From fintech to fashion, London’s biggest start up event sets the scene for 2017

 

When it comes to New Year aspirations of setting up a new business, some 2000 entrepreneurs might see a rainy Saturday in London’s Docklands as the start of something wonderful. Hence their lengthy que outside of KPMG’s offices for StartUp 2017 at 9am.

On the other hand, a Saturday morning lie in followed by Mexican breakfast overwhelmed my appetite for a full day’s networking, and I arrived at the event around midday. Justifiably, my timing could not have been better given the host firm’s lunch display of bulgur wheat salads, coffee and bottled water in rustically decorated canteen on the ‘Winter Garden’ on the 13th floor.

But that’s not all £10 entrance fee covered. The event included panels on ‘raising angel investment’, ‘getting the right support from the start’, ‘bank and trade finance’, ‘how to grow your business on facebook and Instagram’ and ‘how crowdfunding works’ and provided an opportunity to hobnob with representatives from the world’s most entrepreneurial organisations.

On entering StartUp 2017, I was greeted by Enterprise Nation’s event guides who were enthusiastically google-esque in approach, and furnished me with an afternoon program at reception before steering me to the seminars and the exhibition area.

I wondered into an abyss of meeting rooms where start up hopefuls were engaged in one-to-ones with business consultants ranging from the fashion to the fintech industries, while in the adjoining rooms, industry-focussed seminars had people spilling out of the doors. I met a tax consultant and member of the ICEAW who mused over the number of meetings he had had since 9am. “There’s a great energy here,” he noted. “Either that or it’s the bottomless coffee.”

We exchanged caffeine infused hand-shakes and I made my way up to the exhibition area, where Microsoft, Facebook, Enterprise Nation, KPMG and Reg123 were holding fort. I spoke to the Enterprise Nation helpers, whose organisation offers a range of platforms to aspiring entrepreneurs, including a dedicated phone line, access to buyers and journalists discounts on services and accountancy software.

The last keynote address of the day – titled ‘getting the right support from the start’ – drew a strong crowd. During the keynote, the audience heard about the range of financial support available to today’s entrepreneurs, including crowd funding. But the blend of funding is important. Traditional lending can be a good compliment to newer forms as its equity free, pointed out a panelist from HSBC. Another panelist added that insurance can also help to cover some of the risks taken in business.

The panel also explored accounting, with consultant and ICAEW member Raj Shah advising start-ups to meet more than one accountant who can help with the structure of their business.

Turning to digital, the panel also heard how Reg123 can support entrepreneurs throughout the online journey. A panelist offered some domain name advice: “rather than buying all of the domain names, the domain name should reflect your brand or your name. There’s no hard and fast rule but .com is most trusted. It’s not easy to find a short one but taking Enterprise Nation as an example, here there is no ambiguity. In an ideal world you should also check which social media platforms are available – search on google for hyphenated words or words which have a different spelling. The money you spend on this is worthwhile.”

So what makes a good blend of financing? A HSBC panelist said it’s about how much startups are willing to give away. “There are big angel forums but they’ll want a big part of your business… traditional banks will fund early if the business is structured and the repayments makes sense. The other key question is when are you going to earn an income that brings traditional funders into play?”

An audience member asked whether traditional lenders felt challenged by Fintechs, many of whom are seen to be taking market share away by offering consumers something different. He replied: “It’s both exciting and challenging for the industry. It’s forcing us to think in different ways… it’s changing the industry. But it will only be successful if it changes the customer experience. So we think it’s good. We partner with local connections and networks.”

And so, in those few hours at StartUp 2017, I might just have become convinced that this could be the year for more innovation and support for new businesses thanks to smarter partnering between smaller firms and the bigger stalwarts of financial services in order to make consumers’ lives easier.

 

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