katie Massie-Taylor, Mush is an app that’s been described as ‘Tinder for mums’, allowing parents to connect with others locally and ask and answer questions through its community forum. The friends, who met in a playground, have raised £920,000 through a Crowdcube campaign (with 618 investors) and £250,000 in seed funding in order to continue to make improvements to the platform.

It’s been downloaded by hundreds of thousands of parents across the UK and Australia, and in early 2019 Mush launched its latest feature whereby users can subscribe to get expert help for all their parenting dilemmas. The company has grown to more than 20 employees, with total current assets of £1.5m in 2018, according to Creditsafe data. It was listed in Wired’s ‘Top 100 European Start-ups’ report as one of the 10 selected London start-ups and the founders were named as Plusnet Pioneers for 2018. 

Chapter 1

Koru Kids

Koru Kids

Just like Brexit, Koru Kids has received nationwide coverage. The company, founded by Rachel Carrell, offers “outstanding childcare for modern families”. It was through hiring a shared child-minder that Carrell had her ‘eureka’ moment. She told the Evening Standard: “Talking to other parents, one of the things that kept coming up was that they wanted to do a nanny share but couldn’t find the right family to pair up with”. An early test-run proved successful, with 37 families interested in her business. She quit her job the same day.

Parents supply details and are then matched with one or two nannies. Koru then helps them to meet and also takes care of the payroll. Carrell has a number of investors on board, including Gumtree founder Michael Pennington, who invested £600,000 in the service. In 2018, the company had total current assets of £3.8m. It has also grown to more than 150 employees.

Here is what Rachel Carrell, CEO at Koru Kids had to say about being included in our list:

"Koru Kids is a childcare tech startup which recruits, trains and matches after-school nannies.

“Over the last 12 months, we have grown over 300%. A lot of that is due to positive word of mouth - some months almost half of our signups come from parents who have been told about us by their friends.

We've also worked to diversify our workforce and ensure we are prepared for Brexit


Rachel Carrell
CEO at Koru Kids

A large number of the nannies we work with are Europeans who come to the UK to study at university. Although it's not yet clear what the full effect of Brexit will be on freedom of movement of Europeans to the UK, a few months ago we took the decision to diversify our supply base just in case. Of course we still welcome Europeans with open arms when they apply to become a Koru Kids nanny, but just in case fewer Europeans come and live in the UK in future, it was important that we develop equally strong ties with other communities which are already here. That's why in the past few months we began recruiting older people who might wish to be nannies, in addition to our existing strong recruitment of university students. These older people have proven extremely popular with our families, and business has boomed."

Chapter 1

Graphcore

Established a month before the all important EU referendum, Bristol-based Graphcore has created a new processor, the Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU), specifically designed for artificial intelligence. According to the company’s LinkedIn profile, the IPU “lets AI researchers undertake entirely new types of work, not possible using current technologies, to drive the next great breakthroughs in general machine intelligence”. With CEO Nigel Toon at the helm, the company has already grown to more than 180 employees - and is actively looking for more engineers to join the team. It also has an engineering centre in Oslo, Norway, and offices in Palo Alto, US, with London and Beijing opening soon.

At the end of 2018, Toon announced that Graphcore had reached a $1.7bn valuation, with new funding from investors including BMW i Ventures and Microsoft. He said: “Machine intelligence marks the start of a new age of computing which needs a radically different type of processor and software tools. This new, fast growing market creates the opportunity for Graphcore to build a major global technology company that can help innovators in AI achieve important breakthroughs”. 

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Patch

Patch helps people find the best indoor and outdoor plants for their space, delivers them to their door and helps them look after them. Founded in May 2016 by Freddie Blackett and Ed Barrow, the company has continued to thrive despite Brexit, with more than 25 employees and a rating of 9.1 out of 10 based on 936 reviews on Trustpilot.

Blackett shares the story of the business on the company’s site - he made a mission to turn his balcony into an urban garden that he could be proud of, but quickly realised it was easier said than done. He had no idea what plants he liked or what kind would be right for his little east-facing balcony. The business boasts more than 25,000 customers and has raised over £3m in venture funding, enabling it to scale rapidly across the UK and Western Europe. 

Chapter 1

The Vurger Co

vuger co

The Vurger Co is a 100% vegan fast food business, with restaurants in Shoreditch and Canary Wharf. Originally founded as a market stall by Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts in July 2016, it came in at number 84 in the UK’s Top Startups Index 2018 (the only restaurant to do so). Prior to opening, the duo doubled their Crowdcube campaign target of £150,000 (in just three days). The Vurger Co has since gone from strength to strength, with a rating of 4.5 out of 5 on TripAdvisor. It has since secured a further £600,000 from investors.

Rachel Hugh, Co-Founder at The Vurger Co, adds:

“We have worked really hard on maintaining a business with a great work environment that treats everyone we work with, including our suppliers, with the utmost respect. We all go through challenging times, we all need support at different times and extending a little bit of understanding can go a long way.

“We have so many levels that can impact our business, from supplier price changes, import / export duties we didn't need to think of before, staffing and finding new great staff members, accessing finance, building a business to thrive in Europe moving forward - we think about these questions on a daily basis however are unable to find the answers we need at this moment in time until the true cost of Brexit is realised for small businesses."

 

On a human level, Brexit has definitely affected our team members who are from the EU; they have worries and concerns about what is going to happen, and what it means for them and generally look to us for answers that we are unable to give.


Rachel Hugh
Co-Founder at The Vurger Co

“On top of that, being a small start-up restaurant business, accessing finance is virtually impossible; no banks truly want to help a brand new business thrive, even one that immediately employs those who might not have had the opportunity to work elsewhere. We truly believe that the uncertainty of what is happening with regards to Brexit has definitely exacerbated these pressures.’