Unicorns in the UK: Is the UK the new home of billion-dollar digital businesses?

Written by
Steve Thompson

06 Jun 2016

06 Jun 2016 • by Steve Thompson

The number of potential ‘unicorn companies' emerging in the UK continues to grow, and experts predict that the government’s Northern Powerhouse plans could make the region an even more attractive proposition for digital entrepreneurs.

A study by international investment bank, GP Bullhound, has identified 12 businesses based in the North West of England that they predict will become unicorns in the near future. Each of these “foals” was started after the year 2000, and each one is thought to be a strong contender to hit $1 billion in value within the next few years.

They are: Avecto, Blue Prism, Daisy, GB Group, The Hut Group, Missguided, NCC Group, On The Beach, Parcel2Go.com, RealityMine, UKFast, and Zuto

What does it take to become a unicorn?

In our own unique report, we explored the concept of unicorns around the world, and how numbers are growing both in Europe and the UK.

Here are three top pointers of what's required to create a unicorn company:

  1. Identify your niche: Finding a gap in the market and meeting an existing demand is what billion-dollar businesses are built on. While research has found that some sectors perform better than others (for example, the Fintech sector) if your idea fills a market niche, don’t be afraid to run with it!
  2. Age is only a number: According to GP Bullhound, 58% of unicorn businesses in Europe were founded by people aged between 35 and 40 years old, so don’t be afraid to follow the entrepreneurial path whatever age you are. And don’t be put off by the average age if inspiration strikes you in your 20s – as long as your idea is solid.
  3. Build a strong team around you: Any business, let alone one that has its sights set on becoming a unicorn, needs a great team of people who are bought into the ideals, values and goals of the company. Find the best talent, lean on them for support, and you’ll have a strong future ahead.

Advice from the experts:

David Grimes from My Parcel Delivery Group explains what he believes it takes to become a unicorn:

“Spot the market need before the market itself. Learn the art of attracting investment. Employ top people before you can really afford them. Be smart with your PR. Be prepared to work very, very hard. And never be afraid of failure.”

And Katy Lomax, from budding unicorn Zuto, believes that a strong team is the key to success:

“Trust your gut and build a team of people around you who both buy into your company’s culture and have a shared desire to change things. I’d also recommend celebrating success as it happens. It’s important to take stock of every milestone and remind your workforce of what an incredibly exciting journey you’re on… at every opportunity!”

To read more about Forward Role's research, click here.