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Why Australian and New Zealand scaleups should explore expansion into the UK

- October 26, 2018 5 MIN READ
Tech Rocketship Awards

Like Aussies and Kiwis in general, our startups and scaleups love to travel. According to the 2018 Startup Muster report, 41.1 percent of founders plan to expand their sales significantly outside Australia over the next 12 months, 28.4 percent plan to raise capital overseas, and 21.2 percent will look to take part in a program overseas.

The US and Asia are often the obvious destinations for expansion: the US, of course, because of the lure of Silicon Valley and New York as tech hubs, and Asia because of the sheer size and wealth of the market. 

Sometimes overlooked is the UK, even though it boasts the world’s fifth-largest economy and a booming tech scene of its own to boot: already recognised as the world’s leading financial services hub, London was also ranked the number one city in Europe for supporting both startups and scaleups by the European Digital City Index.

According to research prepared for Tech Nation and the government’s Digital Economy Council by Dealroom, since 1990, the UK has created 60 unicorn startups – companies with a valuation of $1 billion or more. This has translated to strong jobs growth; the UK boasts 1.87 million digital tech jobs, with new tech jobs being created 2.6x faster than the rest of the UK economy. 

The opportunities are endless, so to help scaleups across Australia and New Zealand leverage the UK opportunity are the Australia and New Zealand UK Tech Rocketship Awards, an initiative of the UK Department for International Trade (DIT). 

Since their creation the Tech Rocketship Awards have helped over 40 businesses expand to the UK. They are open to companies Down Under for the first time in 2018 and will recognise innovators across eight categories: Economy & Digital Security; Tech for an Ageing Society; The AI & Data Revolution; The Future of Mobility; Clean Growth; Feeding the Nation; Connected Consumers & Creativity; and the GREAT Tech for Change Award. 

The Tech Rocketship Awards are open to ambitious, globally-scalable Australian and New Zealand tech scaleups that have been trading in Australia and/or New Zealand for at least two years, and that have a demonstrable fit with the UK market.

With this in mind, winners will be awarded a paid trip to the UK, with DIT, personalised to include a programme to help each winner meet potential partners and access the right networks to help take their company to the next level.

Michael Ward, British Consul General and Director General UK Department for International Trade, Australia and New Zealand, said the opportunity comes at the perfect time, as the UK looks to establish new trade relationships outside the EU, including with Australia and New Zealand.

Ward said, “The competition’s award categories are aligned with the Grand Challenges set out in the UK Industrial Strategy. These Grand Challenges aim to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future, ensuring we take advantage of major global changes, improving people’s lives and the country’s productivity”.

Expanding into the UK, he said, can help Australian and New Zealand companies reach a broad, deep pool of capital, and maximise the consumer opportunity both for market size and consumer choice.

“The UK is far more similar culturally, financially and legally than Asia or even the US. We’re not suggesting companies shouldn’t enter those markets, far from it. For companies that want to expand effectively and quickly, without having to amend their business structures or products, the UK market is a fantastic opportunity,” he explained.

“Of course, the fundamentals are strong too; lowest tax in the G20 – currently at 19 percent and dropping to 18 percent by 2020 – the financial infrastructure of London, which is the envy of the world, some of the best universities in the world creating the brightest and most creative minds, strong institutions, a sound approach to public finance, and a consistent and dependable approach to high standards but intelligent regulation.”

The UK’s tech community, Ward added, is also deep and connected.

“There are over three and a half thousand tech groups and 90 percent of them are open and inclusive. They highlight emerging trends; for instance, in Manchester, a mass of groups are discussing new technologies like blockchain, and a strong data science community is making itself felt in London,” he explained.

For Australian agtech startup AgriWebb, which has created a digital farm and livestock management solution, the assistance of the DIT was crucial in its recent expansion into the UK.

AgriWebb in August secured a $14 million investment from UK outfit Wheatsheaf Group, which invests in and develops agtech businesses, for a minority stake in the company.AgriWebb acquired FarmWizard, a livestock and dairy management software platform, from Wheatsheaf as part of the deal.

As cofounder Justin Webb explained, the expansion was carefully planned. 

“The startup graveyard is littered with startups that have gone too far, too fast and tried to chase too many opportunities, so we have taken a very deliberate approach to our international expansion,” he said.

The UK was at the top of the expansion list for a few reasons. Not only is it a key gateway to Europe, Webb explained, but the startup also wanted to work in markets with farmers and supply chains that were similar to Australia in terms of provenance, and the use of information to transfer value to customers.

The UK was the perfect fit: past outbreaks of mad cow disease and other concerns around the UK’s meat supply placed a heightened sense of importance on provenance, while retailers such as Tesco and Carrefour too are leading the world with things such as their modelling of cost of production, and their focus on provenance around antibiotics in food 

“We thought, what a fantastic opportunity to take the world’s most advanced livestock software and apply it in markets that are really the most advanced in delivering provenance to consumers,” Webb said.

According to Webb, the key to AgriWebb’s success in expanding into the UK was getting boots on the ground, and here the DIT was crucial.

“There’s very little substitute for getting the miles under your belt and standing in the dirt to speak to farmers on their home ground…there really is no substitute for having access and spending time with your target audience,” he said.

“DIT was fantastic. They had a conference set up in London that focused on agtech, after which they set me up with a four-day trip around the southwest of the UK, where I was able to meet with farmers, with leading professors at agricultural colleges, and with some of the leading commercial applications in processors and, ultimately, in retail supermarkets.”

AgriWebb is just one of many Aussie companies that has made a successful jump to the UK. According to Ward, the British are fans of Australian businesses.

“Brits really do admire Australia’s best known fintechs, such as Airwallex and Airtasker, innovative services companies such as Lendlease, the highest quality Life Sciences companies such as CSL, and consumer goods companies like Smiggle, so companies should consider the ease at which expansion can occur,” he said.

With DIT ready to lend a hand and open doors, the Australia and New Zealand UK Tech Rocketship Awards are the perfect opportunity for your scaleup to make the jump – enter now! Entries close 26 November.

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