SME XPO: Our entrepreneurs all agree that London has got its bounce back
London’s leading entrepreneurs came together with thousands of small business owners and scale-ups at SME XPO, declaring that the capital is a centre of start-up innovation once more.
“London remains the best city in the world and an amazing place to start a business,” Grind coffee founder David Abrahamovitch said.
The entrepreneur — who now sells six million cups of Grind coffee each year — spoke at the Evening Standard’s networking event for start-ups and scale-ups, that took place at ExCeL London on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mr Abrahamovitch conceded that the capital had “not had the best few years,” but added that its “huge market of potential customers, world-class talent, many ways to access funding, and the ability to use digital and traditional advertising to reach millions of customers relatively cheaply” meant it was now the leading city to start a company.
Despite inflation, Brexit, Covid and the cost-of-living crisis rocking London’s SMEs in the past few years, the 6,000 ticket-holders were in a similarly buoyant mood.
They listened to practical advice on funding, exporting and marketing to grow their fledging businesses and keynote speeches from established founders including Levi “Reggae Reggae Sauce” Roots and Trinny London’s Trinny Woodall.
Multi-millionaire founder of Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins, told his packed audience: “London is a great place to do business — I should know, I’ve been at it for near enough half a century.”
The entrepreneur, who sold Pimlico Plumbers for £140 million in 2021, set out his plans to launch a new London-based home services firm within 18 months, when his lock-out clause expires.
Meanwhile, Marvin’s Magic chief Marvin Berglas said being based in the capital had helped his business triple in size over the past five years. “People look to London and try to replicate the trends here, but it’s unique, the consumer market is so large and eclectic.”
Others hailed the city’s international pull for talent. Smruti Sriram, chief executive of jute bag-maker Supreme Creations, said her company’s growth had come, in part, from its London location. “I can’t champion London enough for being an international hotspot of brilliant talent — that has helped us through several crises, including Covid,” she said.
Attendees said their best takeaway from SME XPO was the honest, practical advice from founders who have all faced the same start-up and scale-up struggles. Louise Hill, co-founder of fintech GoHenry, urged London-based entrepreneurs in her audience to “just go for it — growth and especially taking your product or service overseas might sound scary, but you learn by making mistakes — you just get wiser and better.”