By Steven Leof
Mexican entrepreneurs looking to raise funds, grow their companies, and improve their international exposure should add London to their itineraries in addition to the well-trodden routes across America from Silicon Valley to New York. The British capital has become a leading competitor to New York in Tech sector fundraising and is attracting funding candidates from all over the world.
The British government is firmly backing London’s allure to the Tech sector, not least through UK Trade & Investment’s active communication with young companies everywhere. But the government isn’t the only backer: FMCG companies – Unilever is an example – as well as financial institutions and retailers are all backing Tech sector solutions to sectoral challenges. A wide variety of new business incubators and accelerators is springing up to nurture and develop new businesses. There are so many incubators now that entrepreneurs can almost certainly find something that’s right for their particular needs.
London’s business atmosphere isn’t the same as that of the US though. It’s not quite the same culture of going to Silicon Valley with your business plan and collecting your millions. There’s capital available to help companies grow, but you have to earn it.
The most important thing for an entrepreneur aspiring to enter the British market is the value proposition: What are you selling to whom? Although it’s the gateway to Europe’s much larger marketplace, the British market is London-centric. That means that it’s much easier to manoeuvre physically: you don’t have to travel from Miami to St. Louis to Dallas and back again to get your message across to a wide audience. When you’re in London you can cover a lot more ground a lot more quickly.
But relationships matter much more in Britain than they do in the US. The way in which one interacts with people is different, and the way that the sales process works is different. In the UK, one has to spend money to build brand awareness. Business doesn’t happen overnight: it’s not a ‘dialling for dollars’ culture. The UK’s business culture is much less transaction-based and more relationship-based that of the US. Paradoxically, this relationship-based culture is much closer to the business culture in many Latin American countries, not least Mexico, although geography might lead you to think US practices might be more congenial.
An entrepreneur approaching London needs to be well prepared. New companies need to study what their potential competitors are doing and how best to discover and retain partners, based on a well-thought-out market entry plan, well-drafted contracts, and an understanding of what it takes to establish and grow a business in the UK. Don’t approach London’s market as though it were the US; it isn’t.
Hasta la próxima!