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Tech City: New UK programme will ‘scale up’ start-ups

PUBLISHED: 13:00 17 November 2015

Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK

Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK

Archant

Tech City is the third largest technology hub in the world, and it’s right on our doorstep. Each week, we bring you news from the thriving area around Old Street roundabout. This week, reporter Sophie Inge talks to Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK, about the new Upscale programme.

Tech City UK has launched a new programme to help digital businesses expand – by providing them with direct access to expertise and advice from world-leading entrepreneurs.

Launched on November 12, ‘Upscale’ is designed to accelerate the growth of 25 early-stage high-growth digital businesses.

The free government-backed pilot programme will include a series of workshops with leading founders from Europe and the US, including Skype’s Swedish co-founder Niklas Zennström; the former CEO of LoveFilm and chairman of Moo.com, Simon Calver; the co-founder and co-CEO of the video ad tech company Unruly, Sarah Wood; and the co-founder and CEO of the British property website Zoopla, Alex Chesterman.

The advice offered by these coaches will particularly aid international expansion, according to Tech City UK CEO, Gerard Grech.

“By default, digital businesses are international, and so having international coaches is crucial to making sure the Upscale companies are getting the very best of advice,” Mr Grech said.

“The challenges that these leaders have faced when growing and scaling companies will be the foundations for the advice on offer through Upscale. Some of these issues are central to the current landscape of UK tech, such as hiring talent and future fundraising, whilst others are more specific to this phase of business development, such as managing your board and aligning a growing team with your founding vision.”

The programme, he says, will increase the competitiveness of British business on an international scale, supporting the Government’s commitment to promote the UK’s tech businesses abroad.

“It will also help to support the UK’s productivity and economic output, as our tech sector grows in importance and influence,” he said.

To be considered for the programme, businesses must have their headquarters in the UK. They also need to show that they have been growing at 40 per cent, month on month, over the past three months, and be funded up to Series A (or equivalent) or with £500K revenues.

Zoopla co-founder Mr Chesterman said he would use his own experiences of expanding his property business to help start-ups grow.

“Making the transition from start-up to fast growth later stage business is a critical point in the life span of every digital business,” he said. “Suddenly you are faced with new challenges as your workforce, revenues and customer base expand. Turning these challenges into opportunities is the hallmark of every successful scale-up and I look forward to sharing my personal experiences with the next generation of British entrepreneurial talent.”

Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy has also expressed his support for the programme, which he believes will have a positive impact on the UK’s economy. He said: “The UK is one of the fastest growing digital economies in the G20 and we must embrace new models like Upscale in providing effective targeted support for fast-growth insurgent businesses that back the new jobs in our economy.

“Building on the Government’s commitment to turn the UK into a nation of business builders, Tech City UK’s Upscale is focused on equipping the next generation of digital entrepreneurs with the knowledge, skills and confidence of turning their start-up business into a scale-up success via mentorship by world class experts who have successfully scaled their own business internationally, which will further strengthen the UK’s digital economy.”

The Upscale programme follows the launch of Tech City UK’s Digital Business Academy in November 2014, which offers free online courses for those who want to start, run, or join a digital business.

Businesses can apply through the Upscale website.

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