Neil Woodford blasts "appallingly bad" funding for UK startups

Jake Cordell
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Orange building with Cheer Up Start Up written on the front
Are startups being put in the slow lane by funding restrictions? (Source: Getty)

The UK's most famous investor has said the UK's funding system is "appallingly bad" at helping startups reach their full potential.

Neil Woodford, who heads up Woodford Investment Management, told the BBC: "We have been appallingly bad at giving those minnows the long-term capital they need".

Woodford is a vociferous advocate of taking a long-term approach to investing and said he believes where people do pile cash into the UK's startup scene they often require the money to be returned too quickly, stopping businesses from continuing to invest in supersonic growth.

"The limited number of success stories here in the UK have generally sold out early," the star fund manager said.

Read more: London is the most expensive place in the world to locate a startup

"This comes back to the capital problem. These businesses that have been successful and may have reached a couple of hundred million market value, have been under pressure from their shareholders to sell out.

"That's principally because of the time constraints on the kinds of capital that institutions have been able to provide to those businesses so they have been forced to sell out really and haven't had the choice to stay domestic and access more capital to become the multi-billion dollar company they had the potential to come."

Arguably the UK's most successful tech firm, microchip maker Arm Holdings, was sold to Japanese outfit Softbank in a £24bn takeover in July. The deal triggered concerns about a leading British company being bought by a foreign organisation, and concerns about potentially job losses in the UK.

The fears prompted new prime minister Theresa May to extract a series of "very hard guarantees" from Softbank before the deal went ahead.