Ask any entrepreneur what the key ingredients are to building a successful business, and they are likely to tell you that support and advice from other entrepreneurs ranks pretty highly.
Whether it is as mentors, advisors, investors or simply as people with whom they have coffee, access to a support network of experienced entrepreneurs is priceless.
This is not the kind of thing you'd expect government and the public sector to understand, yet over the last 10 years the UK government has been providing access to a network of experienced entrepreneurs to a select group of companies from outside of the UK. In return for this free service, all the companies need to do is locate their global or European HQs in the UK. Simple.
This initiative is called the Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP). It is part of the UKTI (UK Trade and Investment) and is made up of a small central team of 2-3 individuals who administer a network of 20 or so entrepreneurs (called Dealmakers), some based in London, some in the English regions and some posted in India, Australia and both US coasts. Crucially, these guys are not full-time UKTI folk, they are all experienced entrepreneurs with impressive networks, and it is this ready-made network of entrepreneurs that the UK government offers to high growth companies who want to make the UK a strategic hub for their business.
The GEP offering is pretty impressive, really. For a select number of companies (around 100 a year), they get access to the equivalent of a highly experienced NED who is in turn connected to 20+ others with sector specialism in cyber, robotics, aerospace, fintech, medtech, digital media and big data.
What this translates as in terms of help and support is; strategic advice, access to a network of commercial or investor contacts, access to UK sector specialists as well as experience in fundraising and, frequently, the ability to raise the company’s profile and give it further credibility.
In addition to that, being part of the UKTI means that the GEP can offer practical advice on setting up and scaling a business from a UK HQ as well as help with application processes for visas and introductions to banks, lawyers, accountants…
Nutmeg is a great case study for the GEP. This company was dreamt up in Silicon Valley, but its founder was convinced by Sarah Turner (one of the dealmakers) that London was a much better place for a startup that wanted to disrupt the world of investment management. Three years on and thanks (in some way) to support from the UKTI, Nutmeg has raised £28m and has grown from zero to 40,000 users with 60 employees on board.
On the support he received from the GEP, Nutmeg's CEO Nick Hungerford said, "Having the backing of UKTI and the connections Sarah made for us seriously bolstered our credibility and opened doors that might otherwise have been closed. Through these meetings and the on-going advice and support Sarah has helped us to secure further finance for growth."
I joined the GEP back in October 2014 as the Dealmaker representing the Southwest. So far, I have been working with a companies from Jordan, India, Vietnam, and the US and I should be adding another six to my portfolio later this year from places like Denmark, Hong Kong, Canada and Turkey.
The thing I love about the programme is that I get to spend quality time with brilliant entrepreneurs from all over the world. It's a great way to keep on learning and to grow my network across the globe. The way I see my role is to help them focus on and solve their biggest obstacles to growth and when we get it right, it is really satisfying.
David Maher Roberts
David is Managing Partner of Digital DNA, Founder of TechSPARK,
Digital Sector Specialist for Invest Bristol & Bath and Dealmaker for the UKTI's GEP