Does the UK technology sector measure up? (An opinion piece by me published at BDaily.co.uk Business News)
It's Technology Week on Bdaily. Daniel Steeves, a Canadian Partner at James Caan’s Mayfair firm HB Prime Advantage offers his opinion on how the climate could be improved for the tech businesses in the UK in comparison with other countries.
From commitments to infrastructure improvements, through to making available more visas for skilled workers, the UK Government has been backing some relatively successful efforts to attract new or added presence from some of the ‘big players’ to London but, in my opinion, a bit too focused an eastward view.
Regardless of the geography, supporting technology-focused or technology-enabled start-up businesses (a space currently supporting tens of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in revenue across the UK) is a clever approach as both a short-term tactical and a longer view strategic position to work towards bolstering and growing our economy.
The problem is not only that an East London focus excludes the successful and growing technology industry we have in Cambridge and down the M4 Corridor to Oxford (the places in the UK where those billions are generated) but that, for the most part, the typical east London start-up is in the consumer-facing space rather than targeting the business to business environment (the companies in the UK who are generating those billions).
“Build it and they will come” does not apply to industry in general or the technology sector in particular, rather it is something that happens… and then grows. I grew up in the growing Silicon Valley (North) as Ottawa was sometimes called. Like its California namesake businesses started and grew in that geography partly in support of the Military and mostly because of what was under the ground… as the industry (and the local population) grew, so did the supporting ecosystem, from the service sector through to education to Government.
So, how to improve the climate for technology start-ups in general? I’d consider starting with the following three things:
- Continued encouragement and support for business start-ups, but enhanced with education and awareness on what constitutes a sustainable business.
- A little (or a lot) less hands-on involvement with the business of the sector, replaced with a greater focus on removing roadblocks related, for example, to taxes and visas
- Just let it happen… from an external point of view the Government should support start-ups as though they were plates spinning on a stick: don’t touch the stick until you are certain that the plate is going to fall (and be ready and aware to be sure of which ones to be sure of catching!)