Gary Shapiro the president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association drew scorn last year in the UK after comments he made at the CES (consumer electronics show) in Las Vegas. Acting as the event organiser for the CES Mr. Shapiro’s comment that the UK government was a “source of embarrassment” over its lack of support for tech start-ups did little to earn him any goodwill.
Many people were quick to point out the UK government did offer plenty of support for tech start-ups with Matt Hancock the UK minister for sport, media and culture saying: “He’s wrong on that because the British presence here is significant”
He further elaborated adding: “This is one of many different shows around the world where we have a British presence. In a sense what it shows is there is a constant battle to stay ahead”. However, while Mr. Shapiro’s comments were not received positively some did argue that he had a point.
After all, in last year’s event, it was estimated there was up to five times the number of French start-ups at the CES as British ones. So, when you look at the numbers and the rather split options from UK tech start-ups at the time do we have to begrudgingly admit that Mr. Shapiro had a point?
It might not have been phrased overly well but can we really argue with facts? Or does it simply mean that the way the UK government goes about offering support is different when compared to countries like France and Netherlands, which the UK was compared to in Mr. Shapiro’s comment.
Well now that we are just over a year on from that CES show and only a few weeks have passed since the 2018 show let’s take a look at how the UK supports its tech companies shall we? That way we can better judge whether Mr. Shapiro’s comment had any merit.
Start-Up Support In The UK
Before I take a look at some individual examples of support let me give you a basic idea of what I found. Let’s get the big question out of the way first yes there is plenty of support available for UK tech start-ups although finding it can be a little difficult.
There’s also some geographical issues because some of the help and support on offer is focused on London tech start-ups. Now while the capital is one of the best places for a tech business to set-up it might not be an option for everyone.
So, let’s now take a look at what I’ve found. Support for start-ups comes in many forms some focuses on certain aspects of business like funding help and mentoring while others are more general. So, without further ado let’s see what help is available.
Legal and General Support
According to Jones Whyte Family Lawyers, one of the many stumbling blocks for start-up businesses is the many legal loopholes and barriers you’ll need to cross. This is understandably complex work and requires a lot of time, but is there any help available from the UK government?
Yes, there is, the Direct GOV website is a great starting resource and it even offers professional templates for some of the documentation you’ll need. It also links to other professional bodies that can offer you advice and assistance.
There is a bounty of resources for writing business plans in particular which is one of the first steps any entrepreneur will need to take to set-up their business. There’s also resources that outline business tax and other costs as well as some valuable legal resources that outline what you’ll be responsible for when you set-up your business.
You’ll also find a whole host of government-sponsored schemes that can be found all around the UK, so it’s highly likely they’ll be an organisation or group who can support you in some way no matter where your business is based.
Innovative UK is another Government Body worth mentioning, it holds funding competitions for businesses and research groups. There’s also the London Co-Investment fund however as the name implies you will need to be based in London to apply for a grant.
Tech London is another valuable resource for support which can help with funding capital, mentoring and much more. Tech London is a joint project by a number of groups including the Mayor of London however you do once again need to be based in London to get assistance.
However, Tech London can help businesses get set-up in London as well, so if you are interested in moving your businesses base of operation to London then Tech London is a valuable resource. Some other notable government schemes include the better broadband scheme for businesses which is designed to offer support to business who work in low broadband speed areas.
While this is certainly useful to select businesses, it does feel like a far inferior version of the broadband connection voucher scheme which was shut down at the end of 2015. Some other notable support groups funded by the UK government include Tech City UK which provides a wide-range of support to UK tech businesses.
This includes legal support, professional assistance and much more! Many tech businesses have been helped through the difficult early days of their start-up with the assistance of Tech City UK including big names like Shazam and Just Eat.
Another valuable part of Tech City UK’s support is the mentoring and support platform the Digital Business Academy. This a free online platform designed to help entrepreneurs learn and share their skills and there are a number of valuable rewards available.
So How Much Support Is On Offer?
That’s a snapshot of the support available in the UK, there’s plenty of other names and groups to talk about so, on the whole, does the UK government offer enough support to tech companies?
Well, that’s all going to be down to the individual there is certainly a lot of support and many of the important areas are covered like legal assistance and mentoring but like anything, there is still room for improvement. However, I would still urge any tech start-up entrepreneur to explore the support options available.