Britain is very good at a lot of things to do with technology. Vacuum cleaners spring to mind courtesy of the entrepreneurs behind Dyson and G-Tech, and of course the internet itself (thanks Sir Tim). But there’s one thing we don’t seem to do so well – multibillion pound game-changing tech companies.
Why is that? Well I don’t know the answer and neither does someone who you’d expect to – Google boss Eric Schmidt. London may be tech startup hub, but he thinks we should be doing better, a lot better, both in London and nationwide.
In an interview with BBC radio today he said there’s no reason why a startup with multibillion pound potential couldn’t be launched in Britain. But for some reason, UK entrepreneurs tend to sell up earlier than their US counterparts, before the megabucks start to roll in.
In short, they chicken out and miss out on the huge rewards they could get if their companies really took off. That approach also means that those companies are usually bought by non-British giants and become success stories for the US, Germany, France, China etc.
“If you have a strong franchise that’s growing quickly, you’re probably better off waiting a while [before selling],” Schmidt told the BBC.
He thinks Britain has what it takes to create – and to continue to build – such companies and that when it comes to e-commerce, it’s way ahead of the US. He added there were no barriers to launching “a European-scale corporation that is larger than a US-scale corporation”.
“Britain has every aspect to build billion pound, ten billion pound, hundred billion pound companies. You have the right regulatory environment. You’ve got the right role within [the European] continent. [Just] look at the e-commerce plays and service plays that are now happening in London.
“Europe is pushing on a European digital single market and in the timeframe of you building a small start-up, the Europeans will figure out a way of building a single digital market for your products.”
So what’s the problem? Is it that UK companies can’t raise enough money? Apparently not. What’s key is a good product, he said, plus a strong vision and in the age of social media, “lean distribution models are replacing big marketing and advertising budgets”.
Effectively, he’s saying that startups can compete with bigger, richer rivals and should be able to get the money they need. “If you have three people and a vision, you should be able to raise funds from friends and family, crowd-funding and early venture groups,” he told the BBC. He added that those companies also need a good technical lead.
So there you have it – one good idea + some funding + and a tech guy (or girl). Go out and launch a startup…!