07 November 2023
One marker of the strength of an ecosystem is the number of 'unicorns’ – businesses with pre-listing valuation of $1bn. The end goal of most unicorns is an IPO and with this in mind we asked respondents how they felt about the UK as a place to build and float their business.
We were surprised by the result that 53% of respondents planning to IPO said that the UK is more favourable than the United States as a place to raise debt, capital or explore a listing on a public stock exchange.
Why are we surprised by this finding?
There is a long list of UK Tech companies who have selected the other side of the Atlantic for IPO. The US exchange is dominated by tech stocks, including the MATANA (Microsoft, Apple, Tesla, Alphabet, Nvidia and Amazon). The UK exchange has a different composition and does not hold a comparable range or depth of tech stocks.
Surveyed IPO aspirants showed confidence in the UK, with over 53% being positive towards the UK, 31% on the fence and 15% leaning towards the United States. The retention of the best and brightest media and technology businesses on the London exchange has to be a priority if the United Kingdom is to be a global competitor in this industry.
Growing towards IPO – deployment of funds and market confidence
The deployment of funds into five key growth areas was a priority for all respondents – with research and development a top priority for all businesses. However, a greater proportion of IPO focused businesses leaned towards sales and marketing – understandable as they seek to create an exciting track record ahead of listing. Each of these areas work together in sync to develop growth within a business.
It was also notable that respondents on IPO track were generally more optimistic about business confidence and the prospects of their business in both the short and medium term.
Confidence in government is high, but change is on the way
It was notable that IPO respondents were generally more positive about government support than other businesses. Another interesting perspective here was that business leaders of seed and venture capital backed businesses were particularly positive – with 34% of respondents strongly agreeing they feel supported, and a further 47.2% agreeing. Numbers of early-stage technology businesses have surged in the UK – it’s a positive sign that these young, growing businesses feel supported. However, with an election expected in 2024, all business leaders will be looking at proposals for government policy and considering the impact of potential regime change in the UK.
Paris the number one place to grow outside of the UK
While a key focus for UK media and technology businesses will be their own government – global expansion will also be key. We asked respondents to select three of the most attractive cities in Europe for global expansion. Paris and Berlin lead the way as places to grow or establish hubs on the continent, with IPO aspirants demonstrating a strong trend towards Paris. Access to funding, a skilled workforce and a well-established ecosystem were key areas highlighted.
What’s next for London and the UK?
London may consider itself well placed as it establishes itself at the tip of a $1tn ecosystem. The UK has broader strength in depth – clearly seen in the spread of new UK tech incorporations. Questions will continue to be raised about the attractiveness of the capital market for IPOs and the timing of the next general election will bring government policy firmly into focus. However, our survey shows there is confidence among media and technology business leaders and that it burns most brightly in our IPO aspirants.
‘I was pleasantly surprised by optimism from IPO aspirants about the UK as a place to float their business. The response sits counter to the general narrative – but shows there is confidence in the UK.'
Ben Bilsland, Partner and Media & Technology Industry Senior Analyst