If you are a budding entrepreneur it is easy to assume that London is the place to be, and there are plenty of figures to back this up. One-fifth of the UK’s technology businesses have their headquarters in inner London, according to Stirling Ackroyd, the estate agent1 , and the European Digital City Index named London the No 1 city in which to start a business2.
But while London has an unrivalled buzz, and the country’s largest bank of consumers, there are other places where small and medium-sized businesses may find that the streets are paved with gold. Here are some of the best.
With a Central Enterprise Zone focusing on fintech, cyber security, life sciences and the creative sector, Cardiff works hard to woo new businesses with government support that includes a business rates relief scheme.
‘Businesses also benefit from various forms of close support, investment and local research into fintech and legaltech,’ says Chris Sutton, chair of the Central Cardiff Enterprise Zone. ‘The opportunities for growth and the robust business scene, coupled with Wales’ unrivalled work-life balance potential, make it an ideal place to begin entrepreneurial journeys.’
‘Being based in Wales means we are surrounded by the same buzz you get in London, except without the cost,’ says Chris Griffiths, founder of software group OpenGenius in Penarth, the first Welsh company to be chosen as a member of the London Stock Exchange’s Elite programme.
’Having a headquarters in the UK gives us a lot of credibility which is extremely important for exporting.’
According to the first Tech North Investment Index report, overall investment in technology companies in the North is soaring, with Manchester the home of 48 per cent of all investment deals3.
‘Manchester has a bit of everything,’ says Richard Gregory, head of Tech North. There’s a nice ecosystem of smaller and larger companies, including Boohoo.com and Autotrader as well as much smaller businesses.
‘We also have an abundance of co-working spaces and support from some fine universities.’
He adds that a lower cost of living than London is often a draw for talent. ‘We can say to people: “You can live like a king on a tech salary here.”’
Britain’s second city outpaced its first last year in business growth, according to the ONS statistics business count data, while StartUp Britain, the entrepreneurs network, ranks it as the most entrepreneurial city outside London.
Analysis of Companies House data shows that 17,473 new businesses were registered in Birmingham during 2016 – an increase of 25pc on the previous year, and more than any city outside the capital.
Organisations such as the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Enterprise Partnership help entrepreneurs to stay and grow their businesses.
The recent Tech Nation report named Bournemouth as having the largest proportion of high-growth businesses anywhere in the country. The Tech industry in the area employs 15,763 people and is worth £352 million a year to the local economy4.
‘It's ideal for start-ups, not too stuffy, creative and fun with great places to relax – often overlooked,’ says career coach Elaina Conneely.
With an average 194 start-ups a year, Liverpool has a blossoming start-up scene. Many who choose to start their businesses here rate the quality of life, the cost of living as well as the technological potential.
Chris Meehan, head of music rights business Sentric Music, said that although he’d chosen Liverpool to start his business because he was studying at Lipa (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts), there were other positives. “We had access to finance and talent was here in abundance,” he said.
“Everything seemed accessible and affordable/achievable in Liverpool as a start-up whereas London seemed the opposite; expensive and out of reach for companies that would spend the entire seed capital raised on rent.
“As we progressed and grew, Liverpool was a natural home that we wanted to stay in – because the city invested in amazing work spaces; offered opportunities to network with businesses at the same stage; and had of universities in Liverpool/the wider North West that could supply talent.
“More and more we’re seeing talent from the South of England wanting to relocate to the North where cities are thriving.”