‘It’s baffling’: Startups slam Barclays’ contract win from Tech Nation
The tech startup community has pushed back against reports that Tech Nation may be facing threat after the government reportedly handed its £12m contract to Barclays.
As first reported by The Sunday Times, the banking titan has nabbed the contract from the entrepreneur network, which is best known for providing support for aspiring founders and scale up firms.
A startup source told City A.M. that the move is “baffling if true”. “You can’t let a bank run the government support programmes for startups like fintechs. It’s like letting an arsonist teach kids about fire safety,” they said.
Another told City A.M. that the government has “effectively handed Barclays funds to acquire new customers”.
“Every new startup needs a business account. It’s not difficult to imagine that support will come with a sales pitch. If I were other banks I’d be worried.”
They added: “To an outsider looking in, Tech Nation and Barclays Eagle Labs are offer a similar service and are interchangeable. However the fundamental difference is that Tech Nation is independent and isn’t a potential competitor or customer of the startups it’s meant to be supporting.
One of the biggest banks in the world should not be deciding which startups get access to vital support – shareholder value and business interests always win.”
Since its formation in 2010, Tech Nation has supported over 4,000 UK tech companies, working with over 30 per cent of the UK’s 122 tech unicorns ever created and 44 per cent of the UK’s decacorns.
While Tech Nation’s existing government funding will run until March 2023, it is now unclear what the future for the organisation will hold beyond that.
Tech Nation chief Gerard Grech said DCMS would be responsible for communicating any outcome and instead emphasised the group’s wider value to the startup community, calling it the “engine room for UK tech scale-ups”.
He said regardless of any DCMS decision, the organisation would continue to support the tech ecosystem.
A DCMS spokesperson said: “No final decisions have been made,” with an announcement coming in due course.
The DCMS decision will have no baring on Tech Nation’s role designated by the Home Office, to endorse the Global Talent Visa.