The end of the world? Not necessarily …

Exporting is GREAT: Stuart Rock

Most owner-directors of companies will recall 2008 without much pleasure. Stuart Rock reckons it wasn't all bad, though ...

Stuat Rock

It was the year when the credit crunch bared its teeth, Lehman Brothers collapsed, and the global economy spiralled downwards. And as for 2009 ...well, that was a write-off year for many small businesses.

But not for all. Actually, 2008 and 2009 were the years when some of the UK's most exciting international businesses started.

Each one of the 3 examples below has grown their international sales at staggering levels over the past two years. And yet they couldn't be more different.

Oxford-based Cobalt Light Systems is a PhD-heavy university spin-out; the firm's machines are used in more than 65 international airports to scan the contents of drinks bottles and duty-free shopping, to check for explosives. Exports now make up more than 70% of Cobalt's business, and international sales hit £8.1m in 2014 - up an average of 328% per year over the previous 2 years. Its technology also has applications ranging from pharmaceutical manufacturing to breast cancer screening.

Acro Aero came about after a conversation in a pub between two engineers, Chris Brady and Andrew Lawler, about how to design a better fixed-back (i.e non-reclining) aircraft seat. Today, the Crawley-based company is making 3,000 seats a month for airlines such as KLM,, and several US low-cost carriers. The company has its sights set on becoming an approved supplier for Boeing or Airbus. If you fly cattle class, these guys are trying to make your flights more comfortable.

Miura Systems is the creation of a serial entrepreneurial team who had already built and sold a public company, Dione plc, which made chip and PIN terminals. Miura is a key player in the mobile revolution: it's the world leader in mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) payment hardware. In a world rapidly moving towards contactless payment, the devices and terminals of this High Wycombe business are transforming the way we pay in shops, restaurants and, er, practically everywhere.

There's a buzz about companies that are global from day one. Shaun Pulfrey's Tangle Teezer patented hair brushing device was launched in the UK in 2008 but the home market was never going to be big enough. Holland was the company's first market. Global expansion was led by word of mouth and rapidly took off. "It was imperative that we got out and secured a foothold in these markets - and quick," says Pulfrey.

These stories – and many, many more - demonstrate that the UK is continuing to spawn innovative, internationally-oriented companies that are capable of becoming world leaders - from sub-sea exploration to software, from smart materials to skateboards.

Great businesses can emerge from the deepest of recessions.

 ‘This is an edited extract of an article originally posted in the Huffington Post on 19/05/15, reposted with permission of author’

Stuart Rock is a multiple award-winning business editor and writer