The most recent topic of CzechInvest’s series of Business Shaker workshops, which are regularly prepared in cooperation with experts on various business topics, was focused on expansion to the UK market. Several guests, including workshop partner at the Department of International Trade (DIT) of the British Embassy in Prague, shared their experience. The guests are active on the British market and are able to pass on their know-how to future entrepreneurs who are considering taking their business across the English Channel.
Petr Soukeník of the startup Whalebone, which was established three years ago, shared his experience from starting business operations in Great Britain. In 2018, the British Chamber of Commerce in Prague helped him with the Ment2Grow programme and, in 2019, CzechInvest provided him with facilities at the Impact Hub in King’s Cross in London in connection with a three-month stay within the agency’s CzechAccelerator programme. Petr himself says that one of the most important things was to get his first customer on the island. Petr’s main recommendations are to prepare thoroughly for the whole stay, exhibit at as many events as possible, get in contact with local associations, seek out other Czech and Slovak companies and managers for possible collaboration and don’t focus only on London. The United Kingdom is composed of four countries comprising a market of 66 million people and an area of just under a quarter of a million square kilometres. And this offers countless opportunities for potential collaboration across sectors and regions.
TechNation is a national platform focused on startups and the startup environment in Great Britain. It offers a full range of useful information about the local market and provides programmes for development and acceleration, including visa issues. The platform has already assisted more than 3,000 startups, supported twenty unicorn companies and invested over USD 20 billion. TechNation reports that in 2020, 63% of investments in the UK were focused on foreign projects. These figures clearly illustrate the size of the market and openness to foreign projects. TechNation currently offers 30 programmes for technology companies.
Hussein Kanji, an investment expert and partner at Hoxton Ventures, emphasises the importance of the given project’s uniqueness. The VC fund receives several dozen offers from startups seeking funding every week and if a project is not exceptional, unique and different from others, it is unlikely to succeed.
CzechInvest has a foreign office in London and helps startups enter the British market on a daily basis. The agency organises events, actively cooperates with government institutions, provides practical information and offers consultations in the area of business. Erik Bolebruch, head of CzechInvest’s London office, confirms that there are nearly 12,000 investment funds and almost 500 incubators and accelerators operating in the country, making it Europe’s largest startup ecosystem. He also actively assists with the CzechAccelerator programme, which helps to accelerate Czech startups’ business in London over a period of three months.
The British Chamber of Commerce in Prague helps startups through the Ment2Grow mentoring programme, which offers advice and experience of experts in business development not only in the UK market over the course of an eight-month incubation period. The programme is conducted in the Czech Republic and is completely free of charge.
Bettina Molnárová, head of the FDI section of the Department for International Trade at the British Embassy in Prague, explains that the DIT is also intently focused on support for entrepreneurs and startups from the Czech Republic in the UK. The department assists with market research and selection of appropriate locations in the UK, provides consulting on entering foreign markets and establishing branches, and is able to seek out the right partner for your business, such as the aforementioned TechNation association. The DIT is also among those who helped the Czech startup Whalebone expand to the British market.