Start-up promotion in a general election year

There is no doubt that the UK technology community is adept at rallying round for a common cause, but will the new Startup Manifesto have any impact when it comes to real policy change?

As outlined yesterday on GrowthBusiness, business leaders and investors have come together to pen a set of recommendations and tips for the government to hopefully take heed of. Contained within are 24 ways the next government can make Britain a ‘world leader in digital innovation’.

From my perspective, the Startup Manifesto contained a mix of fairly predictable stuff such as maintaining and extending tax cuts for early-stage business investment and some interesting sections including releasing APIs for government services.

It was clear that Coadec, which calls itself the policy voice of digital start-ups, had spent a long time putting the document together – making sure that everything necessary was included as we begin what will be a long run up to the general election.

What was perhaps most impressive was the list of backers that had endorsed the manifesto. From serial entrepreneurs such as Zoopla’s Alex Chesterman, Songkick’s Pete Smith to first-time business builders including Lytespark’s Alex Hunte and Pingtune’s Henry Firth, it seemed to bring the great and the good of the technology sector under one roof.

My worry is that, for a government which seems pretty happy with what has been done to nurture Britain’s growing technology sector, the extra demands might fall on deaf ears. It is interesting that the manifesto has decided to target the ‘next government’ – in whatever iteration that arrives come May 2015. It’s safe to say that the period from now until then will largely be dominated by making sure that the current administration has a water tight set of figures to put in their own manifesto, detailing how the economy has grown, debt shrunk and Labour hangover dealt with – rather than rolling out entrepreneur-friendly policy.

In a piece published by City AM this week, Conservative MP and minister of state for skills and enterprise and minister of state for energy Matthew Hancock and Labour MP David Lammy were lined up side-by-side on the issue of whether politicians have been complacent when it comes to supporting start-ups.

Quite predictably Lammy said yes and Hancock no, but it was interesting to hear Hancock cite the fact that more than 400,000 start-ups had been founded since 2010 and that it was ‘just the beginning’. Hancock will be leading the inaugural Small Business Bill through parliament in the autumn, when the government’s commitment to make Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a business will be tested.

What remains to be seen is how targeted sections of the bill are for fast-growth start-ups. There is a big difference between a venture capital-backed tech business and a small family firm. Red tape and regulation is not as big an issue to the former, rather the need to access finance in a quick and efficient way alongside finding requisite talent to help grow.

The entrepreneurs and investors that have come together through the Startup Manifesto must be steadfast in highlighting this difference, whether we have the same leaders in power on 8 May or not.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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