Start-up blues: UK businesses feel location limits their ability to become a unicorn

Businesses in the North are more ambitious than those in London, but feel most hampered by regional barriers.

UK businesses feel location limits their ability of achieving the golden “unicorn” status- defined as a private company or start-up valued at over $1bn (£759m).

New research indicates that this is the case for the overwhelming majority (95%) of business leaders in the East of England. What was particularly interesting was that while those businesses in the North are more ambitious than those in London, they feel most impacted by location.

And while organisations in London are less ambitious, they feel more confident to access customers globally – a key element in the road to Unicorn success.

According to HubSpot’s new ‘We Believe in Unicorns’ report, 94% of British businesses believe it is likely they will achieve their ambition to become a unicorn - but they don’t think it will be plain sailing. Despite the UK’s ‘levelling-up' plans, location is one of the biggest barriers for business leaders.

Whether they believe their company will become a unicorn or not, over three quarters (76%) of business leaders think the location of their business limits their ability to achieve this billion-dollar valuation.

The research has shone a light on businesses’ grit and resilience in the face of tough times, with 88% of business leaders wanting their business to become a unicorn.

In short, there’s a sturdy appetite for growth from business leaders, but the research pinpointed significant areas that are impacting the road to success, such as difficulty finding talent, growing internationally and the North-South divide.

Key findings include:

Ambitious: 94% of British businesses believe it is likely they will achieve their ambition to become a unicorn. And whether they believe they will become a unicorn or not, 76% of business leaders think the location of their business limits their ability to achieve this billion-dollar valuation

North-South Divide: 69% of leaders in the East of England are confident they are ‘very likely’ to achieve the unicorn ambition, this drops to 51% for those in the South, including London

London businesses lead internationally: Given that most of the UK’s Unicorns are based in London, it’s interesting to see that organisations in London (70%) are also more likely to be in a position to access customers globally than any other region in the UK

Talent: Almost a third (30%) of leaders believe that while skilled candidates are out there, they’re difficult to find, especially in professional services (37%) and financial services (31%)

International growth: Despite economic uncertainty and Brexit complications, there’s an incredible appetite from British business leaders (96%) who are keen to sell more products or services globally

The survey of 500 leaders at mid-sized British businesses - across health, financial services, technology, professional services, education, manufacturing, retail and hospitality - has revealed business’ appetite for growth as well as the opportunities and hurdles identified on the road to success.

Ed Barrett, VP, Sales, EMEA at HubSpot, said: “Most of today’s unicorns are international and tech savvy. Businesses must lean on technology to gain an end-to-end view of their customer journey. An effective CRM platform can help everyone across the business understand customers and insights that propel growth. “A troubled economy begs an uncertain future, so it is promising to see that leaders are not letting these problems get in the way of them shooting for lofty revenue goals – but for the unicorn dream to become a reality, they must overcome these barriers and ensure their efforts are underpinned by a crystal-clear strategy.”

HubSpot surveyed 500 UK based business leaders from mid-sized (between 200 - 1000 employees) companies across health, financial services, technology, professional services, education, manufacturing, retail and hospitality.


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