Despite the whirlwind of political and economic tremors over the past year, the UK tech sector has undergone remarkable growth and has held onto its place as a leading destination for startups and international investment. In June, the sector surpassed £180 billion in value.
And as a company based in the heart of East London’s tech hub, we at Studio Graphene are constantly seeing new startups offering some truly unique and disruptive digital innovations.
Importantly, the Government has remained a keen advocate of the country’s digital potential, and this translated into some important policies. This year a £2.5 billion British Patient Capital programme was announced which is anticipated to attract £5 billion in private investment for businesses to scale and expand overseas.
Meanwhile, the availability and accessibility of alternative finance, crowdfunding platforms and schemes like EIS (the Enterprise Investment Scheme), as well as accelerator programmes and tech hubs, means that scaling startups have all the necessary tools at their disposal to reach their potential.
Coupled with a hunger for innovation and strong investor sentiment – both foreign and domestic – this strong level of Government backing has helped keep entrepreneurial spirits high as we head into 2019. And positively, there’s little reason to believe that this is about to change in the new year.
Challenges facing UK tech startups in 2019
Businesses large and small are already undertaking the necessary preparations to be ready for whatever eventual outcome Brexit will bring.
Perhaps most importantly, tech startups and SMEs will need to consider carefully what impact restrictions on the freedom of movement could have on their access to talent; for, one of the greatest obstacles facing the sector is in fact sourcing the right talent.
This became clear through a survey conducted by Studio Graphene in 2018, which unveiled that one in three (33%) founders felt there was a shortage of digitally skilled workers in the capital, while 35% had found it difficult to lure talent away from larger companies.
More generally, while the tech sector has enjoyed a healthy influx of new startups, the question is whether we are achieving our full potential. In other words, are those people harbouring aspirations of becoming a tech entrepreneur taking that all important next step of launching a business?
Separate research conducted by Studio Graphene in the summer of 2018 revealed that while over a quarter (26%) of UK adults have ambitions to start their own business (for millennials, this jumps to a massive 45%!), 46% feel they lack the skills and knowledge to be a successful entrepreneur.
What this research shows is a clear collective of prospective entrepreneurs who are keen to launch a business, but who are being ultimately held back due to fears of not having the know-how to take their concept to market. Education is needed to address this issue – after all, there has never been a better time for entrepreneurs to launch a business.
How tech startups can reach their potential in 2019
As was highlighted by our research, a lack of education and awareness are key considerations that need to be addressed so that more people have the confidence to launch and growth their startup. Government-led training programmes are of course one obvious solution, however spreading awareness about other alternatives is also important.
Specialised agencies and tech experts, for instance, are on hand to offer support to aspiring entrepreneurs that feel they lack the digital knowledge or experience they feel is vital.
Understandably, tech can be overwhelming for those that aren’t well-versed in the latest trends or newest innovations – in reality, only a minority would be able to explain exactly what the Internet of Things (IoT) or Artificial Intelligence (AI) really is, let alone how it works or how to take advantage of it within a business context.
So, whether it’s simply building a website or developing an app, there are plenty of avenues of support for those that need a helping hand in getting their business off the ground. And importantly, for businesses that are already up and running, outsourcing certain digital or technical tasks can relieve some of the pressure – and cost – of keeping everything in-house.
Embracing new opportunities
It’s difficult to imagine a more innovative and dynamic sector than the UK’s tech space, and clearly, Britain’s entrepreneurial spirit has not been dampened by ongoing political manoeuvrings. And despite the immediate challenges posed by Brexit in the opening months of 2019, I have no doubt that the UK will remain a world-leading destination for entrepreneurs.
Ritam Gandhi worked as a consultant for a decade for the likes of Accenture and Bank of America Merrill Lynch before, in 2014, going on to found Studio Graphene – a firm that specialises in developing amazing blank canvas tech products.
Working with many startups alongside innovation teams in more established companies, the London-based agency plans, designs and builds astounding tech products for its clients. What’s more, Ritam and the team also use their experience and expertise to help leaders grow their business from ideation, to launch and beyond.