21/03/2014

By Anand Krishnan, General Manager, Developer and Platform Group at Microsoft, explains why now is the time to start a new business venture

Compared to a decade ago, both the technology and startup scenes are experiencing rapid and exciting change. The UK is feeling the benefit of this, as London draws some of the world’s most elite startups and is seen as ‘the place to be and be seen,’ even over Silicon Valley. The UK’s economy is steaming ahead and with advances in technology the barriers to entry to owning a small business are lower than they have ever been.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the UK economy to grow by 2.4 per cent this year, faster than any other major European economy. Similarly, the accountancy firm, BDO, recently released research which suggests British business optimism is at a 22 year high. The upturn in the economy, coupled with the advances in technology and ability to gain funding through alternative means (like crowdsourcing) means startups are in an exceedingly strong position.

Startups and small and medium businesses (SMBs) in particular have to be bullish. In order to be at the forefront of the UK’s economic recovery, startups need to take advantage of the UK’s optimism and growth. In order to achieve this, startups and SMBs must look at the strategic role that technology plays in empowering their organisation, and in turn, they must invest in people to drive competitive advantage and innovations.

There are several companies that are already doing this, including some forward-thinking startups and SMBs that are embracing new technology innovations to achieve amazing feats. For example, startups that build new customer and partner relationships by networking through niche online groups, strengthen links between employees via social business mediums and those that empower people to reimagine how they work through a flexible and on-to-go structure. Often termed ‘socially smart’, the hallmark of these organisations is the ability to respond rapidly to new market trends and shifting demands, by mobilising people, information, and services rapidly.

But technology is not just helping startups and SMBs to be ‘socially smart’. Due to the abundance of software frameworks and toolsets (such as the scalability, durability and affordability of the cloud), coupled with the greater ease of global distribution and consumer excitement around new technology, there has not been a better time to be an entrepreneur.

One clear example of this is app development. Some of the most exciting and innovative apps have been created by entrepreneurs and startups such as London-based UXCam. The UXCam app captures data from other apps and turns it into visual and statistical insights, ultimately used to better the user’s experience. Another exciting app out of East London is Caribou, an app that allows relatives to read to the important children in their lives, no matter where they are in the world. The abundance of this technology (and the collaborative, sharing nature of startups) has allowed novices to publish apps in just days or weeks. These success stories have been accelerated due to widely-available software frameworks, coding templates and other technical toolsets.

Furthermore, the outputs are able to be distributed globally through app stores, available to anyone who can set up an app store account. With cheaper technology and developments in cloud computing, the potential for a startup and SMB to fulfil its ambitions has never been greater.

Nevertheless, despite the improvements in the economy and the ubiquitous nature of technology, some companies are still finding up-scaling a challenge. Startups and SMBs in particular need to be cultivated through programmes and initiatives in helping to fuel growth and expand on their ideas. And those that are stepping up include some of the largest corporate businesses in the UK. For example, Microsoft and other large companies, such as Telefonica and John Lewis have started Accelerator programmes, dedicated to helping the best and brightest of the startup community. These Accelerator programmes allow large corporates to play a pivotal role in helping early stage startups do big things in the cloud, on the internet, and via mobile and they often provide workspaces, free tools, mentorship, and training workshops necessary to successfully take startups to the next level.

It’s a great time to be a startup or SMB but these companies need to act quickly and ‘seize the day’ if they want to take full advantage of the latest developments in tech and the ever improving economy. In doing so, these companies will help to ‘sow the seeds’ of development and grow into strong thriving companies of the future.

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