Our CEO Leanne Kemp looks back on the early days of Everledger, now a global scale-up, with 70 employees in 4 continents. There was no place better to start other than London.
Six years ago, I landed in the beating heart of London, Shoreditch, from my hometown Brisbane Australia – with my backpack and an ambition. My aim for Everledger was to build a platform for provenance that could prove an object was what it claimed it was. I started with diamonds to eradicate the blood diamond industry.
It seemed to be a long shot, but fast forward a few years and now we are a global business supporting Fortune 500 corporations and collaborating with the likes of the World Economic Forum and the OECD on the most important issues for the sustainable future of our world.
But what was the attraction of the UK? Why not launch in the US, Singapore, China or my native Australia? Looking back, London was a no-brainer for Everledger. And for five good reasons.
1. London is a connected hub
In 2015, London was the epicentre of financial services and a trampoline to global marketplaces. And it will continue to be. Even when the City turned into a pandemic ghost town, the wheels kept turning. As an ambitious start-up, you need access to finance. The UK is still Europe’s leading startup nation, attracting USD12.5bn in venture capital funding in 2020. Our decision to base here has proved to be the bedrock of our success. We quickly developed keystone customer relationships and returned revenue within 12 months of arriving.
2. The UK magnetises tech talent
The UK is a global leader in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotic engineering, data and software development, IoT, fintech, climate tech and blockchain. And because of this, it attracts bright people from across the world. So it’s no wonder why the FAANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) have their European bases here. In fact, two new tech businesses were launched every hour in the UK last year, with almost 20,000 new startups registered. The Fintech sector is expected to double over the next decade (from 1,600+ firms) with a 42% adoption rate, against a global average of 33%. All this activity may sound like a lot of local competition, but what it really means is that there are plenty of brilliant technology experts and potential partners to help scale your business.
3. The UK Government “gets it”, and is on board
There’s no better place to scale up an emerging technology company than the UK, given the high number of robust support initiatives in place, many of which are driven by the UK government.
Last year, the UK government announced a range of measures to help boost digital trade and establish the UK tech industry as a global player – not least as a way of accelerating the recovery from COVID-19. The strategy aims to “increase tech exports to fast-growing international markets, including Asia-Pacific, strengthen scale-ups’ market readiness to export, and attract investment to drive innovation and create jobs.” This will make the UK a more attractive place to do business and to do business with.
4. Supremely close ties with Australia
In June this year, the UK and Australian governments agreed on a free trade agreement (FTA) that will offer “mate’s rates” between these historic allies. We at Everledger have a foot on each continent, with a robust team across Britain and our Aussie HQ in sunny Brisbane. This trade deal will no doubt support us in bridging our operations across the globe, as it removes barriers for businesses in a series of industries.
Australia is a fast-growing services economy, with vibrant start-ups in Fintech and superannuation, health, education and tourism, amongst others. That will only grow with greater access to the UK. Besides, the UK has also made no secret of its desire to pivot towards the Asia-Pacific market, as a means of diversifying its reliance on mature markets. Australia can be a great base of operations for UK companies aiming Asian markets. We ourselves have done this in our expansion into China.
5. People on your wavelength
This last point is something I’ve learnt through experience. As an entrepreneur, you don’t know it all. The patterning that leads to commercial innovation is hard to decipher on your own. There’s a temptation to think of start-up land as chasing brainwaves on a beach, but it’s really more like an incident room, where you’re trying to join the clues to catch a killer idea. It is hard work!
Most learning comes through osmosis, so you need to pursue new conversations and ask different questions. Find the people who have been through parts of the journey you want to take. At Everledger, we always keep an extra, empty chair in a team meeting to remind us that there’s always room round the table for more diversity of thought.
It has been and will continue to be a global journey for Everledger – one that had to start in a global city, in a business-friendly regulatory framework. No other place would have enabled our growth as London has: we recently revamped our Everledger Platform to bring transparency in reach for customers in apparel, electric vehicle and electronics battery management, and luxury industries too.
London is the global hub that we need as a company. It’s a centre for global business and bright people, and even the busiest minds are prepared to share their time if you can catch their attention. It’s part of the buzz of doing business here. As they say, if you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life!