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Digital Catapult Centre

talent, funding and skills – the key to scaling up

It’s one of the most burning issues for entrepreneurs today. How to scale up their businesses in a sustainable way; how to break through.

The not-for-profit Digital Catapult Centre is dedicated to helping accelerate the UK’s best digital ideas to get them to market. This week, the London based Centre (one of four across the UK) played host to a special event designed to turbocharge the thinking of entrepreneurs and investors from around the globe.

“Growing startups to scaleups” brought together everyone from Sherry Coutu, Chair of the Scale-up Institute, to the founders of Snap Fashion, Tech London Advocates and Appear Here, to share tips, stories and insights.

An area widely agreed upon that needed addressing in order to scale up was talent. Tech London Advocates founder Russ Shaw declared that “talent is the number one issue” for tech leaders today, alongside the challenges of funding levels and infrastructure. One method discussed to overcome this talent shortage was to change the government’s immigration policy. Russ lamented that students from overseas had to leave the country after their degree, and advised the Home Office to use this opportunity to grow the economy and create jobs. Serial entrepreneur and investor Simon Devonshire agreed that access to talent is one of the major obstacles to scaling up a business, alongside access to customers and funding.

Most off the speakers present referenced funding as a barrier to scaling up. Gary Stewart of Wayra, Telefonica’s startup accelerator, deemed that money was fundamental when positioning to scale up globally, before finding the right product, market and people. Simon Devonshire highlighted what investors looked for, including a track record of proven experience, life experience, freshness and conviction. Above all else he recommended entrepreneurs to “be remarkable”. Towards the end of the evening Jenny Tooth OBE, CEO of the UK Business Angels Association, presided over a discussion by a panel of investors giving insights on how startups can attract investment.

Another key theme of the event was the skills shortage. Sherry Coutu CBE identified the skills gap in STEM subjects as a long-term issue that needs tackling, alongside other gaps such as the finance gap. She recommended providing evidence as a means to rectify this. Children need to be shown evidence that studying STEM subjects at school can bring them greater opportunities in the future, thereby allowing them to make the right decisions. Digital Catapult’s Neil Crockett recommended stronger links between universities and businesses to address the skills gap and talent shortage.

“Growing Startups to Scaleups” was supported by Seven Hills, Tech London Advocates, Hot Topics and UK Business Angels. Seven Hills Director of Strategy Kerensa Jennings and Campaign Executive Archie Myrtle attended the event.

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