Wednesday 23rd July

Crowdcube raises £1.2m in 16 minutes

Crowdfunding platform Crowcube has used its own service to raise a £1.2 million investment from its followers, and managed to hit that total in 16 minutes....

Crowdfunding platform Crowcube has used its own service to raise a £1.2 million investment from its followers, and managed to hit that total in 16 minutes.

The fundraising followed a £3.8 million investment by Balderton Capital last week. Just over 140 investors backed Crowcube in the Series B round with an average investment of £8,500.

Darren Westlake, CEO and co-founder, said: "This record-breaking fundraise from our crowd of registered investors at the same time as backing by an established VC firm is a huge thumbs up for our business, team and the growth path that we outlined.

“This is the first time that any sizeable fundraise has meshed traditional and alternative finance methods and we expect to see more of this in the future.”

Crowcube will use the £5 million total investment to expand its operations in the UK and globally. It will double its 25 employees, while opening new offices in London and Scotland.

The business successfully raised money on its platform in 2011 and 2013, raising £320,000 and £1.5 million respectively.

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PayPal launches working capital solution for UK businesses

Payments provider PayPal will start offering cash advances to growing businesses in the UK from the autumn, it announced today....

Payments provider PayPal will start offering cash advances to growing businesses in the UK from the autumn, it announced today.

The business, owned by eBay, will offer merchant cash advances against future sales. It will target eBay sellers but will be open to all businesses.

PayPal said it would offer a solution to the UK’s “real need” for new funding options. Recent reports suggest that high street banks alone are not meeting businesses’ credit requirements.

PayPal Working Capital will give quick loan decisions “in minutes” and customers can “pay when they get paid” instead of on set dates.

As an advance against future sales, and not technically alone, there is also no credit check in the application process, it said.

Cameron McLean, managing director of PayPal UK, said: “Around a third of SMEs rely on retained earnings or the owner’s own finances rather than bank or equity funding. This means that many find it very difficult to finance their present needs or future growth.

“PayPal is well placed to make a difference. We’ve been helping businesses thrive online for almost 15 years. And our close relationship with our business customers means we can approve a cash advance and provide the money in minutes.”

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Tuesday 22nd July

More money needed for innovation in engineering - Cable

Business Secretary Vince Cable has unveiled three projects to boost science and engineering businesses, helping them to compete in global markets....

Business Secretary Vince Cable has unveiled three projects to boost science and engineering businesses, helping them to compete in global markets.

In a speech today, Dr Cable emphasised the need for government funding to foster “large scale innovation in areas where there are higher risks and wider benefits”.

He also said government should double innovation spending from the Technology Strategy Board, bringing the total “closer to £1 billion”.

Among the latest funding initiatives, £30 million will go towards two research programmes to develop aero engines and identify defects in critical infrastructure. The programmes are part of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and involve Rolls-Royce, Tata Steel and GKN.

Meanwhile, £11.5 million of public money will help fund the Centrum building in Norwich, which is being designed to help businesses interact with scientists and researchers in the health sector.

But Dr Cable hinted that more was in the pipeline, saying today’s announcements “do not address the UK’s under-investment in innovation and they do not reflect the scale of the step-change we need to make.”

He added: “Alongside tax incentives for R&D, public investment is also part of the solution to our chronic private sector under-investment.”

Engineering lobby group EEF welcomed the news, but said it should not be a “one-off”. Lee Hopely, chief economist at the organisation, said: “The UK is playing catch up when it comes to government support for innovation.

“There will be many other pressures on public finances in the next Parliament. However, we would like to see additional support for innovation.”

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Unhealthy habits are ‘ticking time bomb’ for workplaces

Employees taking sick leave or, worse, working when they are unwell costs businesses 7.78 per cent of their yearly wage bill in lost productivity, according to a new report....

Employees taking sick leave or, worse, working when they are unwell costs businesses 7.78 per cent of their yearly wage bill in lost productivity, according to a new report.

The Britain’s Healthiest Company report, published by Mercer and PruHealth, calculates the overall cost to the economy of unhealthy employees is £58 billion per year.

It quizzed workers at 82 different companies about their lifestyle and attitude to health and fitness. It found 62 per cent of respondents had at least two bad lifestyle habits, including drinking, eating unhealthy, failing to exercise or smoking.

The report, which analysed data from 25,000 employees in total, said there was a strong link between lifestyle risk factors, employees’ health and absence from work.

Neville Koopowitz at Pru Health said: ““Employees often lack the motivation to bring about the necessary change themselves, the workplace is the ideal agent of change due to the amount of time staff spends there, but to date has been very under-utilised.”

In other findings from the report, 52 per cent of employees don’t have a balanced diet, 40 per cent were smokers and more than a third were not hitting basic levels of exercise.

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UK pop-up retailers booming

The phenomenon of ‘pop-up’ shops in the UK contributes £2.1 billion to the economy every year, with the sector expected to grow 8.4 per cent in 12 months, figures released today show....

The phenomenon of ‘pop-up’ shops in the UK contributes £2.1 billion to the economy every year, with the sector expected to grow 8.4 per cent in 12 months, figures released today show.

Data from economics think tank CEBR and mobile service provider EE show that the trend is more than a fad and is contributing billions of pounds to the UK’s growth.

There are an estimated 10,000 of the shops across the country employing around 23,000 people. They range from experimental restaurants to temporary sales projects undertaken by major brands.

The shops are gaining in popularity and are an increasingly familiar sight on UK high streets. The industry is projected to grow two-and-a-half times faster than the wider economy this year.

“These figures demonstrate the important role pop-up retail is playing in the UK economy, but we’re only at the beginning of this pop-up revolution,” said a spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium.

