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25 November, 2021 - 21:08 By Tony Quested

Business Weekly Awards Hall of Fame: The Magnificent 7

Since the Business Weekly Awards were launched in the spring of 1990, there have been so many fabulous companies winning categories. To have been voted Business of the Year given such widespread quality is some achievement.

Reviewing our Hall of Fame of past winners led us to look at the ongoing progress of the champions with chutzpah – the winners that have displayed their enduring quality despite economic vagaries.

We call them our Magnificent Seven: And they all display quality to the core.

We have looked at progress of companies since they have won our Awards; and we have brokered in potential for further global growth. 

For the sake of diplomacy we have listed our Magnificent Seven in alphabetical order so let’s go through them in that order – Abcam, Arm, Cambridge Quantum, Darktrace, Domino Printing, Frontier Developments, and Treatt Plc.

Abcam, our 2009 winner, was founded in 1998 by Jonathan Milner (below) with co-founders Professor Tony Kouzarides and David Cleevely, with the idea of making it easier for research scientists to buy antibodies across the web. They were fairly humble roots and noble but manageable ambitions but Abcam had identified a model that was sustainable and scaleable. And so it has proved in terms of growing the business and identifying opportunities to nail down market dominance.

Abcam has set up a globally game-changing period of growth from its Cambridge base after an awesome financial performance in the six and 12 months ended June 30. Full-year revenue of £297.7 million was up 29 per cent year-on-year from £260m while operating profit almost tripled to £28.2m. Six-month revenue powered ahead to £150.2m from £121.8m year-on-year while a £16.1m operating loss was turned into a £10.3m profit.

Abcam completed a secondary US listing on Nasdaq in addition to its existing AIM listing in the UK and has also expanded in Asia. A $340m acquisition of California company BioVision Inc. looks another shrewd piece of business.

Arm, the Cambridge-based world leading superchip architect, continues to raise the bar in terms of shipping chips around the world to power progress in compute. It was Business of the Year in 2012.

As of mid-October 2021, Arm partners had shipped 200 billion of the company’s chips – from zero in 1990. As CEO Simon Segars said recently, 900 chips based on Arm architecture are produced every second, many of them shipped in products that have been instrumental in defining the modern world.

Segars told a number of websites recently: “One device that stands out for me as having changed the trajectory of consumer electronics forever is the GSM mobile phone. 

“From the ground-breaking Nokia 8110 ‘banana phone’, made famous by Keanu Reeves in the original Matrix movie, to the more consumer-friendly Nokia 6110, mobile phones became must-have devices which in the ’90s helped to make Nokia a household name.”

Cambridge Quantum, the reigning Business of the Year, is cited in our pantheon because of progress to date and the clearly identifiable potential for future growth. CQ designs, engineers and deploys algorithms and enterprise application libraries, translating cutting-edge research into industry leading technologies through a product-centric focus. 

Its team has been developing the theoretical foundations of quantum computing for over 25 years, forging ahead with breakthroughs in the fields of chemistry, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and algorithms.

It recently joined forces with global giant Honeywell Quantum Solutions and they are setting the pace for what is projected to become a $1 trillion quantum computing industry over the next three decades. Watch out for some exciting announcements from CQ in the near future.

Darktrace, the cyber security world leader, has come closest in the local tech community to matching the global reach and muscle of Arm. CEO Poppy Gustafsson has recently won two coveted CEO awards and the company now reveals that one of the world’s largest investment management firms, based in the US, has signed a contract with Darktrace with the potential to deliver well in excess of $1 million in revenue over several years.

This latest customer win follows hot on the heels of a multi-million-dollar upsell to another major US investment management company. Both companies have adopted a broad suite of solutions across Darktrace’s detect, respond and investigate product families, including cloud, SaaS, email and network.

Darktrace became Cambridge’s youngest surviving unicorn to become Business of the Year when it was crowned in 2016 – the first, Ionica, having long gone bust. A phenomenal UK float and astounding market cap underline its potential for future progress on the world stage.

Domino Printing Sciences has twice won Business of the Year – in 1991 and 2010. That record of endurance and sustainable excellence says all you need to know about the coding and marking specialist which remains anchored in Cambridge although it is now under Japanese ownership.

The company underlined its enduring importance to global customers by winning our International Trade Champion accolade recently. It continues to innovate in terms of new and improved technologies and its dialogue with customers is unparalleled.

Video games developer Frontier Developments (above) was named Business of the Year in the competition before last and its model for year-on-year progress should be bottled and sold as a magic elixir.

Inspired by games guru and CEO Dave Braben, Frontier has built an incredible position of strength that will secure sustained long-term growth for existing and future titles.

Its full year results to May 31 saw market cap sustained at £1.05 billion and sent the UK share price credibly higher. But it is the platform built for long-term growth that makes this company so exciting.

Frontier’s established portfolio of genre-leading games, supported by the nurturing approach to post-release development, delivered record financial results in FY21, through continued strong engagement with its games added to downloadable content on new and existing platforms.

Revenue of £90.7 million – eclipsing the previous year’s £76.1m – reflected substantial contributions from all four of the company’s existing game franchises, together with its first revenues from Frontier Foundry, the group’s games label for third-party publishing.

Based on the anticipated ongoing performance of the existing portfolio, combined with an exciting new release schedule for FY22, the board’s projected revenue range for FY22 is £130 million to £150 million, implying an annual growth rate of 43 per cent to 65 per cent above the record revenue reported for FY21.

Looking further out, for FY23, the board’s projected revenue range is £160m-£180m, based on the anticipated performance of current and future game franchises, together with a growing contribution from the games label for third-party publishing, Frontier Foundry.

Last alphabetically but pure cream in anyone’s book, 2017 Business of the Year Treatt plc is set for a golden future. A globally leading supplier of flavour and fragrance ingredients, Treatt is easing into its new HQ in Bury St Edmunds and is earning rave reviews for its natural extracts and ingredients offerings.

Revenue for the last year was up 64 per cent across healthier living categories, with tea – naturally caffeine and tannin-free – a stand-out performer. Revenue for the current year is anticipated to be c.£124 million, an increase of around 14 per cent compared to the prior year.

When Treatt won our top prize, judges were incredibly impressed with CEO Daemmon Reeve’s description of the open culture within the company and the respect for employees which was returned in spades. Enlightened management really can bring its rewards.

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