Thursday 28 February 2019 11:24 am

London offers a magic potion for startup success, but we can up our game

The formula for a successful business is impossible to define.

Just having the best product isn’t enough (Betamax’s loss to VHS back in the eighties can tell you that).

Great branding and brilliant management are both necessary, obviously, but neither is a silver bullet. Luck is probably part of it. Hard work too.


But whatever the magic potion is, we bottle more of it in London than anywhere else in Europe. We have more tech startups, and more unicorns too. It is lucky that we do – because these are the businesses which will define London’s future.

These are our nation’s problem solvers. They tackle the big issues – from cancer treatment to climate science – and find solutions where the old models couldn’t.

That mentality is going to be important in the next few years. These are the businesses which see any change in the UK’s global position in the same way as a flaw in their coding: an issue that they can work their way around.

Tonight, we are hosting the London Business Awards to celebrate some of the best of our capital’s problem solvers. The nominees are taken from the Mayor’s International Business Programme, which helps scaleups grow from a brilliant idea into a global leader.

It’s a wonderful moment to pause and think about how much these companies have achieved, and the London community which has helped along the way.

We have seen firms like the fintech challenger Revolut become unicorns. Who knows what they will become in the future, or what challenges they will vanquish?

The building blocks for success in London have always been there. We have an ecosystem of world-class universities, early-adopting consumers, and a network of finance professionals, advisers, and regulators that no one in the world can match – not to mention the lifestyle. Any entrepreneur who hits on the right formula has the power of eight million people behind them.


But it can be overwhelming. Scaleups are often very lean – they don’t have the resource or experience to navigate that ecosystem.

And so, as the nation prepares to undergo the biggest transformation in generations, London has had to up its game for scaleup support.

Initiatives like the International Business Programme have become much more sophisticated in linking the expertise of our expert adviser community with the power of our scaleups. Firms like WSGR, Collinson, KPMG, Taylor Wessing, and Lloyd’s Bank support the programme with significant amounts of time and expertise.

It’s a virtuous circle, and one we need to widen. The next few years are going to be crucial for our city. The choices we make now and the foundations we lay will define our success in the next generation.

Collectively, we have to pool every piece of expertise and experience we have to make a success of the new economy. That was already true, regardless of Brexit – our EU exit just adds to the pressure.

It is now more important than ever to support the businesses of the future. The fourth industrial revolution is going to be a hard race, and the winners of tonight’s awards show how Britain can win it.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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