Small business owners share their views on this morning’s announcement from the prime minister that the government is to invest £50m in London’s Tech City to create a dedicated space for startups and entrepreneurs.
Adam Bird, co-founder and CTO at Nottingham-based Esendex, said that a landmark building misses the point and is not what the UK tech startup scene is looking for right now.
“The priorities for tech startups are the basic building blocks: a cheap space with heating, lighting and superfast broadband. Aside from that, what we need most is a highly-skilled workforce, so this is where government should be focusing its effort.
“It raises another point about investing in one area of the country. The government seems determined to create another Silicon Valley and investing in a few square miles around East London excludes other centres of excellence, whether it’s here in Nottingham or Cambridge, Brighton, Manchester or a hundred and one other technology hubs around the country. The focus instead should just be on creating the building blocks for success: access to high speed internet and developing IT skills.”
Rose Ross, founder of Tech Trailblazers, based in Surbiton on the outskirts of London, said: “As a Briton passionate about technology and entrepreneurialism, I welcome any investment in this area from the UK government. But it is a big ask for an area less than a square mile to lift a country’s brand.
“Focus is fantastic, but not to the exclusion of the wealth of talent outside a corner of East London or even the M25. To really be taken seriously as a startup nation, we need to nurture and encourage those startups regardless of where they are based. Entrepreneurs want to choose where they work. If Britain has a first class infrastructure, both digitally and transport wise, we will see ‘techcities’ and ‘techvillages’ springing up all around the UK.”
Mark Blackhurst, co-founder and director at SEONext in Manchester, commended the prime minister’s commitment to ensuring that the UK is at the forefront of the global technology race, but is disappointed to see that he hasn’t looked outside of East London.
“London’s Tech City is a fantastic hub of creative energy and talent – but there are many other clusters in the UK where creative and technological industries are burgeoning.
“I implore the government to adopt a less blinkered approach and to realise that London does not have exclusive rights to own the digital revolution. £50m is an eye-watering amount of funding by anyone’s standards – it feels wrong that this is not being shared more equally across the UK’s technological landscape.”
Martin Port, the Leeds-based CEO of BigChange, said: “Initiatives to boost London’s technology startup scene are good news for entrepreneurs in London and the South East, but don’t do much for the rest of the UK. There are early-stage technology firms in the North of England with just as much potential that are largely left to their own devices by the government’s London-centric technology strategy.
“If Silicon Roundabout is to be the capital of the UK technology industry, it could do so much more if it were just one of a network of technology hubs around the UK. Government money would be better spent helping technology businesses across the UK access international markets.”
Simon Hill, MD and founder of Wazoku, based in West London, said that it is positive news for the area and will make a big difference, but innovation is now critical.
“It shows that focus and investment are being put towards developing the area and that innovation and new business are seen as important and growth areas for the economy. Focusing on one specific area is fine for now, but there are other amazing pockets of innovation and new business all over London and in other cities in the UK that are also worthy of investment.
“In Silicon Valley, the ecosystem works as large and small businesses exist and co-exist together for mutual benefit, and the more we can do to work towards a similar ecosystem the better. The more the focus on innovation and ideas, then the better it is for us as that is what we do.”
Russ Shaw, angel investor and member of the Tech City Advisory Group, said the announcement is a further welcome development in the continuing upward curve for this unlikely ‘hotspot’.
“I see great value in having the prime minister backing a sector of the economy that is focused on growth, jobs and value creation.
“If these moves help attract further investment to the area and ensure that the global tech giants – from Amazon to Microsoft, from Google to Telefonica – continue to bring their might to the area, thegovernment is doing what it can to give the UK’s growing tech cluster a better than fighting chance against the rest.”