Half of the UK’s 30,000 plus scaleups expect to raise finance this year, either through debt or equity.
But 40 per cent of scaleups perceive that there is not enough capital available to meet their growth needs, according to a Scaleup Institute survey.
Last summer the Scaleup Institute identified a £15bn funding gap between what Britain’s fast-growth businesses need and what is actually available. Other countries have much greater pools of institutional finance going into the entrepreneurial economy.
In 2019 there were 33,445 scaleups in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. A scale up is defined as a business growing at 20 per cent increase in turnover or increase in employees over a three-year period.
These 30,000 plus scaleups had an average turnover of £32.6m each in 2019 compared with £29.5m in 2018.
And there are another 17,000 scale-ups in the pipeline, defined as business growing at 15 per cent or higher year on year.
In 2019, these 33,445 scaleups generated £1.1trn for the UK economy, a 10 per cent increase year on year, and accounted for 50 per cent of total SMEE turnover (£2.2trn generated by 5.9m SMEs).
As to the main barriers facing scaleups, founders have told the Scaleup Institute that the five key challenges as:
- Access to UK and international markets, getting the right procurement opportunities and corporate relationships (74 per cent)
- Access to long-term growth capital, whether it’s debt or equity (47 per cent)
- Access to skilled talent, both junior employees but also at board level, the right non-executive directors (46 per cent)
- Infrastructure (19 per cent)
- Leadership development (18 per cent)
Irene Graham, CEO of the Scaleup Institute, said: “Historically access to talent was always seen as the number one issue for scaleups but now access to markets is dialling up as the most pressing concern.”
To address this, Scaleup Institute this month unveiled three new initiatives.
First, it has created 14 Scaleup Peer Networks across the UK in partnership with Innovate UK, connecting 200 founders, managing directors and CEOs of scaling businesses to bounce ideas off each other.
Graham said: “It’s regionally structured to give scaleups access to fellow peers working within Innovate UK at the local level with access to finance and mentors. It’s about getting connected to talent and capital. Many of our scaleups want to engage more with the opportunities the innovation agency provides.”
Second, starting this month, it is hosting a series of seminars and education events for scaleup business leaders and their professional advisers to raise awareness and understanding of all the finance options available to scaleups in partnership with British Business Bank.
Graham was speaking off the back of a successful Scaleup Week virtual event, with 13,000 people taking part in the weeklong series of seminars and events. Speakers included business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, small business minister Paul Scully and scaleup champion Sherry Coutu.
Graham is buoyed by the government at least making the right noises when it comes to supporting British scaleups.
Addressing Scaleup Week, prime minister Boris Johnson said with typical Johnsonian gusto, “too often we politicians have overlooked the crucial jam in our entrepreneurial sandwich. The tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses that are well established and growing fast. It’s among these scaleups that the magic happens … when you scaleup we all level up”.
In the Budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the UK will introduce an “elite, points-based” visa, including a “scale-up” stream, enabling those with a job offer from a recognised UK scale-up to be fast-tracked by March 2022.
The Scaleup Week initiative was part of Scaleup Institute’s ongoing mission to educate and inform the scaleup community – what Graham calls “knowledge asymmetries”.
Graham said: “We know it’s difficult as a founder navigating what’s available at a national or local level. But there’s a lot more localised and national support for scaleups available that we identify through our support finder along with more specific programmes.”