This week, LinkedIn released a list of the 25 most “sought after” UK startups in 2018. The list is a who’s who of innovators and disruptors from the land of hope and glory. It’s also a very interesting look into some of the trends of the moment and what matters to people right now.
An important point of order to consider first is LinkedIn’s methodology. There’s still no concrete definition of what constitutes a startup. To make this list, companies had to be no more than seven years old, have at least 50 employees, be privately held and headquartered in the UK.
There are some quite valid arguments against that definition, but, it’s LinkedIn’s study, so their rules. What is also important to consider is that LinkedIn has some serious data on the employment market, given what it does, so the study’s results are certainly worth considering.
The report’s author says: “We started with the data — the billions of actions generated by LinkedIn’s 575 million members.” That’s not a bad place to start. From there, they looked at four “pillars” – employee growth; jobseeker interest; the level of professional engagement with the company and its employees; and how well the startup took talent away from existing big companies.
That methodology alone says something about what matters in the startup scene; the power to disrupt the incumbents, to excite and draw in top talent is clearly important.
To the list, then. There are some clear themes, but also some interesting contrasts evident just from the short descriptions. Take Monzo, which LinkedIn draws attention to for, amongst other things, its “fair pay” – head honcho Tom Blomfield took home £80,000 in 2017-2018, the article says.
Meanwhile, it also quotes the founder of Revolut, Nikolay Storonsky, who apparently works 8am to 10pm most days and “has little time for work-life balance”. He is quoted as telling the Financial Times that he “can’t see” how work life balance can help to build a startup. This tells us that startups, and even startups in the same arena, are not homogenous.
Being the world up startups, though, there is of course an emphasis on technology. All companies are digital these days, some would say, and that’s particularly so for new ones. But you might expect all of them to be tech startups – which isn’t the case. Second on the list is Gymshark, which, though it does take advantage of social media to good use, is ultimately a clothing brand.
There is, of course, also a big showing for the banking and finance world. Some of the most disruptive and certainly most profitable startups are often found in this area. Eight of the 25 startups in the list are in that sector in one way or another, while six are in the IT and “computer software” categories.
Overall though, the list is fairly varied. Retail, sports, cosmetics and healthcare all find their way into the list. Innovative startups clearly aren’t restricted to one sector, even if there is a slight preference towards a few.
The make-up of startups
We’ve written about startups before here on the Redcat blog – where we said: “A theme that emerges when looking at these startups is a desire to shake up the status quo. That means that business models that have existed for centuries in some cases are being drastically and rapidly changed.”
“The common thread is that all of these products and services put more power in the hand of the user, whether through an entirely new way of doing things or a more transparent and convenient way of performing a traditional service.”
And it’s fair to identify those trends here, too. It also tells us some interesting things about the UK startup scene more specifically. The report’s author, for instance, notes that there are only two female founders on the list – something that many would lament. Only one of the companies is based outside of London, too, which many would argue is not the way it should be.
On a more positive note, though, it does clearly suggest that the UK has a thriving entrepreneurial spirit, that, regardless of wider political and economic changes, is making the UK one of the startup hubs of the world.