Smart50 Awards 2018

Tents, planes, and pilates: Diverse industries seize the field in 2018’s Smart50 Awards

Dominic Powell /

Australia’s fastest-growing SMEs are seeing success in some of the most diverse industries ever, with this year’s Smart50 list featuring businesses from the world of aviation, energy and dairy.

SmartCompany’s Smart50 Awards were announced on Thursday night in Melbourne, marking the 12th year the awards have run and recognised the 50 fastest-growing Australian small to medium businesses. The awards were sponsored by ANZ’s Collab Zone, Oracle Netsuite, AusTrade and Konica Minolta.

In previous years, notable businesses such as Prospa, Atlassian, Vinomofo, Showpo, and Lux Group have graced the Smart50 stage, each demonstrating massive revenue growth over three consecutive financial years.

In 2018, it’s no different, with Victorian energy disruptor Choice Energy taking home the number one spot with a three-year revenue growth of 987% and a revenue of $10.5 million in the last financial year.

Having been founded in 2013, Choice Energy’s revenue growth far outstripped its physical growth, with the company operating entirely out of one room for the first two years of its life.

“The upside is it was the foundation of a wonderful culture, but at times we couldn’t hear ourselves think,” founders Alan Gill and Christopher Dean tell SmartCompany.

In second place, flight school Soar Aviation put up a three-year growth rate of 586% with $12 million in revenue in the 2018 financial year, and marked the first time an aviation-focused company took home one of the top Smart50 spots.

And in third place, coding for kids startup Code Camp grew 510% over the past three years, with a revenue of $6.1 million in the last financial year.

These three businesses, operating across energy, aviation, and coding respectively, mark one of the most diverse Smart50 Awards ever. Rounding out the top 10 on the list are companies in the automotive, marketing, lending and digital services industries.

Overall, IT-focused companies and retailers were tied for the highest representation across the applicants for the Smart50 Awards, followed closely by businesses in the marketing and communications space.

Other industries featuring on the Smart50 list this year include subscription services, health and fitness, dairy, media, science and technology and engineering.

Sadly, the list’s level of diversity stops with its industry representation, as just 20% of founders on this year’s list were women. The other 80% was taken up by six Andrews, five Nicks and four Bens.

The total revenue of the 50 businesses on this year’s list is down from 2017’s list, coming in at just $857 million compared to the $1.57 billion in revenue on last year’s list, and the average revenue for companies on the list came in at $17 million.

The single company with the highest revenue on this year’s list is Laser Clinics Australia with a whopping $189.6 million in revenue in the last financial year.

On average, founders on the list came in at 40 years old, and the most common age of the companies on the list was five years old, with the oldest company being founded in 1968.

As for where Australia’s fastest-growing SMEs are based, New South Wales leads the pack with 42% of applicants founding their businesses there, followed by Victoria, Queensland, and Western and South Australia, which featured one business each.

To make the Smart50 list, companies must have recorded revenue of more than $500,000, and achieved revenue growth, during the past three financial years. Finalists were ranked according to overall growth over a three-year period.

For the first time this year, a new award was added to the Smart50 to recognise Australia’s fastest growing startups, who have demonstrable growth when it comes to revenue or user numbers. The startup was also required to demonstrate innovation and growth within their business.

Taking home the inaugural StartupSmart Award is Foodbomb, an online marketplace for wholesale produce and food suppliers, started in late 2017 and already boasting hundreds of restaurants and cafes on board.

Avid SmartCompany readers and fans of the Smart50 awards will likely see some familiar names such as Yellow Octopus, Mountain Bikes Direct and Hunter Mason, with the latter taking home this year’s Smart and Lasting award.

For the other category winners, cloud HR & payroll software company ELMO took home the gong for the Top Innovator award, and online book retailer Booktopia claimed the Community Hero award.

Logistics company Coastal Transport Services won the Top Regional category award, and Mountain Bikes Direct won the Top Marketing Campaign award. Car accessories business FitMyCar won this year’s Top Exporter award.

Finally, health and fitness company KX Pilates won the Top Franchise award, and camping retailer Tentworld won the Top Retailer award.

The 2018 Smart50 Awards were presented at Longsong in Melbourne’s CBD, with attendees at the event hearing from Australian small business and family enterprise ombudsman Kate Carnell and chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia, Peter Strong, with the night being hosted by Shebah founder George McEncroe.

To see the full Smart50 list, click here.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany. Email him at [email protected].

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