What is running a business like in Cardiff?

Fresh from its stop in Birmingham, the big red Voom Tour bus will be making its way to Cardiff next week. But what is business like in the Welsh city?

Population: 358,500

Pros: Cheaper than many other UK cities, welcoming and friendly.

Cons: Hard to attract talent, lack of access to private funding, more expensive than other Welsh cities.

What to expect: A city with a strong start-up culture, and plenty of support from government for businesses looking to grow.

To find out more about doing business in the Welsh capital, we spoke to some local entrepreneur Chris Griffiths, CEO and founder of OpenGenius, Aimee Bateman, CEO and founder of CareerCake.com, and Luke Hughes, co-founder of Origym, who opened a location in the city two years ago.

What are the best things about doing business in Cardiff?

Chris Griffths: There are a lot of attractions for doing business in Wales, especially Cardiff. The costs of running a business in Cardiff are substantially cheaper than a lot of other cities in the UK. But for us as a software company it’s the energy and development surrounding the digital sector that’s the biggest pull. Emerging companies are able to make a name for themselves here. We’ve recently been named as the first Welsh company to join the London Stock Exchange’s ELITE programme. Not only was this a huge achievement for us, it has been treated as a major win for the Welsh digital sector as a whole.

As a promising start-up business based in Wales, you receive the full support of the Welsh government. We’ve been lucky enough to work with them over the last ten years and it has helped us get to where we are today. 80 per cent of our trade comes from overseas and the government has helped to make some of these connections. Having all these benefits, while still being a short train ride or flight away from major cities, Cardiff is a perfect base for business success stories.

Aimee Bateman: Cardiff has a very welcoming and friendly vibe and is very multicultural, which I love. The Welsh are pretty special, but the non-welsh people who come here are pretty special too. We rub off nicely!

Luke Hughes: We set-up our training centre in Cardiff about two years ago and have had a great amount of success. As the city is by far the largest city within a decent remit and it provides a great focal point for us to run our centre from. There is a decent traffic flow of potential customers and passing trade due to the city’s population density. For us as we are an education company also we get REACT funding for the unemployed for being located in Cardiff so there are definitely pros from being present within the city.

What are the downsides?

CG: People presume that in order to succeed in their career they must relocate to London, so we need to work harder to find and retain the best talent. In 2015, I decided to bring a slice of Silicon Valley to South Wales and build our own OpenGenius HQ, Tec Marina. Tec Marina is colourful, high-tech and has an abundance of break-out space including a games room and a gym. Tec Marina is a living example of everything OpenGenius is about, productivity, collaboration and a modern work-life balance. It was a first-of-its-kind here in Cardiff and has been instrumental in securing us the team we have today.

AB: Access to private funding and VC firms can be more of a challenge in this eco system compared to larger cities. This is getting better however. 

LH: It costs us as a business significantly more in terms of lease rates and business rates to be in Cardiff towards the city centre where we are based. We could set up the same operation and key fundamentals in Swansea or other smaller neighbouring towns for less. There is also far more competition within the city as they are using similar business strategies to ourselves.

Cardiff has a very welcoming and friendly vibe and is very multicultural

How would you describe the business culture of Cardiff? 

CG: The business culture of Cardiff is fast-paced but remains personal. What once was known as the coal mining capital of the world, Cardiff is now a booming digital hub. The city breeds some of the country's most innovative tech start-ups, but you still get that friendliness that tends to come with smaller cities. People are genuinely interested in what you are doing. Events like the recent Digital Festival that was held at the start of September, allow hundreds of early start-ups to meet with an impressive line-up of mentors and investors. It’s these connections that will drive innovation forward and put Cardiff on the map.

AB: Exciting, faced paced and fun. There is always an event for each person. Lots of formal business networking, but also super cool creative meet-ups too.

What tips would you have for anyone thinking of starting a business in Cardiff?

CG: Just go for it! Don’t underestimate what can be achieved outside of London. There are so many opportunities to take advantage of in Cardiff. A thriving business sector, lower costs than other UK cities, funding opportunities and the backing of a highly supportive country. You’ll never know unless you try. 

AB: Do it. Network and get involved. Be mindful however, that your environment is important, but when it comes to starting and running a business, your mindset is more important. 

LH: If your business requires a physical location, like any city you need to do your research and find the areas where the best value for money lies. A good starting point is to do some analysis of the traffic and trading flow. The Newport road has huge traffic flow and is the busiest road going into Cardiff, which is a great place to have a visible brand or shop front. Starting your business here will eradicate quite a lot of advertising concerns. 

The Virgin Media Business Voom Tour bus will be at The Hayes Cardiff on October 5th, 2017. Find out more and sign up now on the Virgin Media Business website.

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