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Entrepreneurial opportunities outside the UK

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Last year, in an attempt to boost business optimism, the British Government published posters sporting Richard Branson with flowing locks and a cheesy million-dollar smile in front of a billowing Union Jack and the words, ‘The Easiest Place to set up a Business in Europe.’

Despite Branson’s smile and the sustained signs of economic recovery, it is still a challenge for UK graduates to secure appropriate employment. The poverty of the job market (which, although now expanding, still remains below pre-crash levels) is leading many young Brits to reconsider their options once they have left university.

Though for many this means embarking on further education in the form of an MA, more and more are taking the plunge in attempting to start up their own business, some embarking upon this while still studying.

This is an enthusiastically supported by the current Government who, beyond the Branson posters, have introduced not only startup loans but also the Growth Accelerator programme which hopes to boost fledgling businesses.

Whether or not as a result of the Government’s policies, the UK has seen a revival in startups over the last few years. Last month StartUp Britain published a report stating that there were 136,939 new businesses recorded in the capital in 2013. The majority of these, perhaps unsurprisingly, were centered around ‘Tech City’ in East London.

Across the Chanel

Despite this glowing report, many bright young things from the UK are being urged to look abroad for employment opportunities. As flights become quicker and cheaper, and communication with friends and family only as far away as the next wi-fi connection, living and working abroad is becoming a much easier choice than it was a generation ago.

Due to the EU’s open borders, cities like ‘poor but sexy’ Berlin are becoming increasingly popular with British graduates daunted by London prices and sluggish job market.

Not only ‘poor and sexy’, Berlin is also quickly establishing itself as a serious rival to London as the dominant startup scene in Europe. Lacking the grandeur of cities like Paris and Rome, Berlin has the space and freedom to lure the young, smart and ambitious.

One of the most successful startups to take advantage of the exciting German capital is Blacklane, a company offering a chauffeured limousine service to and from the airports of major cities across the globe. Like a host of other startups Blacklane took advantage of the capital’s cheap rent and adventurous character and is now an accelerating global business.

Over the Atlantic

In spite of such successes many believe that they must travel over the pond to tap into the heart of the startup scene. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal listing the highest valued startups in the world entitled ‘The Billion Dollar Startup Club’, named only three European companies out of a total of 36. All the others were either from China or the States with the latter dominating the list.

The biggest technology startups of the last twenty years such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, all based in San Francisco, have cemented the belief that young and techy Europeans should look only to Silicon Valley and forget about the ersatz Silicon Roundabout and Germany’s Silicon Allee.

In Europe’s defense, Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for the Digital Agenda, said in a speech last September:

‘Often people in Europe are too negative. Sometimes people think innovation is just for Silicon Valley. The fact is, here in Europe, we have many great success stories – but we are not telling them. There are so many talented people working to make their ideas a reality. So many innovations and innovators.’

With European triumphs such as Skype, Spotify and Angry Birds (of which even President Obama is a fan) there is certainly some truth in Kroes’s words. Across the cities of Europe there is much in the way of startup businesses to offer a smart and ambitious British graduate, even if they aren’t yet household names. Doubting that, there is always the fertile paving stones of London’s Tech City, and Richard Branson’s smile.




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