Russ Shaw, and founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, discusses how technology startups and scaleups can succeed in an increasingly competitive space.

Those who work in tech and those who move to London have something in common. All are attracted to big ideas, whether it is global cultures and customs or international markets and customers.

It is over a century since Joseph Chamberlain described London as “The clearing house of the world”, and intermediary for global affairs. While Silicon Valley has moved technology’s centre of gravity in that time, the capital remains a hub for the greatest minds in tech and related fields.

I have spent much of my career working in London tech, and the last five years working for the tech community and sector. I’ve been lucky enough to meet many interesting people and learn a lot about the city’s place in the world, and what it takes to make it in this fast-growing and exciting sector.

London and the entire nation have a great tradition of entrepreneurship and a unique spirit of innovation, and this knowledge must be spread far and wide to continue tech’s impressive growth rate well into the future.   

Embracing disruption

Success in tech comes from embracing disruption and facing it head-on. This can mean slaughtering a sacred cow by taking decisions that run counter to an existing business model. Middle managers are often terrified of eating into existing profits by building products that cannibalise previous offerings, but this should be celebrated.

Companies cannot fear the prospect of their product becoming obsolete – it is a sign of progress, and in today’s hyper-competitive environment it is always preferable to disrupt yourself than to wait for competitors to do it for you. Investors should seek to back cannibalising forces, and take a hit to profits in the short term in order to remain at the top of an industry.

Build with scale in mind

Often products developed by today’s startups struggle to get beyond early adoption and fail at launch. This may be due to a lack of a coherent understanding of the market, but also the inability to thoroughly map out a path of success. British companies need to learn to dream big and have the ambition to develop a high growth business on a global scale. While it’s important to start small and build an MVP with a simple use case, founders must keep in mind that they are developing a product for the masses and iterate in order to maximise growth.

Entrepreneurs who understand economies of scale from the very start can envision potential challenges far earlier, allowing them to develop truly innovative products that have a wide-ranging impact.

Tech entrepreneurs should also build products with ease of use and accessibility as top priorities. One crucial component that links customer bases across different tech verticals is the so-called ‘three click test’ – if a product or service takes more than three clicks to grasp, then it simply does not have the functionality to succeed at a high rate. There is a tendency towards greater complexity as products evolve, which makes it even more important to make everything simple to begin with.

Collaboration and inclusion

Startup founders need to learn soft skills as well as hard skills, and a strong network is just as important as technical knowhow. The range of talent and successful companies the UK boasts should be not be seen as competition, but rather as an invaluable resource to connect, collaborate and enhance your growth opportunities.

Startups should strive to build a company culture of diversity and inclusion from day one. Recent research from McKinsey has shown that diverse companies outperform the field by 34%. The sooner that diversity becomes a company value, the easier it is for a startup to benefit from this as it scales. Founders and CEOs need to lead by example and embrace the value of diversity from the start to ultimately spread across the whole business.

The UK tech community has come a long way in establishing itself as a preeminent hub developing businesses and technology of the future.

Our thriving startup community has a solid platform upon which it can grow, but entrepreneurs will need to take advantage of all of the benefits cities like London have to offer in order to allow themselves the best chances for success.