There are a number of startup hubs around the world that have grabbed the spotlight. Silicon Valley is the original and most famous, but New York, London, Berlin, Boston, and my own Los Angeles are climbing the ranks. Of course, no list of startup hubs would be complete without talking about [...]
Gartner released last week its latest Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. Last year, big data reigned supreme, at what Gartner calls the “peak of inflated expectations.” But now big data has moved down the “trough of disillusionment,” replaced by the Internet of Things at the top of the hype cycle. [...]
The UK startup scene is booming. Across the country, particularly in London, a plethora of ambitious, high-growth companies are looking to break out into wider international markets.
From Asos to Zoopla, every successful and ambitious startup eventually reaches a point where growth becomes a challenge to manage. With the UK scene relatively localised, the next step is international.
But how do you scout new markets without domestic performance stagnating? And once you have earmarked new markets, who provides the capital needed to ensure continued progress? This is a common situation, but one which catches out many.
The first challenge is to figure out in what direction you will grow. Sustained growth is achieved by not only having a key, but picking the right door to go through. Some startups look to make the most of the burgeoning market in the Far East, but are faced with difficult cultural and linguistic differences, as well by intense competition from Beijing or Tokyo. When margins are tight, a single error of judgment can be fatal.
Others decide to follow the yellow brick road to California’s Silicon Valley. You only need to look at a startup such as Citymapper to see the effect a move to the West Coast can have: founded in London, the transport app headed to San Francisco to fuel further growth, and by this year was announced by Apple as a key software feature in the iWatch.
This story doesn't speak of the challenges that Silicon Valley poses. Even startups equipped with staff with solid contact books and track records can come unstuck in a new environment. Boots on the ground are an imperative, and while the short-term expense may seem unappealing - even hazardous - the longer-term bonus of integration within an already international community cannot be understated.
In short, any international introduction requires a flexible attitude. Efficiency is key in balancing the books, but professional counsel is just as important in making sure that the correct doors are opened.
Once a startup has established an international presence and a business plan is streamlined, it can start to prise open the wallets of institutional finance. Tellingly, Citymapper initially headed to California for predominantly financial reasons, conscious of the difficulties of sourcing long-term backing in London. They were eventually bankrolled to the tune of $10m (around £6.5m) by British venture capital firm Balderton Capital – but this is an exceptional example.
Financing in London is another clear stumbling block for an ambitious startup. Crowdfunding is a promising method of kicking off a business, yet there remains a black hole of capital for smaller businesses. While tech-focused venture capital has expanded greatly in the last few years, there is still a serious lack of liquidity in the market. Likewise, British firms are more risk averse and remain reluctant to provide long-term finance to startups.
Investment needs to come from somewhere, and once again the United States is the primary target. Silicon Valley is the cradle of venture capital, and its firms are by their very nature more open to risk and more willing to look at the long-term benefits of startups.
But when asking a Silicon Valley venture investor to look beyond its fertile local market, the UK tech startup needs to make an effort to meet at least half-way. Amongst other things, this means ensuring that the investment vehicle has “clean lines”; a clear and simple corporate structure, manageable debt relationships, clearly defined IP vesting in an unambiguous ownership and licensing structure.
Once again, this is not something that can be achieved independently. Any startup needs a thorough base of contacts and independent verification to make that leap towards sustained funding. But once that gap has been filled, the sky is the limit.
The expansion process for any company is an exciting, but nerve-wracking, time. The most important factor is clear direction and efficiency of execution and it is important not to go it alone.
Conférence/débat au Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales sur le thème du Temps A l’occasion de la sortie de son premier ouvrage “Le Témoin du Temps” chez L’Harmattan, Stéphane Bellocine organise une conférence/débat au CNES le 25 novembre de 17h30 précises à 19h, 2 place Maurice Quentin Paris 1er arrondissement (Métro Les Halles). Il s’agit d’un conte philosophique sur le Temps, avec pour
Help your business take the next step on the growth ladder with this helpful advice from Leona Barr Jones, founder of Business Growth Consultancy, Barr Jones Associates.
With recent figures showing that around three million businesses in the UK operate as family businesses and two in five private sector jobs are now being provided by family businesses, it is clear that working within privately run SMEs is very much on the increase. Family businesses tend to be more loyal to their staff and opportunities to learn on the job are greater.
A key benefit of a family run business, says Leona Barr Jones, founder of Business Growth Consultancy, Barr Jones Associates, is that there is often a culture of mentoring and an emphasis on strong business values. Here Leona looks at the benefits of having a good mentor on board when developing a growing business.
Having a strong business mentor is often the make or break for a growing business. Having someone to talk through your business issues with and can help motivate and empower you can really help your business fly. Here are my five top tips to finding a good business mentor:
• Explore your own networks first Consider family, friends, former bosses or inspiring business contacts that you already know, in the first instance. Pick people whose judgement you admire and respect and approach them with a view to them becoming your business mentor. Make sure you pick people who you trust are going to be honest with you and can give you an external view of your business.
If you work in a family business, there may be an opportunity to use a relative as a business mentor. Just make sure that you have similar business ideals and that you won’t put your personal relationship under strain if you take this route.
• Ask your network for recommendations You may find that a friend of a friend is in the same sort of business as you and would be a perfect match. Ask the question on social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Twitter to ensure that you spread your search as widely as possible. Explore every avenue in your own network before you start looking further afield. Ask your family for recommendations particularly if you work with them – they know you best and will be able to suggest good matches.
• Check out Government schemes to see if you qualify for support from a mentor Organisations such as the Prince’s Trust can put you in touch with someone to give you business support if you are aged between 14 and 30. It is worth trying your local Chamber of Commerce and see if they run or keep lists of potential mentors. Finally, schemes such as the Government’s Growth Vouchers programme are certainly worth applying for and can give you support in a few vital key areas such as finance and marketing.
• Target people you admire Think about entrepreneurs that you admire or would love to work with and write to them. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain if they are interested in giving you support along the way. Draw up a hit list of your idea business mentors and make sure your letter is personalised to them and explains clearly why they are somebody you would like to work with.
The key to any successful mentoring partnership is respect and the ability to get on together. You’ve got to click and you have to be able to have honest conversations about your business with each other. Above all you need to be able to communicate with each other and there needs to be trust and respect on both sides.
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