All across the country, lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease. Families are finally reuniting in parks and gardens. Schools have welcomed back students.
People are able to leave their local areas for the first time. Shops will soon open to the public after being shut for months. Hope has returned – albeit cautious hope.
As I began to review our first quarter of trading for 2021, I cast my mind back to this time last year. How different things were then. The first lockdown had just been announced and we were looking down the barrel of a year full of unknowns: would the health crisis escalate? Could we trade as successfully as a virtual company? Would the economy falter?
I’m so proud – and grateful – that we did indeed survive that year. We even managed to grow, win awards, and create a host of new products for customers.
Now, looking back over the opening months of 2021, I’m glad to say that we are continuing to thrive. Here are some of the highlights.
Our new shareholder
In February this year we announced a new deal with Great Hill Partners (GHP), which valued BigChange at £100m. This was an incredible achievement for the company, coming in the midst of a global pandemic.
Our new Boston-based partner has the expertise to help us to scale in the US and beyond; the new £75m in firepower will allow us to pursue both organic growth and acquisitions in the US, which is an enormous market for our technology. We have also earmarked £5m for innovation, and will be rolling out many new features and expanding our functionality rapidly over the coming months.
Going for growth
Can you believe it? We have signed £5.5m-worth of new contracts in the first quarter. Based on our performance so far this year, we are on track to increase revenues by as much as 40pc across 2021.
We have won a record 90 customers over the past three months, up from during the same period last year. I won’t list them all here but we are proud that BigChange is now partnered with household names like EDF, the European energy giant, and that our reputation now precedes us: most new business comes in through word of mouth referrals from existing customers.
We have also hit a new high for repeat orders: 200 businesses ordered more licences during the most recent quarter, a testament to our intuitive technology platform and market-beating customer service.
Our international ambitions have not waned, even though it’s been a long time since I was able to board a plane and visit prospective customers or recruit boots on the ground in new territories. We have just appointed a reseller in New Zealand.
Expanding the team
Despite the impact of the pandemic, the BigChange team has grown rapidly. In the past three months alone, we have hired 26 new people and we continue to recruit across many teams, especially product development. We will double the size of the team over the next three to five years, taking us to 400 people.
We have also made a number of strategic appointments that will dramatically accelerate our growth over the coming years.
I’m delighted to welcome Richard Warley as the new Chairman of the BigChange board. Richard is the Executive-in-Residence at Great Hill Partners. We got to know each other pretty well over the last months that I was in negotiation with GHP. He has been building technology companies across the US and Asia over the last 20 years, and was most recently CEO of KVH Ltd based in Tokyo.
We have also found our new chief marketing officer in the talented Nick Gregory, former marketing chief at Iris, the British software pioneer. His appointment was a real coup and I know he’ll be an asset to the team.
I know that these brilliant additions will help us reach our goal of going from a valuation of £100m to over a £1bn over the coming years.
The BigChange University
Last year, we launched the BigChange University to help our customers unlock all the potential our technology could bring to their business.
Over the last nine months, we have created more and more modules, doing all we can to help customers automate manual processes and find more efficiency. I’m so proud of our team here: they have now created 27 different topics. In the last three months, 1,300 people have attended these virtual sessions.
Our University continues to gain momentum so book your spot today: https://www.bigchange.com/bigchange-university/
Doing our bit for charity
The pandemic has widened the gap between rich and poor and left many in need. We have never stopped our contributions to charity and supported three worthy causes in the last three months alone through our Motivational Monday series, which welcomes a different inspirational speaker each month.
In January, we were delighted to welcome Benjamin Mee, the conservationist and author of We Bought a Zoo, who spoke about his incredible rescue of Dartmoor Zoo. The event supported Living Potential Care Farming, a not-for-profit business that provides work and skills training for people living with learning disabilities.
In February, Kevin Sinfield spoke to the team about how he led Leeds Rhinos to seven Super League championships, Kevin gave a behind-the-scenes view of the resilience it took to complete the seven in seven, shared personal stories of his journey with Rob Burrows and offered a motivational challenge for viewers to complete their own, achievable, seven in seven. Kevin was joined by Dr Agam Jung, Director of the Leeds Regional MND Care Centre, who gave a presentation on how the centre and MND care have developed over the last decade. we raised £1,500 in support of the Robert Sinclair Davidson Foundation, which offers financial support to young couples and families affected by life-threatening and terminal illnesses.
Last month, BigChange welcomed Paralympian Hannah Cockroft MBE, DL – an incredible athlete, multiple sprint world-record holder and five-time Paralympic champion. The event raised £1,250 for PhysCap, a Leeds-based charity that improves the quality of life of children suffering from severe physical disabilities.
Around 27m people have now had the first dose of the COVID vaccine in the UK, and the rollout continues at pace. But there are still many uncertainties. I feel so much optimism for 2021 and all we can achieve at BigChange. The exceptional team here has gone above and beyond to ensure the health and growth of this company, and we remain on track to achieve our goal. We are proud to be doing our bit to contribute to the recovery of the UK economy.