Wol Kolade: End of the tunnel

It is difficult to be optimistic in the face of the government's austerity measures, plummeting consumer confidence and the ongoing debt woes surrounding the EU and the US. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

However, despite the recent media headlines filled with tales of further economic woe from pretty much every corner of the globe, I firmly believe that we are in the recovery phase of “The Great Recession” that began back in 2008.

It should come as no great surprise to those who understand why we went into recession in the first place – primarily due to excessive borrowing in the system – that the recovery is sluggish at best as consumers, companies and governments continue to pay down debt and de-leverage.

As a result, banks, which could be a catalyst for economic growth, have been forced by regulators to rein in lending way beyond the realms of prudence in order to boost their balance sheets and build up their capital reserves.

Now, more than ever, the UK needs the private sector to provide the investment that will drive growth, and it is the fast-growth companies such as those listed on the following pages that have the capacity to provide this. In my opinion, they represent the best chance the UK has of growing its way to recovery.

The top five companies in the Rising Stars 2011 have all grown turnovers by more than 50 per cent in the last 12 months. Encouragingly, they are not concentrated in one specific area of the economy, operating instead across a range of sectors, from IT and retail to leisure and business services.

Furthermore, it is not just about leading-edge technology or new inventions but about real innovation – re-imagining how a service is delivered, as exemplified by Nexus in vehicle rental, or developing new ways of marketing existing products, such as Alliance Pharma in pharmaceuticals.

Peter Drucker, the renowned American management theorist, once said that ‘whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision’, and, for a lot of the companies on this list, that will have been the case. I am very lucky because I spend my time working with the kind of people that Drucker was talking about – extremely talented and creative people who want to build successful businesses and have the courage and drive to make it happen. This list is a testament to just some of those people and the businesses they have built.

I hope you will agree that the fast-growth companies in the Rising Stars of 2011 represent some welcome light at the end of a dark economic tunnel, and I commend each and every one of them.

Wol Kolade is managing partner of ISIS Equity Partners, having joined in 1993. His role encompasses overall responsibility for the strategic development of ISIS, and active involvement in investments. He was chairman of the BVCA in 2007/08, is a governor of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and is a trustee of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.


Wol Kolade

Wol Kolade is Managing Partner at Livingbridge, a global mid-market private equity firm with offices across the UK, Australia and the US.

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