What's it like to do business in London?

As Virgin Media Business takes to the road for the VOOM Tour 2017, we take a look at what it’s like to do business in the cities they’re visiting. First up: London.

Population: 8.8 million

Pros: Europe’s most diverse workforce, more than four million workers with 230 languages, home to much of the world’s media and some of the biggest companies.

Cons: Lots of competition for talent and office space, it's expensive to live and as a result employees expect high salaries.

Cost: One of the most expensive cities to start a business in.

What to expect: A collaborative, creative, fast-paced city, with many networks and a lot of support for entrepreneurs.

The UK’s capital is well-known for business – it’s the birthplace of some of the world’s most famous brands, including ASOS and of course the Virgin Group. But what is it like to run a start-up in London today? We spoke to Marcus Franck, founder of Franck Energy, Nikolay Piriankov, CEO of Taylor and Hart, and Adela Hussain, founder of Style Lyrical, to find out.

What are the best things about doing business in London?

Marcus Franck: Talented and innovative people flock to London from around the UK and the rest of the world. This makes recruitment challenging due to the wealth of expertise. A good problem to have, of course. Also, we're in a city that is forward-thinking and packed with people that wish to make an impact on the world. This means that Franck Energy has the perfect location in which to help homeowners switch to renewable energy. London has a population which embraces new technology and fresh ideas across the board, which is brilliant for business in general.

Nikolay Piriankov: We moved to London from Manchester to grow our business. At the time the decision was based on the greater availability of talent and access to investors, but London has a lot more to offer entrepreneurs.

In particular, the community has been extremely useful for us as we've grown our business, we've found mentors that have guided us, other entrepreneurs who have made intros or helped us with specific challenges we've faced. And, thanks to widely available crowdfunding platforms, many investors who've financed our growth but also been hands-on given they're all in London too. From an admin point of view, doing business in London and the UK for that matter is by far the easiest compared to our experiences setting up and running companies in HK, the US, South Africa and Belgium.

Adela Hussain: The accessibility to so many phenomenal entrepreneurs and events supporting start-ups. Every day there are high quality panels or training events covering topics such as funding, branding, PR and leadership. By attending such events entrepreneurs can ensure they meet experts and fellow founders who can support their journey.

What are the downsides?

MF: Naturally there is a lot of competition in this incredible city, meaning that business owners must stay sharp and alert to new threats. The hustle and bustle is challenging, but compelling at the same time. London can also become all-consuming, which is why it's important to get out into the greener air now and again for peace and reflection. 

NP: The cost of living is very high, and that means as a founder you often live at a very basic standard. For most entrepreneurs, this is ok, but when you start growing and hiring, the high cost of living is reflected in the high salaries people in London demand and this can be a barrier to growth for many companies, especially those bootstrapping.

AH: The cost of office space can be expensive especially if your business requires storage of goods. Entrepreneurs have to therefore be creative in their solutions for office space and storage.

How would you describe the business culture of London?

MF: Collaborative, competitive, and fast-paced. There's no room to slow down and keep steady in London's business culture, due to the inherent drive for growth and success. Luckily you won't be short of partners and collaborators in London; smart company founders spot diversified ways to help their business grow, and in this city there are many routes to sustainable success. 

NP: The London entrepreneurship culture is creative, with an emphasis on great design and UX, innovative, collaborative, a growth-hacking culture.

AH: Exciting and full of opportunity. From a female founder perspective it is quite white-male dominated but there are lots of female founder networks trying to change this. 

What tips do you have for anyone thinking of starting a business in London?

MF: Stay sharp and be prepared for hectic years that fly past in a matter of moments. Seek mentors where possible, and mix it with established business owners to educate yourself with key advice. But ultimately, the best method of learning is by doing. Look for influencers in your field and get them on-board with your project to get ahead of the competition. Keep a thick skin, and get as much rest as you can!

NP: Consider one of the many London based accelerators to immerse yourself into the network and community of entrepreneurs, investors and mentors. 

Keep costs low and the team small until you are confident you have found a product market fit as hiring can be very expensive.

Join a co-working community as your office to keep office costs low, while immersing yourself into a strong support-network of other entrepreneurs that may end up your customers, friends, or both 

AH: Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs either by working for one or working alongside many. This will help you change your mindset (especially if you were a former corporate).

Virgin Media Business will be taking the VOOM Tour bus to the London Business Show for two days this week (May 17th and 18th). Sign up for your free priority pass now to make sure you don't miss out on the opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs, master the art of pitching, and be in with a chance to meet Richard Branson.

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