According to statistics from the Federation of Small Businesses, Britain is a nation of SMEs. As of 2014 SMEs accounted for 99.3% of all the country's private sector companies, while small and medium businesses boasted a combined turnover in excess of £1.6trillion and employed more than 15.2million people. While its multinationals and PLCs that become household names and generate newspaper headlines, start-ups and SMEs - such as Flubit (yep, name dropping my own) and countless others like us - remain crucial to the UK economy.
In January 2014 David Cameron described small businesses as 'the lifeblood of our economy' in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme. The prime minister evidently recognises the importance of small-to-medium businesses here in the UK, and yet start-ups continue to face significant barriers to success. Some of these obstacles are universal: the difficulties involved in building brand loyalty and marketing an unheralded enterprise are felt across the country, as are the costs of corporation tax and auto-enrolment pension contributions. Here in London SMEs and start-ups have even greater obstacles to overcome: the market is often saturated with competitors, commercial rent prices are enormous and there's the constant pressure to offer staff competitive living wages and benefits packages (pool tables, fake grass, etc..). We've been lucky enough here at Flubit to secure significant investment in the future of our company. We have a fantastic team of backers who believe in what we're striving to achieve, but what more could be done? The government already do quite a bit for Start Ups, R&D Tax Credits, SEIS, EIS, EMI Options... but if we're being really British, what could we moan about still?
The Square Mile, Canary Wharf... has long been viewed as London's beating heart, and by extension the nerve centre of the UK economy. Many banks and insurance firms continue to operate out of the financial districts, and rightly so, it remains an area capable of exerting significant political and cultural influence that wasn't achieved overnight.
The Silicon Roundabout, as East London's Tech City is known, is home to the third-greatest concentration of tech start-ups in the world - or the greatest if you're from London and wish to exclude anything West of Reading. Commentators including The Telegraph's Alex Wood have suggested that Tech City could one day rival Silicon Valley, perhaps producing the next Facebook, Google or Amazon. Let's leave the global dominance to one side for now, and on a more parochial scale, could London's tech start-ups soon prove more important to the UK economy than the Square Mile? Are they already?
While the city's financial powerhouses have had their foundations shaken following the bailout, tech sector start-ups and SMEs are going from strength to strength. New tech clusters are springing up across the capital in areas such as Wapping, Haggerston and Clerkenwell, helping to strengthen the idea that London is a breeding ground for tech innovators every bit a match for California and New York. Tech City now boasts the cachet to attract talent from across the UK and even globally - a factor that makes building a successful team that bit easier. We've been able to recruit a talented and ambitious team capable of achieving great things here at Flubit, and we aren't alone. The sector's small-to-medium businesses employ tens of thousands of people and generate vast sums for the economy, and while we've yet to unearth the UK equivalent of Apple or Microsoft, perhaps the next big thing is already in development on the streets of Shoreditch or the banks of Regent's Canal - after all something I've been saying for quite some time, we're still just a baby in age.
The continued success of London's tech start-ups is a reminder of the importance of SMEs to the nation's economy and hopes for the future. Small businesses have the potential to become large businesses, and large businesses have the power to influence and inspire countless others. Failure to support the UK's SMEs could mean that new Tech Cities are denied the chance to emerge. We can only hope that David Cameron and the Conservative government do their best to keep 'the lifeblood of our economy' pumping away, so that more small business like ours get their chance to succeed.