The status of Britons as early adopters of new technology is underpinning the UK as a first class environment both for technology businesses to start-up and also for other small businesses to leverage our tech obsession.
Ofcom’s Communications Market Report gives an indication of the extent to which we, as a nation, are embracing a digital lifestyle, especially multi-tasking, in our consumption of new media. Smartphones have overtaken laptops as the most popular device for getting online; two thirds of us now own a smartphone, and we use it for nearly two hours every day to browse the Internet, access social media, bank and shop online. A third of Internet users see their smartphone as their most important device for going online. More of us than ever are also ‘media meshing’, ie. doing something related to what we’re watching on television on other platforms. For example, when Andy Murray won the Wimbledon Men’s Single’s Final 1.1 million people tweeted 2.6 million times using hashtags associated with the tennis final. Of these tweets, more than 80% were placed from mobile phones.
But what does this mean for small businesses? The answer is two fold.
You are doing business in a market that has already shown itself receptive to new technology, both in a business and in a lifestyle context. This should mean, dependent on the nature of your business, that the leap required to consider, try and then adopt new technology may not be as great as it would be in some other markets. This, of course, pre-supposes that the business concept is viable and that you have addressed your marketing effectively – we always advocate marketing that creates communities around your proposition such that it becomes targeted on those most likely to make an impact on your bottom line rather than going for glory and becoming lost in the morass of marketing messages being projected more widely.
Second, the UK is set to become an even more attractive environment in which to start a tech business. The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), which is part of the Government’s Innovate UK initiative, generates new business opportunities for companies, and provides SMEs with a route to market for their ideas and bridges the seed-funding gap experienced by many early stage companies. Moreover, according to Telefonica UK’s report, The Rise of the UK Accelerator and Incubator System, London now has 36 programmes, twelve incubators and 24 accelerators, targeting tech start-ups. Similar programmes are running elsewhere across the country.
Third, as a country we have a natural inclination to look outwards and export our technology. Research published last year by Shell Springboard and the Carbon Trust reported that the number of small UK businesses targeting a growing international market for low carbon products has doubled – rising from 37 per cent in 2011 to 76 per cent in 2013. Three-quarters of small businesses plan to expand into new markets by the end of 2016. As importantly for the UK market two-thirds of small low carbon enterprises plan to create new jobs.
There has never been more support available for start-ups in the UK. Whether it’s specialist support from organisations like Innovate UK or broader advice and peer-to-peer best practise exchange through Business Crowd, now is the time to take advantage of your tech ingenuity.