UK entrepreneurs launch Startup Britain discounts with PM's backing – but not his money

This morning in London, the UK’s answer to Startup America launches, titled – guess what? – Startup Britain. That similarity aside, the initiative has been put together by a number of existing UK entrepreneurs and is not being backed by any government money, unlike the Obama initiative. Instead, we have here a ground-up entrepreneur-led initiative which is seeing over 60 leading brands offer services to up-and-coming startups in the UK. This is not specifically about tech startups – but it may well appeal to that sector.

The campaign is being launched by Prime Minister David Cameron, who is known to be very pro-enterprise. In a statement he said: “We need to see a country where new businesses are starting up on every street, in every town; where entrepreneurs are everywhere. We put out a call to business to rise up and help us drive the recovery and Startup Britain is part of the answer to that call.”

The UK has 270,000 businesses that start up every year but many fail due to a lack of support. Businesslink was widely seen as an expensive failure, where government civil servants tried to advise real business people on business. In the end it turned into a joke.

So in effect the Startup Britain initiative is doing a few things much more differently. It’s offering a package of discounts and free trial on business services like insurance, broadband, advertising, office space and more. The claim is that this amounts to over £1,500 in value for every startup company in Britain. Startup Britain is a portal site to a package of these services.

Also, not right now, but “in the future” it aims to offer “a living market place for the wide range of enterprise support that is already available. The aim is not to replace current provision, but to give it a higher profile, and complement existing provision with further offers of support.” They also want to build a “Mentor Marketplace, a “Masterclass Platform” (Deliver or sign up for a masterclass near you), “Pledge matchmaker”, a curated selection of links and a calendar of enterprise related events, into which you can suggest your own. A sort of free, business-led, crowd-sourced Businesslink if you will. [UPDATE: We’ve since heard that these features won;t be live for another couple of months]

It looks well intended. The only issue is that startups usually need more than a month’s discount on broadband when they are getting going. Another criticism is that it ‘looks’ slightly political. A large image of David Cameron adorns the front page of the site, just a few days after a huge anti-government demonstration in London.

Perhaps it would have been better to push the real entrepreneurs backing this who are:

· Oli Barrett, Co-Sponsorship Agency
· Duncan Cheatle, The Supper Club
· Rajeeb Dey,
· Michael Hayman, Seven Hills
· Emma Jones, Enterprise Nation
· Lara Morgan, Company Shortcut
· Richard O’Connor, Chocolate and Love
· Jamie Murray Wells, Glasses Direct and Hearing Direct

Comments sent to me on email and Twitter include “I can tell you what it could do without.. a big headshot of David Cameron. Instant turn off,” and by @tom_15gifts “We need some startup help in the UK but isn’t this just big companies giving away freebies to get business?”

Others said:

@jonfish “A fantastic initiative, let’s hope there is community-level network building as well – a website isn’t enough”

@katiemoffat “The idea has real value esp decent mentoring but as it is, it’s not the most groundbreaking of websites.”

@DuaneJackson “Too early to judge, but has a lot of potential I think.”

David Peto, CEO, Aframe: “It’s a very good idea to finally have somewhere decent to find out how to start – there really hasn’t been anywhere else – Businesslink was less than useless and is a dog that ought to be put down. However – again – this initiative runs the risk of being something that we – the existing startup and tech community all know about – and no-one else who actually needs to know will. We are the last people who need to help on starting – it’s keeping going we all need. I bet you fifty quid that when I go up to the north east next week to see our team and go to an event most will not have heard it. The pack is ok – but things like 10% off an HP product aren’t useful particularly. The Experian offer is the main useful one.”

My view? It’s interesting it’s been put together entirely by business people and will cost the public purse nothing at all. A cynic might say it’s handy advertising for those involved, but that would be a stupid comment. Advertising can be done much more efficiently that this. In reality I hope this is the start of a sea change in attitudes, where larger corporates do more to give a hand-up to to startups.

Corporate pledges to Startup Britain include:

• AXA will offer 10 per cent off business insurance
• BlackBerry will offer 1,000 free “Start Up Guides”
• Microsoft will train 5,000 start-ups in how to use technology to drive their business and marketing activities, including free technology resources worth up to £400 per company
• Google will support start ups, initially by providing them with a limited amount of free advertising (not clear how much yet)
• Regus will offer one month free businessworld membership (normally £15 a month at its cheapest)
• O2 to offer one months free line rental
• PayPal will offer three months free fees for new accounts when signing up to a website
• Fujitsu offers a 30-day free trial and/or 10% off the annual costs of IT storage/processing requirements via its online “Cloud” service
• McKinsey & Co will join with leading employers to launch Entrepreneur First to encourage our most innovative graduates to start up their own business
• YouGov and UCL, working with StartUp Britain and in collaboration with Imperial College London will lead the development of a pilot Start-up Summer to stimulate, encourage and support student entrepreneurs.

Long list of company supporters of StartUp Britain (specific commitments are not yet clear):

1. Alibaba
2. AXA
3. Barclays
4. Bitsy
5. BlackBerry
6. Brightword Publishing
7. Browser Creative
8. Co-Sponsorship Agency
9. Coutts
10. Deloitte
11. eBay
12. eConsultancy
13. Enterprise Nation
14. Enternships
15. Ernst & Young
16. Euro RSCG
17. Experian
18. Fujitsu
20. Global Entrepreneurship Week
21. Gloople
22. Google
23. GoResponse
24. GoToMeeting
25. HP
26. HSBC
27. Intel
28. Instant Offices
29. Irwin Mitchell
30. King & Allen
31. KPMG
32. Lloyds TSB
33. MADE Festival
34. McKinsey
35. Microsoft
37. Mother
38. MyKindaCrowd
39. O2
40. PayPal
41. PayPoint
42. Powa
43. Powwownow
44. PWC
45. Reed
46. Regus
47. RBS
48. Santander
49. Seko Synergy
50. Seven Hills
51. Sign Up To
52. Simply Business
53. Standard Chartered
54. Staples
55. The Supper Club
56. UnLtd
57. Virgin Media
58. Virgin Trains
59. Vistaprint
60.. WorldFirst
61. Yell
62. Yo! Sushi