From a niche of upstarts trying to make it, start ups have become the epicentre of London’s tech ecosystem. This development needs to be firmly represented in our policies, writes Jeff Lynn
Thirteen years ago, I co-founded an organisation called The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec) to fight in the government for the needs of the UK’s tech startup ecosystem.
Back then tech startups weren’t the force they are today – in fact they were more of a curious oddity. Entrepreneurs like myself were to be found clustered in pockets of East London – nestled alongside cereal cafes and craft beers. At the time the idea of a “Silicon Roundabout” in Old Street was an inside joke.
We were a bunch of scrappy upstarts, but knew we needed a voice at the table on policy – because if we weren’t at the table we would be the ones on the menu.
Since then things have changed hugely, for the tech startup ecosystem and for our organisation, which we are today renaming the Startup Coalition.
British startups are no longer an amusing sideshow; they’re at the heart of our economic growth story. They can be found all over the country. Silicon Roundabout is no longer a joke; it’s now recognised as the place where it all began.
This transformation reflects something more profound about the UK economy. Virtually every sector of the economy is now embracing digital technologies. Startups are not just critical businesses in their own right; they are increasingly enablers of a more productive, tech-enabled vision for future growth in the AI age and beyond.
So, to better reflect this, I’m really excited about our rebrand today to the Startup Coalition. We’ve got a new name, a new brand and an expanded Board made up of some of the leaders of the startup ecosystem – but we maintain the same hyper focus on making policy in the UK better for tech-enabled startups across our entire economy.
We’re proud of our work over the past thirteen years and the influence we have had over initiatives ranging from launch of the Future Fund to the creation of the Scale Up Visa, from SEIS expansion to the 11th hour acquisition of Silicon Valley Bank.
But there’s still so much to be done – and the data we’re publishing today shows it. Of the ten top “Startup Constituencies” in the UK, eight of them are in London. There’s still a lack of capital outside of London and the South East. It’s still too hard for would-be founders outside of the startup bubble to get access to the help they need.
And despite the phenomenal success of our startup ecosystem over the last decade, we are currently flying through a storm: there’s a funding crisis, valuations have been cut, hiring frozen and jobs lost. We need the government to help the ecosystem take its next big steps – and help build the companies that will compete globally as well as tackling the big problems we have at home.
That requires holding politicians’ feet to the fire. That’s what we’re here to do. We still need the ecosystem’s help to do it.