There is no question that Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne are pursuing policies that aim to assist business start-ups and early-stage companies to secure finance. This was clearly evident in Osborne’s Autumn Statement this week, with the announcement of the launch of the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) next April and other initiatives.
The scheme has so far been widely welcomed, and I believe it will certainly see venture capital firms return to their roots of investing in ‘riskier’ early-stage companies after drifting far too much towards private equity-style investing over the past few years.
Index Ventures is one firm that is already one the move, after last year’s launch of Index Seed, while Simon Cook of DFJ Esprit has told GrowthBusiness that EIS and VCT funds are in the pipeline following the government’s announcement of more support and tax relief.
Don’t be in doubt though – this support is needed if the UK, and in particular London, is to continue its quest to match Silicon Valley as a global centre of technology start-ups. The fight is on among the world’s glamour cities which are all vying to take the Valley’s crown, and recent data that the ‘sleeping giant’ New York is leading the pack, while Berlin, Dublin and others are in hot pursuit.
Much has been written about the lack of a start-up culture in the US’s financial capital, but since the financial crisis there has been a renaissance in the city’s technology mid-town hotspot, known as Silicon Alley.
‘The city is getting traction in their efforts to generate more high-skilled technology and help stanch the anticipated loss to the economy of thousands of finance jobs’, states an article last week from the Wall Street Journal. Both large and small companies are being drawn to the city because of its growing pool of tech-savvy workers who now longer can count on financial services for employment (sound familiar?)
According to a report from PriceWaterhouse Coopers and the National Venture Capital Association in the US, which was quoted in the blog Business Insider, New York is now surpassing Boston as the leading location of venture deals, second only to Silicon Valley.
The blog says there have been 347 deals in the past year funded in New York, compared with 271 in Boston, representing a 30 per cent increase from 2009. What’s driving this growth? Brian Cohen, the newly appointed Chairman of the New York Angels Network, puts it down to the growth in universities, start-up academics, clubs, and competitions, and a ‘go for it’ culture driven by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
While the government’s support is welcome and necessary, it is the start-up communities themselves that need create growth and investment. In a world where capital is increasingly restricted, the UK needs to keep cheering its start-up credentials or it will risk losing its place to other, noisier centres.