UK tech is scaling fast across regional borders, with the sector in high-growth mode across all areas of the country. What started out as a community around East London’s Silicon Roundabout now has talented, ambitious entrepreneurs coming forward from every corner of the UK, with tech ‘unicorns’ found in every region.
This growth is exciting, but to remain competitive on the global stage, we must look to market the UK’s tech leadership internationally – and not just on our shores.
There are many reasons why scaleups look to go global; to reach more consumers, create global partnerships, prove scalability, or open up access to international VCs. From every perspective, international expansion is deeply empowering for UK tech. It boosts the economy, fast-tracks tech businesses’ growth and cements our nation as a world leader for science and technology.
However, international expansion does not come without its challenges. The three biggest issues for tech companies looking to embark on global growth is hiring talent abroad, securing new capital and closing that first deal.
Historically, these obstacles have made it hard for tech companies to branch out into new markets – with the more than 1,000 tech companies who have recently signed up to our Growth Platform collectively identifying international expansion as their number one scaling challenge.
Overcoming global growth challenges
But there is much we can do to help overcome the mystery and difficulty that seems to enshroud international expansion – and in doing so de-risking and accelerating their entry to new markets.
The most valuable thing for tech companies scaling internationally is access to networks, which aid companies in making informed decisions about their go-to-market strategy. Peer-to-peer learning is crucial, as companies support one another to overcome common growth challenges and share experiences and networks with each other.
Having networks on the ground is also vital for companies’ international success, with companies emphasising the usefulness of having support from another established entrepreneur in that market who already has a network to help them.
For example, we recently launched GBxAsia in Singapore; a brand new network for British tech entrepreneurs (supported by the UK government’s Digital Trade Network), which will bring together entrepreneurs and investors with a connection to the UK to make the most of the opportunities in Asia Pacific.
As part of the wider GBx global network, this is the first of its kind to connect British tech across the world’s leading tech hubs – the UK, the US, and Asia.
Above all, the most important thing we can do is encourage companies to adopt a growth mindset from day one. International expansion is not just for large tech companies, and UK tech startups and scaleups are now considering scaling internationally at an earlier stage than ever before.
Cambridge-based Versed AI and Cardiff-based Yoello are examples of companies that Tech Nation is supporting to expand into international markets. Despite still being young, they have built their solutions from the beginning, with international clients in mind.
Scaling overseas can be intimidating. But with the benefits being so great, we must cultivate a strong global growth ambition, where international expansion is perceived as both an exciting and necessary challenge for tech startups and scaleups of all sizes – right across the UK.
Only then will we secure the future success of UK tech on the global stage.
Sam Evans is international director at Tech Nation.