UK tech scale-up: How Lightfoot became a winner

The founder of Megabuyte’s Best Performing Company Overall tells us how purpose, people and innovation drive sustainable growth.

How Lightfoot became a winner

Neil Bellamy, our Head of Technology, Media & Communications (TMT) says: “I first met Mark many years ago on an entrepreneur panel in Exeter and thought Lightfoot had a great future ahead. It’s wonderful to see them recognised as our 2023 Megabuyte Emerging Star and winner of the Best Performing Company Overall Award. The team at Lightfoot embody what we call a FutureFit business – high growth, truly sustainable, innovative, digital and with a focus on purpose-led talent. We’ve been a champion of Lightfoot for years and look forward to helping them grow to the next level.”

We caught up with Mark to share his leadership team’s approach to growing the £9.5m revenue business in a sustainable way. Constantly innovating means Lightfoot continues to reach the potential our Taunton branch spotted back in 2008.

Here are his key insights on purpose, people, and innovation:

Winning awards creates more awareness outside your core sector

We spend time trying to be known in the fleet management B2B sector so recognition for our performance from the investment community is great. We’ve got a great team from fleet performance experts to technologists and data scientists. Everyone in the business is in it together to get it to the next stage. Our new CFO is transforming our SaaS business model and financials. We have a great leadership team.

Approach fast growth in a sustainable way by hiring good people

I learned a long time ago you can’t do it all yourself. Most people can do most things better than you. As soon as you realise that it transforms everything - you can achieve continued growth without dropping the ball. You can do more, grow faster, and maintain productivity. 

Innovation can be the biggest driver for sustainable growth 

We’ve always evolved our product by identifying problems and solving them. That’s how we grow. In 2008 we converted a transit van and made it part-electric. It was a brilliant technology and tested well in the laboratory but when we were on the road with customers it didn’t deliver the same results. We discovered we’d forgotten about the driver - it doesn’t matter how efficient the vehicle is if the driver is making it inefficient.

We developed a device that plugged into the engine and shared user-friendly feedback for a more efficient vehicle and compliant driver. That product became Lightfoot in 2013. When a driver is driving with Lightfoot, they’re not pumping the accelerator and burning fuel.

We evolved in 2017 to add rewards and gamification. Innovation led to differentiation in fleet telematics, which led to growth. Now we’re spinning out an app to help businesses measure productivity and reward behaviour. Three iterations of a product all from the same place - through the lens of a problem that needs solving.

A combination of disciplines within a tech business can lead to success

We mix high-end engineering with technology. We have the entrepreneurial concept to get into the mind of the driver. Then we’ve got the automotive development team, which understands the guts of the engine by plugging into the engine control unit. The software development team writes the code that turns data into feedback. Then it goes to the cloud where we’ve got another software team writing the apps. It makes our proposition quite robust because it has so many layers of technology.

In a highly competitive sector, attract talent by being true to your values

Focus on your mission, your vision, your values. If you can create an attractive environment and develop a strong, enjoyable culture you can go after good talent. We’re lucky what we do is quite on brand, it’s about saving the environment, saving money, reducing accidents. And there’s something likeable about the South West, which genuinely helps. People love coming to see us. We have this amazing talent and a network of local businesses in our supply chain.

Make your purpose inherent to what you do

Reducing carbon emissions has been in our DNA from the beginning. The business started out by trying to reduce carbon emissions in the products we develop; it’s in everything we do. Today, everyone who works at Lightfoot has Lightfoot in their vehicle, so they’re driving 10-15% more efficiently. We’ve moved to a hybrid working environment, which cuts the costs of commuting. We try to operate a clutter-less environment.

Seek out champions for your business

When I started this business in 2008, we had the prototype for our hybrid van and disaster had struck in the economy. No one was lending money and the bank agreed to back us with what was called a Small Firms Loan Guarantee, which we paid back within 18 months. We’ve stuck with each other ever since. Our ambition is to keep going and multiply, there’s no end in sight.

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