Is it the age of the Portsmouth start-up?
According to an annual report from the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Portsmouth is the place to start your own business. In 2016 Portsmouth had more small businesses start up than any other area in the Solent. A whopping 2,224 - more than double the mean average of its neighbouring local authorities. However it’s not all about the sheer volume, Portsmouth also created more new businesses per head of population 10.5 per 1,000 head of population compared to a mean average of 7.8 from its neighbours. This is in stark opposition to only 584 registered new businesses in 2014. In 2015 over 608,000 new businesses were started in the UK, but did they all have a brand new idea? Were they all developing new products or carving new technology markets for themselves? Is a start-up really about having a bright and brand new idea?
Portsmouth has the infrastructure, the community and the ideas with a healthy mix of service, brand new and market disruptive ideas. Recent research in London is showing small business growth in a number of sectors and it’s not all about new products. Existing market disruption is taking a lead role in any number of industries whether it is Uber and Gett in the taxi market, the creation of online only fashion labels or new service models such as all legal service subscription payments. We can reasonably surmise that the growth in collaborative working tools, ease of internet access and the acceptability of mediums such as Skype for meetings is also changing the ease with which self-employment can become a reality.
Portsmouth has a rich business support community. Open plan, collaborative incubation space is available at projects like Innovation Space, Technopole and Port 57 to name a few. These units also act as magnets to attract high value business learning events led by startup peers. Portsmouth is one of only a handful of cities to take the bull by its horns and deliver yearly events specifically designed to encourage sustainable start-ups such as the Start Your Business and Tooled up events as well as coaching from the Business Support Bank via the City Council.
There is also significant business support in the city and wider region with major investment in services such as the Solent Growth Hub, the local chamber of commerce and growth organisations such as Oxford Innovation to name a few. An island city also has its advantages, population proximity and a thriving social scene helps people get together throw around ideas and gain the confidence to disrupt existing and new markets.
On top of that the UK is the best place in Europe to start your own business. Research compiled by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), an annual measure of entrepreneurial activity in over 100 countries, shows that when it comes to total early-stage entrepreneurial activity the UK performs better than its European counterparts and is only below the US. The percentage of the 18-64 population engaged in entrepreneurial activity has fluctuated between 8% and 10%. GEM also finds a high level of regard for entrepreneurs in the UK, and optimism about start-up opportunities. So why not make 2017 the year you take the plunge and disrupt the market?
Peter Hooley, Director of Business Development at the University of Portsmouth Business School