“We need to see a country where new businesses are starting up on every street, in every town; where entrepreneurs are everywhere. We put out a call to business to rise up and help us drive the recovery and StartUp Britain is part of the answer to that call” David Cameron, March 2011
In 2011 a group of entrepreneurs came together to launch StartUp Britain – a national campaign to promote and celebrate entrepreneurship. Launching the initiative, the prime minister was clear: it is entrepreneurs that create jobs and grow the economy, and Britain needs to remove any barriers holding people back from starting up.
Five years on, the campaign has toured the country mobilising 1,000 entrepreneurs and experts to give free advice to over 35,000 aspiring entrepreneurs across towns and cities. It has run 12 pop-up shops to help over 350 entrepreneurs take their first step in high street retail and held ‘PitchUp’ competitions to give start-ups the chance to pitch their products to leading brands including John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose – among many other events and initiatives.
Measuring a campaign’s impact is never easy, especially when someone may wait weeks, months or even years to take action after attending an event. One useful measure is the company formation statistics. Provided by Companies House on a monthly basis, these figures allow StartUp Britain to chart business creation at a local authority level.
Earlier this month, business creation in 2016 passed 2015’s record level – over 610,000 companies have been launched, with over a month left to allow the new record to grow even further.
While this figure is simplistic – it does not segment by sector or help identify the founders’ growth ambition – it captures the first major step in an entrepreneurial journey: the company formation. All companies begin here. Some may remain small with few or no employees, but many others will grow to become the “scaleups” and “unicorns” that so excite politicians and investors alike. These figures then, could be considered one of the most accurate measures of Britain’s ongoing cultural shift towards entrepreneurship. There are other measures that chart VAT or PAYE registration to indicate business growth, but this figure captures all initial business activity, big or small.
Most importantly, these figures uncover the spread of business activity across the country. While many on the streets of Shoreditch, Manchester and Bristol may consider David Cameron’s vision a reality, is that really the case for Hull, Hastings or Plymouth?
With so many people now calling for policy focus and resources to switch from startups to ‘scaleups’, StartUp Britain remains firmly committed to promoting entrepreneurship across all sectors and all regions, helping people across Britain to realise their dream and become their own boss.
While there is still an ambition gap holding people back from launching their own business and regional disparities in company formation rates, StartUp Britain still has work to do.