Technology start-ups have been one of the UK’s great economic success stories of the past decade, growing at a rapid pace despite the challenging business climate. To put this into context, 15,720 new tech firms sprouted in London’s silicon roundabout within the space of a single year from March 2012-2013.
IT Pros are embracing the opportunity to get involved; new research from IT CWJobs.co.uk has shown that a remarkable 88% want to work for a start-up with a further 58% keen to establish a new tech business of their own. Whereas once joining a start-up might have been considered a risk, our research indicates that IT pros now regard employment by a newly-established firm to be an exciting opportunity.
Good things in small packages
Aside from the obvious opportunity to claim a remunerative share of the next Last.fm, Mind Candy or King, over half (57%) of jobseekers surveyed by CWJobs felt start-ups would give them more freedom and control at work. IT pros also like the idea of playing a more significant role in a small firm than working in a bigger company. This is possible, according to Moonfruit’s CEO Wendy Tan White, due to a smaller head count and flatter hierarchy. As she argues: “…joining a start-up gives you the unique opportunity to be part of something. Your input, expertise and insight will all go towards making the business a success, and that can be hugely rewarding. You won’t often see your ideas translated from paper to product as quickly as you do in a new company.” In short, making a genuinely significant impact is seen as more attainable in start-ups than in larger firms.
Beyond Tech City
An element of start-ups’ appeal could also be attributed to their geographical spread across the UK, which goes far beyond the confines of Tech City. IT pros have the option to work at one of the clusters of start-ups in Dundee’s gaming hub, Swansea healthcare tech centre or Newcastle’s tech triangle. Government funding has been earmarked to develop key hubs further. In December 2013, David Cameron unveiled a £12.5m fund for research and development to boost digital and computing technologies across the UK, as well as least three new pots of cash worth £1m each to encourage specialist clusters including Wales and the north-east.
Despite these efforts, tech pros remain doubtful that enough is being done to nurture tech incubators; only 7% of those surveyed by CWJobs think these efforts go far enough to encourage budding tech entrepreneurs. Constraints frequently cited include excess red tape and lack of access to capital funding, as well as competition between tech clusters to employ skilled workers. Recent research from the Tech City Futures report found that 19% of small firms had to make people redundant due to funding issues in 2012 with a further 29% stating their businesses are missing ‘significant business opportunities’ because they were unable to secure funding in time.
Bridging the talent gap
A further frustration for start-ups and their potential employees is the perceived talent gap faced by the sector. Despite the huge appetite to work in young companies, only 15% of professionals think small businesses are attracting the top talent in the industry. Common obstacles including intense time pressures, resourcing issues and lack of recruitment experience could be precluding start-ups from selecting the best candidates for the job.
Despite the difficulties faced by start-ups and those that want to work for one, there is much to suggest that the next five years will be an exceptionally fruitful period for small tech businesses. Innovative schemes such as Google’s ‘Campus’, which offers low rent desk space to tech entrepreneurs, have started to yield impressive results; start-ups based there have collectively raised over £30 million in the last 12 months alone. The Government’s Future Fifty programme, which gives high-growth businesses “concierge-style” support from mentoring to export assistance and strategic advice marks a new style of Government investment, running deeper than straight funding.
There is undoubtedly great appetite from IT pros to grow and develop within the start-up community. Start-ups should aim high and seek out top talent, calling on specialist expertise when necessary to build a team that can take them to the next level of success.
CWJobs.co.uk is the leading specialist IT recruitment website serving contract and permanent IT jobseekers throughout the UK and Ireland. The site draws over 509,000 unique users each month, attracted by the opportunity to search an average of more than 10,000 IT job opportunities at any one time.