New Anglia Lep conference: Business leaders urged to emulate the US and be bold
A successful Suffolk entrepreneur today told business leaders boldness was needed if the region is to become the “California of Europe”.
At the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership conference in Ipswich, themed around whether Norfolk and Suffolk can emulate the innovative success of so-called silicon valley in the US, chief executive and founder of Shareband Paul Evans, whose Ipswich company has developed software to bring together multiple internet connections, said there was a difference of attitude between the two countries.
Mr Evans, who has grown business in the US, said: “Our brains are fantastic, but we are lacking in execution. We need to be bold. We cannot wait for everything to be perfect.”
He said there was “quite a different mentality” between the way things were funded in the US and UK.
“The UK has got brilliant ideas. We have got some of the best technologists, but we have got to be aggressive. You drive down the 101 in San Francisco and there are billion dollar companies. In this region there are a small handful of very successful companies.”
“In the US there is more willingness to take risk,” he said. “Here there is far too much focus on finances. The first thing people want is a spreadsheet They are asking when you are going to break even. In the US they say how much money do you need now and how much money do you need in the future, even if they don’t quite know how to monetise it.”
He cited the example of social media business Twitter, which raised $65m before it had even made one cent of revenue.
He also said that the US had a different attitude to the labour market and that new government proposals to change the rules around getting rid of staff did not go far enough.
Meanwhile, Jerry Walker, chief executive of University of East Anglia spin-out company Intelligent Fingerprinting, said he was committed to the region.
His company has secured £2m of investment from the US to develop its new alcohol and drugs testing kit.
But Dr Walker said Norfolk was an “awesome place”, but they had to sell it to potential new staff because of its reputation for bad infrastructure.
He said: “We have suffered with people saying they like the company but Norwich is a long way out.”
But he said they had got around it by selling the region to potential staff before an interview.
He also praised the Norwich Research Park Innovation Centre, where the business is based.
He said the company had been kitted out with laboratories and offices.
“We have been tempted to move to Cambridge, but we do not need to,” he added.