Some of London's most exciting tech, media and telco businesses tell us what they need to grow

Fast-growth TMT entrepreneurs and leaders joined us at Claridge’s to share their insights

London’s technology, media and telecoms companies have enjoyed a boom in recent years. The TMT sector has now overtaken financial services firms to become the industry hiring the most office space in the City of London.

London is now a second home to many of the world’s largest technology companies, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, while thousands of home-grown businesses have also sprung up. In the financial technology (fintech) area, this growth has seen investment in UK companies grow at twice the rate of investment in similar Silicon Valley firms.

To thrive in tomorrow’s world, London – and indeed the UK – needs to put digital at its heart. Our TMT business must be able to grow rapidly if we want our economy to develop. But TMT companies face numerous challenges to growth that risk the future of the industry and, in turn, our nation’s future.

So we invited some of the capital’s most exciting mid-market TMT firms to Claridge’s to talk about what they need to grow in the coming years.

Our thanks to Lloyds Banking Group for supporting this event.

Access to talent

  • Highly competitive in London
  • You can’t necessarily compete on salary
  • You must foster a culture of innovation
  • The sector needs to attract energetic, enthusiastic people

Finding and keeping the top talent in the TMT sector was the most recurring obstacle to growth throughout the conversation. Delegates from technology firms said that due to the highly competitive environment in London, it is a challenge to lure and retain the most capable developers. “In terms of recruitment, developers are like gold dust,” Fluidata chief executive Piers Daniell said.

“It’s impossible to find really talented people in London in the tech sector,” added Adrian Tripp from Key 20 Media.

Their remarks were echoed by SwiftKey vice president for finance Alex Gayer, who outlined the challenges employers have in making themselves attractive to sought-after developers.

He said: “The market for labour is intense. We have a relatively cool brand and we model ourselves on American West Coast companies. ‘Hierarchy’ is practically a dirty word. We can’t compete on salary, but one thing we’ve done well is the cool environment. For example, we only ask people to work core hours of Wednesday to Thursday.”

However, Powwownow founder and chief executive Paul Lees said that recruitment wasn’t a major problem for his company, which provides conference call services for small businesses. “We’re not a very sexy industry, so being cool isn’t such a problem.”

TMT roundtable - networking

Funding and growth strategies

o  Reflection and time out are important

o  The government’s Growth Accelerator is helpful

o  Organic growth vs M&A

  • Acquisitions are difficult – the target business must be understood fully
  • Acquiring a customer base can be cheaper than targeting new customers once you reach a certain size
  • Organic growth may be slower but it’s lower-risk
  • High-growth tech businesses can grow organically quickly by going into new regions

There was widespread agreement that lots more funding had become available in the past half-year than three or four years ago, across all types of finance.

In terms of growth, there was a consensus that organic growth can be a more straightforward route to growth than through mergers and acquisitions with other firms.

SwiftKey’s Alex Gayer said: “Organic growth is far less risky than M&A. It can be hard to bring two different businesses together.”

TMT roundtable - full table

The panellists in discussion round the table at Claridge’s

The international opportunity

  • UKTI are good generally but not so strong in certain regions
  • Forming partnerships overseas can be easier than going in alone
  • A lack of international mobility of staff is an issue

UKTI are seen as a helpful resource, but several delegates said that the service was more helpful for large companies. For a young expansive company they are likely to need a greater level of guidance. CBI director Natalie Bell said that the CBI “had been active in providing feedback to UKTI”.

Getting thoroughly acquainted with clients was also mentioned as being vital when pursuing international business. The value of face-to-face meetings is high, and is increasingly how people want to conduct foreign business.

TMT rountable

CBI director Natalie Bell talks to Robert Prevezer, executive chairman at The Communications Agency

Media agencies

  • Care for and understanding of clients is imperative
  • Consolidation of media has meant successful agencies must play a more strategic role

Representatives from media agencies said that developing a clear understanding of clients’ requirements has become more important as the recovery has begun to build. Firms are more confident but this means that retaining clients has become more challenging.

Eulogy head of professional services David Flynn said: “All our activity has to match our clients’ needs. There is no doubt about it – there are too many PR companies out there, so we are going to see a lot of consolidation soon.”

Gekko managing director Dan Todaro said: “In our world, relationships with major brands are generally on a short-term basis. But we retain our clients through understanding them. They actually don’t want flash offices or marketing speak. It’s about understanding.”

TMT rountable

Diana Honey, relationship director, Lloyds Banking Group chats to Gekko’s Dan Todaro

Our thanks to all the panellists:

Natalie Bell, Director, CBI London

Mike Bokaie, Chief Executive, Casis Media

Piers Daniell, Founder and CEO, Fluidata

Alex Gayer, VP Finance, SwiftKey

Diana Honey, Relationship Director, Lloyds Banking Group

Jeff Hughes, Chief Executive Officer, Omnifone

Paul Hutton, Managing Director, Blitz Communications Ltd

Anthony Impey, Managing Director, Optimity Ltd

Martin Jones, Chief Executive, MJ Media

Paul Lees, Founder and CEO, Powwownow

David Flynn, Head of Professional Services, Eulogy

Barbara Pozdorovkina, Head of Marketing and Corporate Development, LMAX Exchange

Robert Prevezer, Executive Chairman, The Communications Agency

Dan Todaro, Managing Director, Gekko

Ian Travis, Relationship Director, SME Banking, Lloyds Banking Group

Adrian Tripp, Chief Executive, Key20 Media Limited

Our thanks again to Lloyds Banking Group for supporting this event

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