What takes a company from being worth nothing to a billion dollar business? This was one of the key themes at this year’s Tech Entrepreneur Week. During this two-day event, the UK’s technology community were brought together to tackle subjects such as raising money, sourcing talent and building a global company.
The event attracted some of the biggest names in tech and enterprise including Russ Shaw founder of London Tech Advocates, Piers Drake from Samsung Electronics, and Postcode Anywhere’s CEO Guy Mucklow. The conference focused on various key themes such as mobile, 3D printing, digital entertainment and cutting edge technology. Here are the main takeaways:
Work with big corporations
By joining forces, small businesses can achieve economies of scale and have a voice that will compete with large corporations. This was the message from Duncan Higgins, director of marketing at Virgin Media Business. Higgins spoke about the advantages of working with big corporates from extending your brand proposition and accessing capital to guidance and experience. Given the volume of interest and approaches that big businesses receive, it’s essential to prepare, show them you’re hungry and make the most of your first meeting.
Clarify your business model
For Russ Shaw, angel and venture investor and founder of Tech London Advocates, his number one piece of advice for entrepreneurs was to clarify the business model. He advised the audience to pin down a quick, clear ten minute pitch about what their business is about. This pitch will become critical for networking and sourcing funding.
Shaw also urged for London to stop comparing itself to Silicon Valley. Whilst it isn’t a time to be complacent, London has its own unique DNA, talent and achievements to celebrate.
Attracting the right talent
Finding reliable technical talent has traditionally been one of the toughest tasks that tech start-ups face. To take your start-up to the next level you need the right people. But how do you attract that talent and more importantly, once you have it, how do you convince them to stay?
Panellist James Brockett, co-founder of Calibre One, suggested that in the early stages of a start-up, when capital isn’t readily available, you need to get creative about getting people on board, whilst Mike Duma, CEO of botObjects, suggested reaching out globally.
If you’re a smaller company who can’t afford salaries that compete with the biggest tech companies, clarifying the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question can really help move past a candidate’s monetary issues. Martin Warner also highlighted the benefits of tech clustering for poaching employees from competitors, ‘Keep you friends close and your enemies closer.’
One of the key takeaways from Guy Mucklow’s presentation on scaling a business was that you need to have the whole company on board if you want to scale successfully. Mucklow set up an Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) to motivate staff by encouraging shared ownership and accountability within his technology business, Postcode Anywhere. The benefit of this is that as well as seeding an entrepreneurial passion for success across the wider employee to base, it also creates a persuading driver for employees to stick with the business during the sometimes challenging, scaling process.
Look beyond the UK
The ideas most likely to get the backing of big businesses are those that have scalable potential. Buffalo Grid provides solar-powered charging units for mobile phones, aimed at African businesses that live in off-grid areas. With over 750 million potential customers in Africa alone, this kind of idea could bring huge socio-political changes to the developing world. The message from Danny Becerra was clear – if the UK is serious about becoming an international hub, we need to look beyond our own shores.