For the second year in a row, Capital Law is the main sponsor of the Wales Start-Ups Awards. Here, Alys Carlton explains the key role start-ups play in the Welsh economy and how awards help them scale up.
In times of economic and political uncertainty for many big businesses, it’s been heartening to see the number of Welsh start-ups continue to grow. There were more new businesses being created in Wales in 2017 (14,120) than any other year since the current statistics began in 2002. Wales is also the only UK nation where this number kept increasing year on year since the end of the recession. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of Welsh start-ups grew by 88% as compared to 62% for the UK as a whole.
These figures reflect the optimism of Welsh entrepreneurs who are not afraid to take the leap and dream big – but how can we in the business support community ensure those start-ups looking to scale up are able to reach their growth potential?
Large businesses, usually defined as employing over 250 employees, are scarce in Wales. In 2018, in terms of private sector employers, the 1,675 large businesses registered in Wales employed the biggest proportion of people (38%), and yet they represented the smallest category of enterprises (0.6%).
The Development Bank of Wales’s aim – unlocking potential in the economy of Wales by increasing the provision of sustainable, effective finance in the market – goes some way to redressing this imbalance. Examples of notable recent exits include Wholebake, with a 5.23 return on investment, or Vista Retail Support, with a 4.47 return on investment. However, although access to such capital is essential for a start-up’s survival, alone it cannot guarantee sustained growth.
To become an established business, a start-up requires a supportive entrepreneurship ecosystem, and the role of awards ceremonies in that cannot be underestimated. Objective validation from third party sources doesn’t only boost sales and leads, it strengthens team spirit, employee motivation, and brand recognition. Awards make it easier for start-ups to work with partners and press, and can also help them attract additional investors and funding.
This is why we are delighted to be the headline sponsor of the Wales Start-Up Awards for the second year in a row. Being on the judging panel, I’ve had the privilege to witness first-hand the ambition, talent, hard-work and creativity of Welsh entrepreneurs.
This year, I was struck not only by the exceptionally high standard of applications but also by their diversity. Wales has already become a renowned hub for FinTech, but other industries like Food and Drinks are also on the rise, with many breweries and distilleries blooming across Wales. Also, due to the large number of applications compared with last year, we had to split the Services category into B2B and B2C.
On top of emerging new sector groups, the applicants themselves are diversifying. As Vice Chair of the Welsh Government’s Expert Panel on how best to support entrepreneurial women in Wales, I was pleased to see so many women candidates. Interestingly, many of the applying start-ups have also been founded by younger entrepreneurs, which seems to indicate that it’s becoming an increasingly popular career path for people coming out of university, or indeed that it’s becoming more common for 18 year-olds to eschew university completely in favour of starting their own business.
Regardless of the sector or the age or gender of the founder, one thing that all start-ups certainly need in order to scale up is an opportunity to be recognised and connected. That is, in a nutshell, what the Wales Start-Ups Awards are about: shining a spotlight on promising businesses and integrating them into the wider entrepreneurial community. These awards act as a valuable springboard for Welsh start-ups, and that’s why we’re taking part.
We’re committed to helping others succeed and as a home-grown scale-up business ourselves, we understand how important it is to access the right sort of advice. Our Corporate & Commercial team supports start-ups across several legal areas, so whether you need help to set up your company, document investments, draft terms and conditions or define privacy policies for your website, we’ve got you covered.
We look forward to seeing all the Wales Start-Ups Awards nominees on 20 September, including our own clients Brushbox, Disberse and Motokiki, and celebrating with the winners!