What a ‘Brexiting’ Britain has to offer Aussie entrepreneurs

Keen to expand your business’s global footprint? If so, there are compelling reasons to consider heading to the UK, especially if you own a tech start-up, with an exciting new competition just launched.

The UK and Australia have been economically intertwined for more than 200 years. Since the UK joined the (European) Common Market in 1973, however, they’ve been leading separate lives, focusing on business opportunities in their own regions.

The fact that the UK will soon be exiting the European Union (EU) may or may not turn out to be advantageous for the British people but it’s proving to be a positive development for Australian business owners. The UK is now so keen to attract investment from Australia and New Zealand that it’s running a competition: the ANZ UK Tech Rocketship Awards. The prize is a paid trip to the UK, where a personalised program will enable access to the right networks to take your company to the next level – smoothing the way for Antipodean start-ups interested in establishing a British presence.

Michael Ward is a career diplomat and now British Consul General for Australia and New Zealand, as well as Director General of the UK’s Department for International Trade. Here, he explains why ambitious Australian entrepreneurs should think seriously about expanding into the UK.

A cultural fit

“The UK is far more similar culturally, financially and legally to Australia than Asia or even the US,” Ward says.

“For an Australian company looking to expand quickly, without having to amend its business structure or products, the UK market is a fantastic opportunity. Not that there are any major obstacles now but entering the UK market will be even more frictionless when Australia and the UK sign a free trade agreement. Discussions about such an agreement are under way and will ramp up once the UK exits the EU in March 2019.”

Technology hub

Ward points out that London’s financial infrastructure is “the envy of the world”.

“The UK has the lowest company tax rate in the G20; it’s currently at 19 per cent and will be at 18 per cent by 2020. Various other tax incentives allow businesses to claim generous deductions on their investments, especially in research and development.

“There’s also a favourable regulatory environment,” he adds. “One that, for example, allows tech companies to arrange work visas for foreign staff easily and quickly. Plus, having a presence in the UK makes it much easier for Australian businesses to access the UK’s broad and deep pool of capital, some of the brightest and most creative minds on the planet, as well as 65 million British consumers.”

Plus, England’s capital is a tech hub, he says.

“London is the second most connected tech ecosystem in the world. The UK as a whole boasts 223,000 tech businesses. Tech entrepreneurs in the UK can tap in to networks and programs such as Tech for Good, as well as Tech Nation’s Future Fifty and Upscale. The UK Department for International Trade, Mayor of London and British Chamber of Commerce also provide a lot of assistance to start-ups.”

Sporting rivals, business partners

If you’re wondering why the UK would be so keen to import foreign businesses rather than simply supporting domestic ones, Wards says it’s because partnerships are a win-win opportunity.

“Australian businesses can partner with British ones with complementary strengths to pursue opportunities in, in particular, Asian and African markets,” he explains.

“To take one example, there’s a strong data science community in London while Australia is a world leader in agricultural research. Several Australian agtech start-ups, notably AgriWebb, have already enjoyed success in the UK. It’s not difficult to imagine an Australian agtech business and British data science company joining forces and creating a unicorn.”

Proof in the pudding

So, if things are so rosy in the UK, why haven’t Australian businesses been flocking there? According to Ward, they have.

“Two-way trade between the UK and Australia jumped 15 per cent in 2017,” he says.

“In the health space, Seqirus now contributes £1 billion a year to the UK economy. Smiggle has opened 100 stores across the UK. Airtasker has recently entered the UK market, as has Edible Blooms, Maestrano, Stackla and CultureAmp. And Australian fintechs have been especially interested in expanding into the UK, with Encompass, Finder, Pepperstone, Airwallex and Bravara Solutions already having done so.”

Win a golden ticket

To encourage our established start-ups to consider setting up shop in Britain, the UK Department for International Trade has launched the UK Tech Rocketship Awards in Australia.

If your business is ready to internationalise and offers ‘innovative, technology-led solutions’, you could win an all-expenses-paid trip to the UK. By entering the competition, you could be among the eight businesses from Australia and New Zealand given the opportunity to “gain exposure, expand their global networks and expedite the set-up of their UK operations”.

Categories include:

  1. Economy & Digital Security
  2. Tech for an Ageing Society
  3. The AI & Data Revolution
  4. The Future of Mobility
  5. Clean Growth
  6. Feeding the Nation
  7. Connected Consumers & Creativity
  8. GREAT Tech for Change Award

Closing date for entries to the UK Tech Rocketship Awards is 23 November 2018.

For more information, see the awards website or the series of YouTube videos produced by the Department for International Trade that explain why various Australian entrepreneurs chose to expand into or relocate to the UK. Companies profiled include AboutMatch, Grace Loves Lace, Everledger and TRAction Fintech.