Britain's technology startup scene has been blooming for some time, fuelled by a melting pot of industries, service sectors, cultures and academia. This has created a diverse range of small yet rapidly growing companies in areas such as financial technology and robotics.
But there has been a problem getting these startups to scale up into larger companies with an injection of venture capital (VC) and equity investment.
This has led to some UK startups moving to the US to pursue initial public offerings on markets such as the New York Stock Exchange and secure investment from more risk-friendly investors.
Yet this situation is being challenged, particularly as the London Stock Exchange (LSE) Group has welcomed seven new UK companies onto its Elite programme as part of the fourth group of UK startups to join the scheme.
The new companies include the likes of Beeks Financial Cloud, which provides cloud resources for banks and trading venues, and Cognitive Geology, a specialist in cognitive processing artificial intelligence that aims to mitigate investment risks in the oil industry.
The other five - Busuu, Clear Returns, Crowdcube, Optimity and Semafone - have all been selected to join Elite owing to their potential to become larger companies.
Umerah Akram, head of Elite UK, told V3 that these companies will enter an 18-month programme to give them a mix of education, training and direct contact with Europe's financial and advisory community.
"The programme and our objective is to facilitate access to advisors and investors for these businesses at different stages of growth and funding requirements," said Akram.
Elite will show company management teams how to get access to the most suitable funding to help them grow, which could be VC investment, private equity or stock market flotation.
Rule tech Britannia
The other aspect of Elite is to show the technology startup and medium business community that there is no need to cross the Atlantic to secure investment.
"It's about creating awareness of what the UK market has to offer. I actually think in this respect that the market has been better informed over the last few years because the VC environment is really vibrant at the moment for UK tech businesses," said Akram.
"There are a number of stakeholders who have initiative in helping businesses scale up. There are also a number of banks operating in this space with [startup and business] accelerators."
Raising this awareness is less about snappy marketing campaigns than putting startups and high-growth businesses together with the investment community and experienced entrepreneurs who have gone through the journey of scaling up.
"What we try to do through the Elite programme is get some of the VCs and private equity investors who are acting in this space to come in and talk about what they look for when investing in tech businesses," explained Akram.
"[We] also share the case studies of VC-backed and tech businesses that have gone public recently, and what their experience has been, and debunk some of the myths that you have to go to the US if you are a tech business, that you're not able to access US investors here."
Akram added that heads of companies can also benefit from networking as they can share experiences and challenge each other with the aim of spreading knowledge among a community of businesses in the stages of scaling up.
There is, of course, the alternative of selling out and merging with a larger firm, but this requires catching the eye of the world's big technology companies.
This is something AI startup Perception managed to do when it was acquired by Apple to boost the iPhone's deep learning technology. While Microsoft recently snapped up cloud security firm Adallom to bolster its cloud software security.
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