Napoleon was right – well, almost…
“The English are a nation of shopkeepers,” is one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s best known quotes, and while not entirely true, figures showing there to be nearly 5 million SMEs in the UK would certainly seem to suggest that while not shopkeepers, the British are most definitely a nation of entrepreneurs.
From the Cider orchards of the West Country, to the banks of the Scottish lochs Britain’s SME and entrepreneurial culture is deeply rooted in its regions as much as it is in its capital – something we should not be too quick to overlook. In 2013 alone the gross value added to the UK economy by SMEs was over £343 billion or 49.8% of GDP.
London Technology Week rolled into town on Monday and it has highlighted the ever-growing number of tech start-ups popping up in the city – so quick are they appearing it’s almost like mushrooms in a Gloucestershire field… while this is very encouraging for the capital and indicative of the broader health of the UK economy in general, we must remember that there is life for the tech and SME sectors (and opportunity) outside our largest metropolis too.
With bustling tech hubs emerging in Manchester, Cambridge, Bath, Brighton, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and Newcastle it goes to show that while London might be attractive as a location, it is not a prerequisite for success in the tech space.
With the digital economy so important to the success of any wannabe new (or existing) company, proposed measures for the introduction of broadband vouchers, worth up £3,000, to 22 cities across the UK will help more small firms access faster broadband connectivity and gain the building blocks for success far beyond London’s trendy ‘EC2’ postcodes.
Every generation claims to be a ‘2.1’ version of its predecessor, but as a population, are we really more entrepreneurial than we were in the past? It’s difficult to say with any certainty, but some scholars of Victorian Britain would certainly argue against it.
One thing that I’m sure we would all agree on however, is the fact that starting a business today has less operational barriers that it once did, and there is so much more scope for imagination when creating a company than in the past.
Long may the spirit of great British entrepreneurship continue, and with it the continued success of the UK’s regions – maybe next year it should be ‘British Technology Week’ instead…