By Stephen Bloch of The Innovation Warehouse.
I have been thinking about market entry to the UK: how would I approach setting up a business in London if I was based in another country? At first I found the whole idea of operating in an alien environment without my regular business support network quite daunting. Then I broke the challenge down into manageable pieces, so that I could deal with the key issues one by one:
Location: Where in London does it makes sense for your business to be based? If your main activity is within the technology sector, then East London or the fringes of the City of London make most sense because of the tech concentration there. However, if you are in film or media then perhaps Soho would make more sense. Some straightforward research using Google can be the quickest effective location tool for finding out where there are related companies, suppliers, and potential clients. And ask locals.
Workspace: This information is also easily sourced online. London has a large range of warehouses and offices – there are plenty of new, user-friendly, managed offices opening up – plus a growing number of co-location workspaces.
Legal and regulatory: Visas are often a major challenge. However, there are numerous companies providing advice and assistance specifically for incoming business people. I would advise asking people within your network for recommendations.
Setting up a company in the UK is in fact simple, quick and cheap, and can be done online with Companies House (the registrar of companies). Unless your busines has a complex structure or is a PLC I would just do this yourself. There are no difficult rules or restrictions on foreign ownership here.
Community and support: Finding a community of business people with common interests is something I would strongly recommend. This will help you build your business support network and get you vital market intelligence. London has a well-developed ecosystem, from conferences, seminars and ‘meet ups’ to business organisations. Again Google is useful, as is Eventbrite; and for anyone establishing a start-up there are around 100 business acclerator programmes. There is also Government support for incoming businesses from UKTI and, locally, London & Partners.
Customers: You are basing yourself in the business heart of the 6th largest economy in the World, so I’ll let you solve that piece of the puzzle on your own!