Editor’s note: this is a sponsored post by UK Trade and Investment
The other week UK Trade and Investement brought together a few speakers in Helsinki to talk about the startup opportunities in London’s Tech City. To get one Nordic entrepreneur’s honest opinion about the scene, we talked to Johan Brand from We Are Human, Kahoot, and Nordic Connection. He’s Norwegian national, but has made London his base for launching startups, for a number of good reasons he lays out.
We’ll cover his education startup, Kahoot, later this week, but until then, here’s some of his logic for setting up shop in London.
A real test market
Some startups need a test market to get the ball rolling, and when you’re based out of London, you have the sales connections to get your product out to the rest of the UK. There you have a market size of 62 million, all of whom speak the same language, while if you tested things out in all the Nordic countries put together, you’re only looking at a fractured market of around 25 million.
Global but local.
“If you want to design a business for a global market, London is global but local,” says Brand. After testing out your product, you need to make international steps, and there’s no better place in Europe than London to meet contacts or do research on how your product will resonate in different cultures.
The Nordic countries have built a respectable brand, and to help capitalize on it, Brand and the Nordic entrepreneurship community in London have put together Nordic Connection, a grassroots non-government organization to connect Nordic entrepreneurs based in London to each other, and to help capitalize on the the “coolness” that foreigners see us as. You can sign up to their email newsletter at NordicConnection.org, or follow them on Twitter.
“Tech City is great when you go abroad and want to talk to other corporates because they’ve heard of it, and London has done a great job of establishing it as a brand,” says Brand. “In the beginning we were all a bit skeptical because it looked like the government went in, drew a line, and put a name on it… and then the whole thing just dies. But they’ve done something clever and they’ve been focused on facilitating conversations and pushing forward startups and the stars.”
I pressed Brand about downsides, and I pointed out that London is expensive. As a Norwegian you might take this with a grain of salt, but he says there he’s living cheaper in London than he did in Boston, Edinburgh, and Oslo. To do so, he’s living in a flat share, but since it’s much more common there its been a positive experience for him.
And looking at living expenses from a bigger picture, Brand points out that travel costs are much cheaper from London than anywhere else in Europe. So if you’re in the air a lot, you could pay slightly more on rent while still saving money in the long term by having cheap direct flights everywhere.
But the bottom line is that London is a short trip home, is global but local, and it’s clearly a place where things are happening. At ArcticStartup we’re all about promoting the Nordic brand abroad, so be sure to keep up to date with Nordic Connection if you split your time in London!
Also something to keep on your radar is the Digital Shoreditch festival, a major tech event on the 20th-31st of May. It seems like a great way to get a taste for Tech City and the London startup scene. You can find more information and get your tickets here. Also if you contact Mari (email address below) about why you want to move your startup to London, it’s also possible to win some of UKTI’s extra tickets!
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is the Government Department that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy. They also help overseas companies bring their high quality investment to the UK’s dynamic economy. Their extensive network provides market and sector specific information, location and office space guidance and practical help (e.g. company establishment, taxation and hiring personnel) to get your UK operation up and running. Their services for Finnish companies are confidential and free of charge.