Crunching the numbers: how the 2015 CRN Fast50 did it

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This article appeared in the December 2015 issue of CRN magazine.

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Crunching the numbers: how the 2015 CRN Fast50 did it
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Who grew by an average of almost 70 percent and added more than $250 million in business in the past financial year? The 2015 CRN Fast50, that’s who. 

This year’s crop of fast-growing resellers and IT service providers achieved an average growth rate of 67.5 percent and total revenue increase of $253 million. To think that just 50 companies created a quarter of a billion dollars of new business is a staggering show of success and evidence of the importance of IT to Australia’s economy. That average growth rate makes this the fastest year ever.

Overall, the 50 companies across this year’s CRN Fast50 generated $665.1 million of revenue in 2015, and employed more than 3,000 people. The average CRN Fast50 company was a smidge under 10 years old, employed 66 staff and posted revenue of $13.3 million.

Some 18 companies turned over more than $10 million, and six companies cracked $20 million. The biggest company was Empired (No.13), which means it wins this year’s CRN Fast50 Leader Award. The smallest, Deeptech, snuck into 50th place by growing 26.05 percent. 

Every year it gets harder and harder to score a place on the CRN Fast50. In 2014, the threshold for admission was 18.31 percent; this year it was 26.05 percent – the first time that the barrier to entry was greater than 20 percent. It reflects a strong year in the Australian IT channel, as well as the increasing popularity of the CRN Fast50: as more companies enter, they raise the standard.

I tip my hat to the many companies who entered this year and didn’t achieve the cutoff. There were some phenomenal operations just outside the fringes of the competition. I recognise it’s disappointing to grow at double-digits and still not qualify, and I urge these companies to try again next year.

This year’s No.1 and the fastest-growing company on the list was Canberra-based Sliced Tech, a four-year-old business that posted 192 percent growth to take the top spot. Sliced Tech’s mix includes managed services, security and infrastructure-as-a-service – all fast-growth areas that have clearly provided a winning combination for Sliced Tech’s clients,  predominantly government. 

This year’s biggest company, Empired (No.13), grew quickly through a spate of acquisitions, while also reporting strong organic growth. Empired smashed through the $100 million barrier in 2015 and established itself as a force to be reckoned with. 

Empired is not the only major player to use M&A as a tool for growth. Serial acquirer RXP Services (No.31) is once again among the CRN Fast50, as well as first-timer BigAir Group (No.27), which snapped up well-known IT solution provider Oriel in the 2015 FY. 

States and ages

This year marks a changing of the guard for the CRN Fast50. It is usually New South Wales that fields the most companies. Not this year. Take a bow, Victorians. The southern state left all-comers in the dust, with 19 Fast50 companies. New South Wales was next highest with 13, followed by eight from Queensland, six from Western Australia, three from the ACT and one company, Comwire IT (No.37), representing South Australia.

The fastest-growing Victorian was BizData (No.4), the largest was RXP Services (No.31) and both of the oldest companies on this year’s Fast50 hailed from Melbourne – Trident Computer Services (No.32) and SIAX Computing Solutions (No.35) were each founded in 1985. Both made their CRN Fast50 debut this year. It’s impressive to see 30-year-old businesses with the acumen to grow at double-digits after three decades. 

Victoria is also home to the most successful company in the history of the CRN Fast50 competition, Blue Apache (No.43), which is the only business to secure a berth on all seven lists.

Trident and SIAX are the elder statesmen of this 2015 CRN Fast50, but they’re not alone as long-established companies to make this year’s list. BizQuip Solutions (No.46) has been in business for 27 years, while another 20 companies are at least 10 years old. 

The CRN Fast50 has always been a way to unearth the next crop of fast-growing IT providers, but this year’s batch is evidence that wisdom counts, and age is no barrier to growth.

Return winners

There have been more than 180 CRN Fast50 companies since it launched in 2009. Only one, Blue Apache (No.43), has been in all seven years. Another five companies are also members of the ‘All Stars’ – business to have appeared at least five times. There were no new admissions into the All Stars this year – evidence of the increasingly high barrier to entry and the challenges for companies to grow year after year.

We expect to see more names become the All Stars in years to come. There are now ten IT providers sitting on four appearances each, with both Virtunet (No.33) and Red 29 (No.15) securing their fourth placings this year. We’d love to see them break into the five-year All Stars in 2016.

This year saw 22 first-timers appear among the CRN Fast50. As you might expect, these Fast50 newbies represented a lower total revenue ($204.4 million) but higher average growth rate (75.94 percent). Victoria was the most well-represented state among these new faces, fielding seven first-timers.

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