Are Startups the Key to Britain's Economic Upturn?

Technology Venture Capitalist’s have invested a record £20bn into British startups this year, and with economic recovery at the front of everyone’s mind, there is, surprisingly, a remarkable level of optimism emerging from the embers of the pandemic.

Throughout the last 18 months, we’ve seen innovation boom on the UK startup scene as those with a technology focus stepped up to the challenge of COVID-19, delivering rapid testing solutions, AI-powered drug discovery, fever screening kiosks and more during the most challenging period of the 21st century.

We’ve also witnessed established businesses, from one-employee into the thousands, take on the challenges of remote working and digital transformation almost overnight.

The question now is, how can Britain keep up this momentum?

With Brexit dealing a double blow to the economy, it’s time to start thinking outside the box when it comes to keeping investment up and costs down – and taking note of European neighbours could prove instrumental.

Attracting Investors 

SVC2UK recently named 50 of the UK’s up and coming high-growth tech firms; with an average annual growth rate of 112% and £285m raised, it’s easy to see why startups are attracting the attention of commentators globally.


There is no single key to this success, but London has long been an innovation hub, with global talent flocking to the UK’s capital. What is paradoxical about this year's success is that, since the Brexit vote, thousands of EU nationals have fled the country, and thousands more have been put off from migrating on account of new visa restrictions. 

This makes 2021’s investment record all the more impressive, but the UK government would be remiss to interpret this as a success of isolationism. Instead, Britain must realise how much more it can achieve by finding ways to connect startups to global talent, investors, and research departments among others. 

The future of innovation, work, and investment is global, and startups could offer a much-needed tool for helping the UK to navigate it’s way out of an economically tense period. It is a coincidence, perhaps, that the year of remote and borderless working generated record investment for small businesses in the UK. But perhaps it’s no coincidence at all?

Lessons from Estonia

The small baltic nation of Estonia can prove a helpful use-case on divergent thinking in business, and the UK can learn much from analysing it. 

After gaining independence in the 90’s, we Estonians found ourselves trying to cultivate a robust economy in the face of limited resources and a population half the size of Wales. To overcome these limitations, the government has spent the last 20 years cultivating a ‘digital society’, and we’re now in a place where we can proudly claim to have the ‘most startups per capita’ in Europe. 

As an entrepreneur myself, I can give a first hand account of how easy it is to set one up in Estonia. You simply register your company online, which takes a maximum of a couple of hours. It’s then possible to sign all the documents you need, apply for loans, file your taxes, register employees  - you name it - entirely digitally from your laptop or phone. 

The startup community also spans beyond borders, with government startup e-Residency inviting entrepreneurs to start remote businesses in Estonia since 2014.

Now is the time for Britain to follow-down the same path, put more time and resources into making life easier for those in the startup sector, and make the most of current trends and momentum. 

By breaking down bureaucratic roadblocks with digital governance and encouraging a more outward-looking approach to doing business not restricted by borders, the UK can make the most of this critical juncture and turn the tide on it’s economic misfortunes.