Profiling the top 3 from the Disruption50 Index 2019

Sarah Finch
Staff Writer & Content Editor at D/SRUPTION

At Disruption Summit Europe last September, the winners of the Disruption50 Index were announced. A pioneering project to discover the UK’s most innovative companies, the Index was compiled by augmenting the expertise of human judges with AI.

A host of impressive organisations applied, demonstrating the strength and breadth of UK innovation in fields as diverse as healthcare and smart manufacturing.

Here we take a look at the companies who came top of the list this year.

1) what3words

The number one spot in the Disruption50 Index 2019 was given to what3words, who are revolutionising the way we think about location.

what3words was founded in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, whose experience in the music industry taught him that we need a better way to address the world. Getting lost trying to find events, equipment being delivered to the wrong venue, and musicians struggling to find the right stage at festivals were common occurrences for Sheldrick, as he travelled to locations without a formal or accurate address. This prompted him to come up with an elegant solution: a three word tag for every 3 metre square area on Earth.

Much more concise, and easier to use than GPS coordinates, a what3words address enables people to share their location or navigate to any spot in the world.

The app has already been used by emergency services in the UK to locate and rescue people in remote areas. Speaking at Disruption Summit, Sheldrick also highlighted how what3words has been adopted by Mongolia’s postal service, and in the Lonely Planet guide to tourist attractions in the country, which is characterised by its open spaces and nomadic citizens.

In 2018, what3words was integrated into the Mercedes-Benz User Experience – an in car infotainment system – enhancing the ability of drivers to navigate via their voice. By saying the wake words “Hey, Mercedes” followed by a what3words address, the car will navigate to a precise destination.

what3words addresses have been specifically designed to work well with voice technology, which struggles with homophones, similar sounding words, and varying kinds of pronunciation. In his session at Disruption Summit, Sheldrick noted that similar sounding what3words addresses were deliberately placed as far apart from each other as possible for this very reason. For example, if the address for Big Ben is heap.frames.track and the location of heap.frames.tack is in the sea off the coast of Nicaragua – it’s pretty obvious which location a tourist using a voice assistant in London is trying to get to…

what3words is available in over 35 languages, with translations of each 3 word address available in Japanese, Hindi, Russian, Swahili and many more.

2) AppyWay

At number two in the Disruption50 Index 2019 is AppyWay. Formerly known as AppyParking, the company was founded in 2013 by Dan Hubert, whose aim was to make parking truly forgettable via an app that tracks parking options in major cities in the UK.

Now a fully fledged mobility company, AppyWay aids local authorities with kerbside management, as well as offering intelligent mobility solutions and smart car parks to corporate clients. Its Parking Platform compiles every possible rule, restriction and tariff for on and off-street parking, unifying the fragmented – and often confusing – worlds of the public and private parking sector. In practice, this provides drivers with a standardised set of information about where and how they are able to park – a function that is particularly valuable to B2C drivers and the B2C mobile workforce.

AppyWay’s Parking Platform also helps governments to manage their kerbs. By digitally mapping kerbs, AppyWay empowers authorities to understand how they are used. In January 2019, the company launched a Smart City Parking solution in collaboration with Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council, to unify on and off-street parking in the Harrogate area. In a global first, AppyWay installed 2,156 smart sensors on Harrogate roads and consolidated parking data, payments, ANPR barriers and linear pricing into their app. This enables app users to find a parking spot in the town with real time availability, and to pay – in one click – for a parking session which automatically ends when they drive away.

AppyWay also helps corporates to manage their on site parking facilities. At ARM’s global headquarters in Cambridge, a workforce of over 3,000 employees put significant pressure on parking availability – which could not be alleviated even with the provision of extra parking spaces. AppyWay’s solution included monitoring parking bay availability with smart sensors and the promotion of ridesharing amongst employees. This was facilitated in partnership with the ridesharing company Liftshare.


Third in the Disruption50 Index 2019 is the foodsharing app OLIO. Founded by Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One in 2015, OLIO is dedicated to tackling the problem of food waste.

While most of us would agree that throwing away perfectly usable food is morally wrong, it also has a disastrous environmental impact. Astonishingly, around a third of all the food that is produced globally is thrown away, wasting precious resources in water, labour, transportation, manufacturing and packaging that could have gone to good use. In fact, if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas worldwide, after the US and China.

In the developed world, half of all food waste takes place in the home. This is what prompted Clarke and Celestial-One to create the OLIO app: to connect people in possession of unwanted food with neighbours who could make use of it. Volunteers also save food from shops and cafes in their local areas, helping these companies to become zero food waste businesses and contribute to their communities.

To date, more than 1 million OLIO users have saved over 2 million portions of food in 49 countries worldwide. The app has also branched out into facilitating the sharing of various kinds of non-food items.

A word for the judges…

Compiling the Disruption50 Index wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our judges, whose collective expertise defined the final Index of companies as well as shaping their rankings.

Matt Cross, Head of B2B EMEA at Hotwire, shared his thoughts on a judging process which – thanks to its use of Swarm AI – was as innovative as the companies themselves.

“Over the years I have been lucky enough to be involved in a number of awards judging processes and this was like no other,” he says. “The collaborative process of the Swarm was both strange and intuitive. It forced a large group of people to make compromises and work together.”

Cross was also impressed with the sense of purpose exhibited by many of the organisations on the list.

“A major trend identified from the Disruption50 finalists is an acute awareness and focus on having some sort of social purpose or sustainability impact,” he notes. “A fantastic example of this is Provenance, who are driving transparency through the supply chain using a smart blockchain solution. There’s also Electron, a trading platform for distributed energy assets that will help us transition to cheaper, cleaner and more resilient energy sources. And the work of Elder, who match families with live-in carers, nationwide, within 48 hours – is absolutely critical in today’s ageing populations.”

Innovation with impact

For Cross, the judging process also sparked some critical analysis of what it means to be truly disruptive.

“During the judging process we really had to take a deeper look at what the word ‘disruption’ means,” he says. “For me, real disruption means innovation with impact. The Disruption50 finalists needed to have more than just a good idea. They also had to have the complete package of great people, the ability to scale in the future, demonstrable traction and of course real advocacy.”

D/SRUPTION founder Rob Prevett added: “Since launching D/SRUPTION back in 2015 we’ve come across lots of disruptive organisations with some truly innovative solutions . We developed the Disruption50 Index to help identify these organisations and celebrate their ingenuity. Seeing the final 50 and our winners – it really has surpassed my expectations. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Index.”

Congratulations to what3words, AppyWay, OLIO, and all the companies who made it into the Disruption50 this year – as well as those who featured in our ‘Ones To Watch’.

If you’re an innovative business, we want to hear from you. Drop us a line, or watch this space for when the Disruption50 Index returns in 2020.

To read the Disruption50 report, with profiles of all companies in the Index, click here.

Sarah Finch
Staff Writer & Content Editor at D/SRUPTION