THE BLOG
21/10/2015 06:49 BST | Updated 16/10/2016 06:12 BST

Looking Outside the Valley: Why British Tech Companies Can Make It Outside the US

Most businesses dream of going global, and British tech companies are no exception to the rule. But while it seems obvious that the latest crop of Silicon Roundabout trailblazers (tech firms based in London's Tech City) should expand to their Silicon "sister" in California, that might not always be the right choice.

As The Guardian recently wrote, when TechCrunch launched its first Disrupt conference - an event where start-up tech firms launch products on stage in front of potential investors - there were 45 start-ups involved. This year, there were 5,000. This just goes to show two things: the tech market is evolving rapidly, and the competition is fierce in Silicon Valley.

While Silicon Valley remains a key tech hub, it's worth taking a close look at other less saturated markets or up-and-coming regions, many of which are ripe for disruption.

British tech start-ups could perhaps look towards the likes of Asia, where the appetite for medical technology is paving the way to a more efficient way of curing diseases and demand for medical services in China alone is also expected to grow by 15 per cent by 2020. Singapore, too, is set to become an international hub for research and experiments surrounding the future of medicine - a great opportunity for med-tech.

On the other side of the world, Latin America is experiencing a boom in educational technology, signalled by LinkedIn's acquisition of Lynda.com, which has been the region's must-visit website for online learning since the mid-nineties. The use of smartphones in the area is also set to increase to 50 per cent by 2018 representing a huge opportunity for mobile businesses.

The Middle East is also emerging as a destination for British technology firms. Dubai is a city rich in opportunity; it was recently named the second most important global international shopping destination for the fourth consecutive year, making it an attractive proposition for forward-thinking retail tech businesses.

Our CEO Steve Blyth tells an interesting anecdote about Dubai. When he was there in the early noughties he saw a man with a giant hose spraying sand into the water. He asked him what he was doing and the man told him he was building an island, which became Palm Island. This made him think it's a place full of opportunities, and ever since it's been his dream to set up in Dubai.

Deciding to take your business abroad is a big step. Instinct, business partnerships and gut feeling all play a part in choosing a location, but our decision to take our business, Engage Works and its Flux innovation lounge, to Dubai was definitely a strategic one. Having partnered up with Dubai-based businesses in the past and having worked with retail-focused brands and agencies around the world, it made perfect sense to open a Flux lounge in the Middle East and take it to Dubai.

While most Brit-tech firms are lured in by Silicon Valley's reputation, setting up shop only really makes sense if there's a genuine commercial opportunity: you have to assess the market.

Though if the product fits and there's a potential to make some noise (or cash), then go for it. There's no denying that the US consumer tech market is huge and there's always a chance to capitalise on it. There's now 147 unicorns (companies valued at more than $1bn) based in Silicon Valley: that's three times more than two years ago, so the potential is there for all to dream.

As a technology company, the United States will always be in our sights: the East Coast of America is one of the liveliest creative hubs in the world and has a huge international reach. Still, British tech companies should be excited about looking outside the valley: after all, we can't call ourselves pioneers in tech if we over-look developing markets.