Since the beginning of the 21st century software has been a dominant sector of the Hiscox Tech Track 100 league, and it looks like it’s here to stay. Some of the companies that have made up this section over the years include The Foundry, Kaspersky Lab, and for better or worse, Tax Computer Systems. Yes, software is a vast umbrella under which a diverse range of subsectors lie, but there’s still something impressive about its continual development and steadfast power-house position in the industry.

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Breakaway categories of software have leapt into our consciousness in recent years, in particular fintech, ad-tech, and app software businesses operating to a new model now characterise the Tech Track 100. This band of visionary dissenters are capitalising on our seemingly boundless consumption of the internet, a force that saw smartphone internet use overtake laptops this year, and has all but bonded the smartphone to the human hand forever.

Companies such as VE Interactive, LMAX Exchange and Fanduel, understand our insatiable drive for digital efficiency, capability, and availability and they’re taking the software sector by storm. These are the disrupters, and they’re threatening the standard industry model with a much better one.

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Challenging traditions

Thanks to this lively new competition in the software sector, industry thought-leading is no longer limited to established companies. The increasing need for fast, convenient payment and trade methods has seen fintech innovation and sales growth supercharge. Forming its own breakaway category from general software in last year’s league, Fintech brought us LMAX Exchange, now a major player in the FX marketplace, who revolutionised the field by bringing their sophisticated electronic trading platform to all types of traders. Their disruptive technology won them top of the league in 2014.

Ten fintech companies currently feature on this year’s Tech Track 100, with software developers bringing us e-transactions, trading services and all new peer to peer lending models. Funding Circle, for example, achieved sales of £11.8m with their platform that allows savers to lend money directly to SMEs. Ratesetter, an online matchmaker for borrowers and lenders allowing them to choose their own rates, also achieved an impressive growth margin of 184%.

Related: 7 things every company can learn from Silicon Valley / Bernard Marr

A brave new business plan

Particularly in the gaming sector, there’s been a large influence from the B2C sector on B2B business models. It was traditionally the case that gaming companies worked for big publishers, but with the advent of the app store the route to market is much easier, allowing companies to monetise directly from the consumer. In a way, B2B is now taking a large leaf out of the B2C business model handbook.

This new strategy, which involves reaching out to the consumer directly, is characterised by free-to-play, early access and donate-to-development programmes, as well as discounted prices for beta-testing games.

And the trend’s clearly visible in this year’s Tech Track, with Fanduel – who offer online fantasy sports premium games – being marked out as one of Britain’s tech industry ‘unicorns’ since being valued at over £1billion. Palringo, an online meeting place and platform for gamers, also featured after achieving sales of £8.4m, as did Green Man Gaming, a trading platform and social network, which experienced a growth rate of 106%.

Related: “The geeks are now the masters of the universe” / Piers Linney

Digitally engineered to target you

Another interesting learning of this year’s Tech Track 100 league is that ad-tech companies really are engineering every inch of the internet to target consumers – and it’s working. As they’re driven through digital channels, advertisers can track consumers and put adverts on their footfalls to capitalise on their increased use of the internet.  Eight of this year’s Tech Track 100 companies, including Affectiv, Captify, and Digitalbox, target browsers with personalised ads.

VE interactive, who topped the tech track this year, are an example of the importance of targeted advertising technology. Proving that honing an online presence is extremely important for businesses, VE interactive saw a sales growth of 306% a year, from £313k in 2011 to £20.9m in 2014.

As a cheap alternative to the high street, and with sales expected to reach £52.25 billion in 2015, it’s no surprise that retail companies not only want an online presence but also intend to squeeze this channel as far as possible to extract its full potential.

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The future of software

There’s no doubt that as our lives shift more and more towards the online world, the business community is becoming increasingly digital, and smart businesses will not only tap this resource but ensure it’s astutely optimised too. This means ad-tech companies and those using targeted marketing and analysis software will continue to have a crucial role to play in reaching consumers.

The fintech sector may also have another trick up its sleeve. Despite a strong presence this year, all fintech companies currently on the tech track list relate to banking, leaving a visible innovation gap in the insurance market – a sector still operating in the dark ages according to some. A lucrative industry with international business reach, the insurance sector is, in my opinion, ripe for disruption.

In terms of ground-breaking innovation, you can be sure it will come from the software sector. Creating the next big piece of hardware is massively costly. It’s also riskier, more technical and trickier to achieve. With software, we could see the next disruptor in the market as quickly as next week. The fact is we can never quite know for sure where this disrupter will come from, making it all the more exciting to watch out for.

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