“The novel use of these temporary spaces showcases the innovative nature of UK retail which continues to adapt to consumer demands and structural changes occurring throughout the industry.

“This campaign is seeking to do the much-needed job of removing the barriers that are holding pop-ups backs from their true potential.”

CEBR added that growth in pop-up shops could be increased by reducing barriers to entry, including a lack of short-term leases and available space, obstructive business rates and rent, as well as delays in access to communications technology.

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Monday 21st July

UK banks ‘not meeting small business needs’

A widely anticipated report into the UK banking industry has revealed a lack of “effective competition” that means banks “do not meet the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises”....

A widely anticipated report into the UK banking industry has revealed a lack of “effective competition” that means banks “do not meet the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises”.

The joint report by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will likely act as a precursor to a formal market investigation.

The SME banking market in the UK is worth about £2 billion.

Despite high-profile attempts to foster competition between banks there were several areas of continued concern, including barriers to new banks entering the market and lack of movement in market share between the established players.

There was also evidence that many customers saw little difference between the offerings of different banks, while levels of ‘shopping around’ or switching banks remains low.

Alex Chisholm, CMA chief executive, said: “Despite some positive developments, significant competition concerns remain which mean that customers may not be getting consistently good service and value from their banks.”

Responding to the findings, Lee Hopley, chief economist at the Engineering Employers Federation, said there was “insufficient choice, a lack of transparency on services and difficulties,” and that these were “exacerbated by the financial crisis”.

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Thursday 17th July

Social technology companies to feature in new awards

Technology companies with social goals are being called upon to enter a new award scheme that highlights social impact in the world’s tech sector....

Technology companies with social goals are being called upon to enter a new award scheme that highlights social impact in the world’s tech sector.

The Nominet Trust 100 is the first attempt to list the world’s “most inspiring” social innovations, as judged by a panel of funders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

Nominations can be submitted until 26th September (see link at bottom of this story for online form) or by tweeting @socialtechguide using the hashtag #nt100.

The NT100 says it wants to hear from established players such as Just Giving and Creative Commons as well as newer examples including:

- Cell Slider, a project from Cancer Research UK inviting people to analyse and classify images of cancerous cells

- Fairphone, an Anglo-Dutch venture promoting the first ‘fairtrade’ mobile phone based on alternative supply chains.

- Pavegen, a UK business creating paving slabs which converts energy from footsteps into usable electricity.

“The digital technologies we commonly use today have been taken up at such speed and scale because they change our lives for the better. They give us access to knowledge, connect us to our friends, gets us better deals and even gets us organised,” said Charles Leadbeater, Nominet Trust chair.

Results of the NT100 will be announced in November 2014.

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Degrees ‘not what they used to be’, say business owners

Three-quarters of small business owners think degrees have depreciated in value during the last 10 years, results from a new study show....

Three-quarters of small business owners think degrees have depreciated in value during the last 10 years, results from a new study show.

Sandler Training, a business development consultancy, quizzed 1,000 bosses and found attitudes have harshened towards top academic qualifications.

Although 83 per cent “worried” about youth unemployment, more than half said the problem was down to educational authorities and schools, not employers. Just 24 per cent said they were partly accountable.

Only one-in-five had recently hired a 16-to-24 year-old and, of those 56 per cent claimed to have had a bad experience. Nearly four in 10 said recruits didn’t have the right skills, 35 per cent said they had the wrong attitude and a quarter complained they didn’t stay long enough.

Shaun Thomson, chief executive of Sandler Training, said: “There is clearly a stalemate between small businesses and the government, which is being perpetuated by the bad experiences that many small businesses are having when they recruit young people.

He added: “But rather than tarring young people with the same brush and passing the buck to the Government, small businesses must step up and take responsibility.”

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Wednesday 16th July

New fall in UK jobless numbers

The number of working-age people without job dropped 121,000 to 2.12 million in the three months to May, according to the latest official data....

The number of working-age people without job dropped 121,000 to 2.12 million in the three months to May, according to the latest official data.

Figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), publishing this morning, showed UK unemployment at its lowest level for six years.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit also fell 36,300 to 1.04 million.

David Cameron, the prime minister, said the figures proved government plans aimed at economic recovery were working.

"Today's figures show more people have the security of a job than ever before. Full employment is a key aim of our long-term economic plan,” he said.

But detractors questioned the “quality” of jobs being created as the figures also revealed wage growth slowing to just 0.3 per cent in March compared with the same month last year.

Excluding bonuses, wage increases were at their lowest since 2001.

"It's good to see unemployment falling,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, “but with pay growth falling to a record low, serious questions must be asked about the quality of jobs being created in Britain today.”

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Company data made free online

Companies House is to make all of its digital company records free to access, saving customers millions of pounds in download fees....

Companies House is to make all of its digital company records free to access, saving customers millions of pounds in download fees.

The changes will come into effect in April 2015.

In the past, people and organisations wanting to access financial records of businesses at Companies House had to pay a small fee.

Last year, customers accessing the database paid a total of £8.7 million for the privilege.

Ministers say the move will make it easier for people to scrutinise the activities of businesses owners and connected individuals.

They added that the move could open up opportunities for entrepreneurs to find ways of providing new services with the data.

Announcing the move today, business secretary Vince Cable said: “The government firmly believes that the best way to maximise the value to the UK economy of the information which Companies House holds, is for it to be available as open data.

“By making its data freely available and free of charge, Companies House is making the UK a more transparent, efficient and effective place to do business. Today’s commitments cement the UK’s position as a leader in the open data agenda.”

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