It was a neat coincidence that yesterday's final episode of season 10 of Dragons' Den coincided with the release of the latest annual Sunday Times Fast Track list. This list provides the definitive barometer of the top 100 privately-owned UK companies with the biggest sales growth over a three-year period. Although a company has to reach sales of £5m to qualify, this isn't a list that recognises size - it recognises growth in percentage terms rather than pounds.
There's clearly a parallel with Dragons' Den here, because growth is exactly what pitchers seek and Dragons can help deliver with their cash and expertise. So, having looked through the Fast Track 100 list I was surprised that I couldn't spot a Dragon-backed company (if you can, please let me know in the comments section). In fact, there's a notable entry at number 42 - and a first appearance on the list - for Trunki, a company that makes a kids' ride-on suitcase that the Dragons famously rejected back in 2006. Fast Track notes that Trunki has increased sales from £1.1 million in 2008/09 to £6.4 million in 2011/12, achieving an average annual growth of 78.15 per cent.
Does this suggest that the Dragons are not quite as astute at spotting a business opportunity as their reputations suggest? Maybe - but when you consider that 93,000 UK companies qualify for the list, it's clear that getting into the top 100 is no mean feat. Never mind the top 1% - to make the grade you have to be in the top 0.1% fastest growing companies.
So, what about future lists? Will any of the 20 companies that received investment during the series (a record, according to Dragons' Den presenter Evan Davis) achieve enough success to gain a place in the Fast Track 100? Given the success of Trunki, I'll plump for YUUbag, a nifty kids' backpack that got the joint backing of Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden back in episode three. Please make your own predictions in the comments section.
For one of the companies featured on last night's show, Rocktails, the limited size of the UK market for their frozen cocktail product would probably prevent them from qualifying for the Fast Track list. However, Naomi Kibble and Helen McAvoy did mention the prospect of European distribution once their plans for the UK have come to fruition, so perhaps they will be readjusting their forecasts sometime in the future.
One thing's for sure, Rocktails is a genuinely innovative product with a well-defined USP (it was a Smarta 100 winner last year, incidentally) - and with Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne on board, Kibble and McAvoy can expect a huge percentage growth on sales generated so far. Also, with Christmas just round the corner, the timing of Rocktails' Den appearance couldn't have been better.
Perhaps the entrepreneurs will take inspiration from Innocent, the fruit smoothie company. Although Innocent has a larger market than Rocktails, it probably would not have expected the level of growth it has achieved since Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jonathan Wright founded the company in 1999. This success meant Innocent appeared on the Fast Track 100 list for a record-breaking five consecutive years between 2004 and 2009.
Indeed, more than 50% of companies that appear on the list one year do not appear on it the next - which is why we're particularly proud at Make It Cheaper to be a Fast Track 100 company for a second successive year. Only 13 companies in this year's list have managed to keep their place three years in a row, so our challenge is to save UK businesses enough money that means we're in that exclusive club this time next year. If we achieve it, here's a promise: I'll buy one Rocktail per staff member for the celebration party.