Techvibes spent that last week in London, England shadowing a handful of startups selected for UKTI's Global Adventure Challenge and the C100UK's inaugural 48 Hours in London.
Thanks to a packed itinerary, we were able to meet with more than just the startups that were investigating the UK as a future destination.
Hundreds of Canadian technology companies have a London address and call the bustling city their European headquarters. And after meeting with a number for established businesses, it is obvious why: London is the ideal jumping off point for the rest of Europe.
Publicly traded Absolute Software has been doing business in Europe since 2006. EMEA Regional Director Michael Cholod moved to London from Absolute's Vancouver head office in January 2012 and leads a team of 30 representing 11 languages.
During a "Launch in UK" session on day two of the C100UK's crash course, Cholod noted that labour laws which favour employees in other European countries can make hiring a difficult decision particularly in countries like France, Germany and the Netherlands.
So much so, in fact, that he feels that the laptop security company can better manage their European footprint by simply diversifying their UK workforce to insure their have local language coverage in their target regions.
"Europe is a complicated market with 27 different countries in the EU alone," he explained to Techvibes. "Legal, cultural, and language differences make doing business in each country unique. For most North American companies looking to expand into Europe, the UK is the logical choice because the language and legal system is familiar and you can hire people locally who speak any language you are looking for. The UK is very well connected via air and rail to the rest of Europe so access to local markets from your UK base is easy and affordable."
Vancouver's ResponseTek sells real time customer feedback, a software-as-a-service (SAAS) into industries where competition for brand loyalty and wallet share is essential like the telecommunication and finance industries. Competition in these industries is fierce in Europe and the number of prospective customers in the region dwarfs the North American opportunity. There are multiple telecom operators across the European landscape.
To tackle that, ResponseTek hired Mark Hill as their Managing Director, UK & EMEA in 2012. Hill sat down with Techvibes atop their Centre Point address on New Oxford Street overlooking Google's massive office complex—which is certainly an indication in itself just how important a presence in the UK can be.
Hill subscribes to the "think global, act local" mantra with a roster of world-class clients that open doors in tandem with their local London street cred.
"With London, more so than any other European state, you instantly notice the diversity of the culture," Hill told Techvibes. "If you want to do business in Europe there is no better place to do it from. London is a global city with both global and European head offices on its door step. It is the gateway to the vast landscape of Europe and beyond. On a typical street in London, you'll pass by someone with a different accent, and hence the opportunity to understanding that culture and doing business. Having said all that, there is also a British way of doing business tied together with European Union laws, which makes it all together a fun challenge!"
As Canadian startups thrive and seek international expansion, it would be wise to consider the vast potential of Europe's market—and if they do, not to gloss over the superb launchpad that London offers.
Image: Felix Pharand-Deschenes