Over the last decades, digital products and services have become increasingly popular prompting an almost uncontrollable boom of the economy. Of all Western European countries, the UK has experienced the biggest impact on its GDP since the rise of the Internet and digital products and services. A comparison of the value of the digital economy now, and five years ago proves that the economy has increased almost 20%, with a valuation of a staggering amount of £170 billion in 2016.
UK digital business climate
The UK has already produced very successful digital businesses over the years in several sectors. The housing sector, for example, has seen a boost with two online businesses, eMoov and uPad. Both companies facilitate the process of respectively selling and renting houses by providing fair cost solutions that make high street agents needless for people looking to sell their houses or landlords wanting to find tenants.
Also, travelling has been made much simpler and cheaper thanks to the Internet. Instead of going to expensive travel agencies, people can now search for everything – hotels, flights, museum tickets, car hire, etc. – online. Although the concept of online travel agencies already existed for a while, Skyscanner revolutionised the sector providing an unbiased online global travel search site. This tool is free of charge with only one mission: to inspire travellers around the world.
Next up for innovation was the financial sector. Even though a lot of banks – if not all of them – had already switched to online and mobile banking, one problem still wasn’t fixed according to Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann. Both paid a lot of hidden bank fees having to transfer their money from Estonia to the UK and back. That’s why they developed a new system for themselves which later grew to become TransferWise. The online service allows businesses to send money over more than 300 currency routes at the real exchange rate across the entire world.
Even after years of growing, the digital economy still has room for innovative startups to become as successful. Given the fact that 8 British universities belong to the global top 20 tech universities, it’s no surprise there is a new digital business founded every hour in London alone. With the UK government’s help and assistance of companies like the Startup Funding Club, budding entrepreneurs enter a true paradise to get their revolutionary tech ideas off the ground.
Onfido has proven to be such a success story. The five-year-old company was founded by Oxford graduates Husayn Kassai, Eamon Jubbawy, and Ruhul Amin. Onfido has been building its company step-by-step with support of Oxford University Accelerator, and Startup Funding Club business angels who put serious money in, followed then by other investors including Crunch Base and Wellington Partners with today’s total investment exceeding £60M. Starting out in a tiny office in London, their business became globally successful with offices in London and San Francisco and international clientele including: ZipCar, HelloFresh, and Couchsurfing. The groundbreaking idea that led to their success was doing background checks for companies. Helping other businesses find out who they are hiring or already have working in the company, opened the door for several awards. Their latest prize was the 2017 Highest Investment Award, given to them by the Mayor’s International Business Programme for their significant growth, both at home and abroad.
In a time where everyone is using social media, Quuu found its way into the market. Founded in 2015 by Daniel Kempe and Matthew Spurr, the online platform helps businesses grow a relevant social media following. Based on the fields of interest, it sends hand-reviewed suggestions to the customer’s social profiles via their Buffer or HubSpot account, which the customer can then either improve manually, or leave up to Quuu to post.
A promising piece of software is CustomSell. Founded in 2014 by Dan Stearn, the sales and marketing programme allows small businesses to grow by automating their customer acquisition and engagement. By writing email campaigns, tracking the moves of web visitors, and marketing the customer’s business on every channel, CustomSell guarantees to create a sustainable and significant increase in new business in the first two months of use.
There are more and more entrepreneurs that see opportunity in digital economy. Karen Adams, founder of The Prosperous Shop is one of them. Her goal is to bring innovation to the ecommerce sector. She is using her retail experience to come up with a tool that presents business data back to clients in a format that is easy to read and quick to grasp. It will recommend to its customers what actions they should take to maximise growth prospects. Furthermore, the founder swears by a give-as-you-grow culture. The retail merchants will be able donate a share of their profits to a charity of their choice and use their social media to engage customers via promotions. In other words, merchants can work together with their retail customers for the greater good. Though the Prosperous Shop is still to launch, we already anticipate it as ‘digital startup to watch!'
In conclusion, The UK digital industry shows no signs of slowing down, making it the perfect place for new startups to thrive. The enduring possibilities make it an intriguing sector for investors to look into if they are interested in exciting, revolutionary technology and ideas.
By Chanelle Allen and Charlotte Lowel