Often when I am talking to other start-ups here in the UK, I am asked about the similarities and differences between the Roundabout and the Valley.
On the surface the two environments couldn't be more different – different origin, era, and focus – but the fundamentals are the same. When you have a group of "big sky" thinkers all in the same arena, great things are bound to happen. Below are some ideas I felt would help fuel some more success stories in the UK.
Play a long game
In Europe it seems that investors want to get rich quick. They rarely give time for companies to grow organically and reach their potential. The result can be seen in the lack of ‘blockbuster’ success stories. Europe has the talent to create leaders – just look at the success of companies such as Autonomy, Skype and Spotify – but it still lacks a global icon like Google or Facebook. If there’s no big prize, nobody enters the lottery. One major success at Tech City and the UK could have the golden example that inspires others to stick it out.
Cut red tape
Any law, rule or regulation that slows companies down can kill start-ups at the stage in their lives when capital is precious. The recent Beecroft Report on employment law has highlighted countless rules and regulations that are stifling business growth. Much-needed changes in complex business laws will mean that young businesses can focus on growth rather than red tape.
Carrots, not sticks
Tax breaks that encourage technology firms to come to your country and invest in R&D are a clear incentive. Tiger economies often enjoy success through low tax for start-ups, something that we need to mimic in the UK.
Keep the doors open
A real strength of the UK is that it boasts an immigration and visa policy that lets companies attract the brightest and best from all over the world. This is undoubtedly one of the factors in London becoming the world’s biggest financial market. The UK must be proud of this tradition and keep those doors open.
In the US, Americans favour a bold and aggressive approach. They bootstrap their businesses and market the heck out of their products. That aggressive spirit is never more needed than when companies are at the infant stage. The UK has some great models in Lord Sugar, who is never afraid to voice his opinion, and Sir Richard Branson, a guy who you can rely on for bold decision making.
In the Valley, being part of a company that fails is a red badge of courage and a learning stage. It’s not something to be ashamed about. So even if you fall flat on your face, make sure you learn the right lessons from the experience and get back up on your feet!
Tien Tzuo is the founder and CEO of Zuora , which offers award-winning subscription billing and payment software, through a ‘software-as-a-service’ model. Before founding Zuora, Tzuo was employee number 11 at software giant salesforce.com, where he held a number of key roles in his nine years at the company, including chief strategy officer, as well as building the company’s original billing system.