Thursday, March 2, 2017

The hibernation of UK innovation..

Today is a crap day.  Not for me or my (little) family or my life.  Not for the thousands of people in my home town (Holmfirth) who are going about their business enjoying the Spring sunshine.  Not for the millions of individuals who are making money as the FTSE100 rises.

Today is a crap day for the UK.

Before I explain why, I'm lucky.  I specialise in what I do (large scale Tech Transformation - People, Process and Technology change) and I'm also capable (and brave) enough to run a Start Up.  I state this for the record to make it clear that I'm not moaning.  This is not a 'woe is me' post.

But the UK is broken.

The UK will never create a LinkedIn.  Nor an Uber.  No Snapchat, Google, Facebook, Tesla, airbnb, Skype, Twitter, Nest, TripAdvisor will ever be born on these shores.  

There will never be News at Ten coverage of the UK Prime Minister, leaving a black Jaguar, flanked by bodyguards, entering the UK HQ of the Tech Giant which significantly changes the lives of Consumers all over the Globe.

Because that Company will never exist.

Instead, the News at Ten will continue to talk about the Tech Giants from elsewhere.  From America and from China.  The Tech Giants who employ our people yet hardly pay any tax.....

UK innovation is going into hibernation, the day after the first day of Spring.  

The path from idea, to prototype, to user testing, to refinement, to commercialisation and testing and then to launch, is just too hard.  There is no effective UK wide support mechanism and quite simply, there's no financial support.

If you're an innovator in the UK, you may as well move to Palo Alto or put your innovation into hibernation.  Seriously, move or let your innovation find a leafy, warm place under a thick hedge like a hedgehog does.  

Tech growth in the UK?  Nah, we don't want that.  New skills for our UK workforce?  Nah, we don't want that.  Employees owning a significant proportion of Start Ups which become giants?  Nah, we don't want that either.

Other places want all that and more.  The UK?  Nah, not so much.

We're lucky.  We've hustled and bootstrapped and we are here;   

I reckon we will give some retailers sleepless nights when we launch on the 20th of March.

And talking of sleepless nights, I've no idea how we will run a Company with no money and reach a turnover of £1m to secure some growth funding.

Other UK innovators have better ideas.  More 'out there' Tech.  Blockchain prototypes which make me want to sell my RBS and Lloyds shares immediately.

And how does the UK help them?  It doesn't.

Innovators either fund themselves from savings, continue working, or sell stuff to get cash.  Angels?  You may as well not bother.  The time, emotional effort and money required to get a relatively small amount of Angel funding outweighs  the benefits.  It's like trying to persuade a room full of 10 year olds that saving pocket money is a good thing do do.  

I've pitched to Angels in the past and felt like I was providing free training.  Trying to secure investment from someone who invests in 8 things in the hope that 1 or 2 will provide a 10x exit is hard.  And by the way, if a UK innovator does get an offer from an Angel, 20% of the innovators equity is gone.  Whoosh.  Just like that.

Loans?  Brilliant!  Let's make innovators borrow to add more risk to their journey!  Innovators always have limited income.  This is because they are funding themselves and their Start Up.  Giving them a loan just doesn't make sense at any level whatsoever.  

Equity deals pre-launch other than Angels?  Not in the UK.  There is literally nothing that works.  If anyone can prove me wrong, please shout.

So Mr and Mrs UK innovator, the choices for you are stark.  Get to launch under your own steam, launch with zero cash and hope you can make sales.  Get to £1m in revenue and maybe, just maybe, a growth funder will look at you.

Impossible.  We may as well ask innovators/entrepreneurs to get to Mars using two pieces of wood and an Eccles cake from Morrisons.  

Most innovators are clever.  They hustle, bob and weave and understand all of the above (and more) at the start of the journey.  

And guess what?  Most of the most give up.  The innovative part of them becomes that hedgehog and looks for the leafy bed under the hedge.  The idea is lost.  

Asleep.  Never to be woken.  Ever.

There will never be News at Ten coverage of the UK Prime Minister, leaving a black Jaguar, flanked by bodyguards, entering the UK HQ of the Tech Giant which significantly changes the lives of Consumers all over the Globe.

Is the UK a great place to live?  Yes.

Does the UK infrastructure allow innovation and entrepreneurs to create Tech Giants?  No.

And that's why we'll never have an Uber.  Or a snapchat.  Or any of the other applications or services which make our lives easier.  

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