On Thursday organiser GP Bullhound revealed the 100 companies that made up the shortlist for this year’s 2024 Northern Tech Awards.

It’s one of my favourite events of this year and one of the most prestigious.

The shortlist, in alphabetical order, recognise the fastest-growing technology companies in the North of the UK.

The winners and top 100 will be celebrated at the 2024 Northern Tech Awards on 25th April at Manchester Cathedral.

I was looking down the list and two things jumped out at me.

The first was the importance of strong leadership and the second was the impact that the right investment can make.

To prove the point I’ve created a list of 15 companies I like which have strong leadership or have received investment – or both.

2024 Northern Tech Awards shortlist unveiled

I’ll go out on a limb by predicting at least one of them will be become a unicorn in the future.

  • 1. Manchester-based Airtime Rewards flies under the radar a bit but its app works with around 250 retailers across the UK, both in-store and online, to reward shoppers with mobile credit or data. company has three-and-a-half million active monthly users and turned over around £30m in 2022. CEO and co-founder Adam Ward is a top operator
  • 2. Fast-growing digital product consultancy Apadmi was co-founded in 2009 by four mates – Garry Partington, Adam Fleming, Nick Black and Howard Simms. Simms left recently after Apadmi received a significant minority investment from private equity investor CBPE but they remain good friends.
  • 3. Leeds-based job management software provider BigChange was founded by Martin Port and received a £75m majority investment from US VC Great Hill Partners in 2021.
  • 4. Lancashire childcare management software specialist Connect Childcare is led by CEO Chris Reid and is very impressive and has just secured contract renewals with four of the UK’s top nursery providers – worth up to £2.5m over the next three years.
  • 5. A lot of people think Manchester tech firm Connex One could be a future unicorn and I wouldn’t be surprised. In 2022 the company raised £93m in a Series C funding round, with GP Bullhound among the investors. The business was founded in 2013 by brothers Nick and Richard Mealey. Watch them fly.
  • 6. eCommerce beauty business CurrentBody was founded in 2009 by Andrew Showman and Laurence Newman and it really knows its customers. The 2022 investment from eComplete has added fuel to it growth.
  • 7. Cheshire-based preventative cybersecurity company endpointX is brilliant. It was founded in 2019 by former Bank of America and Barclays work colleagues Scott Lowe, Daniel Stead, Joe Michael and Tom Beasor. Last year the company announced a 245 per cent increase in revenue to £3.3m.
  • 8. BGF has just made a multi-million pound follow-on investment into Liverpool-based Evoke Creative following significant contract wins and international growth. One of the original founders Dean Ward is still in the business.
  • 9. Nearshore software engineering partner Godel Technologies recently appointed Gareth Ainsworth as its new chief executive. Headquartered in Manchester, the company has software delivery centres across Eastern Europe.
  • 10. Horsefly, an artificial intelligence-based talent analytics platform, secured a significant investment LDC in 2023 as it targets international growth. It’s SaaS-based platform is very appealing. Will Crandle is the founder and CEO.
  • 11. My Digital is a payroll and accounting software specialist. John Whelan and Daniel Moss are an impressive leadership team.
  • 12. Location analytics platform Purple was founded in 2012 by the laser focused Gavin Wheeldon and recently closed a £10.5m investment from BGF.
  • 13. There’s a pattern developing here. Human resources technology firm Talos360, led by strong CEO Janette Martin, backed by LDC in 2022.
  • 14. Digital payments startup wi-Q secured a £3m investment from Manchester-based venture capital investor, Praetura Ventures, in 2022. Founded in 2014, wi-Q provides mobile ordering and payment solutions to the hospitality and leisure industry. Patience Tucker is one of the hardest-working CEOs I know.
  • 15. Rochdale-based Wireless CCTV is a manufacturer of body-worn cameras and secured a £30m investment from LDC in 2021. Tim Williams is the chairman and founder while David Gilbertson is the CEO.