Launching in London with eLab

Authored by:
Naveed Ratansi

Naveed Ratansi

London is one of the world’s leading financial cities and a marketplace for new ideas. Entrepreneurs flock to this bustling startup ecosystem to immerse themselves in the city's vibrant calendar of industry events, network potential, and venture capital. Naturally, CIEE has named London home to an eLab campus, ensuring that our entrepreneurs have immediate access to the city’s innovative startup scene.

Many entrepreneurs find their fiscal footing in London– which is home to venture capital firms such as Passion Capital, Octopus Ventures, Notion, and Balderton Capital. These firms have an economic interest in seeking out the innovators that are worth funding and therefore fueling a steady growth of startup ventures in the UK. Developing the startup sector is further advanced by overwhelming support of government initiatives, as evidenced by reports from The Financial Times late last year stating that the "...number of UK start-ups rises to new record," going on to say, "some observers attribute the positive numbers to government-sponsored initiatives introduced after the financial crisis..."

The UK's booming startup scene is boosted by the 'Entrepreneur Visa' which helps to make London's many assets easier to access for innovators from around the globe. Without this visa, aspiring entrepreneurs would be limited to other types of working visas which would relegate their startup dreams to a side hustle. The Entrepreneur Visa further emphasises the value the UK is placing on encouraging startup growth. This is further evidenced by the multifaceted work of Tech Nation, the London based initiative which is co-funded by the UK government and private donors, to encourage startup growth. The project is a “network of growth programs, events, skills and data resources.” They bill their initiative as open, diverse and creative, and bolstered by an incredible amount of resources they’ve collected that supports UK startups. Currently, the spotlight is on Fintech, which is considered the booming sector of entrepreneurial leadership for London-based startups. The largest names right now are Transferwise and Blockchain in addition to distinctive ventures in entrepreneurial finance solutions like the Halal crowdfunding platform Yielders.

Tech Nation backs UK startup growth in almost every way, operating as a strategic partner to the massive London Tech Week, which is a huge annual contribution to the UK startup scene. Tech Week is perhaps the crown jewel of London’s bustling calendar of events, alongside Power Women At Blooms: Think Like a Venture Capitalist, an event series featuring successful women entrepreneurs. In the same week, London is hosting the Women of Silicon Roundabout featuring a broad spectrum from keynotes to technical classes and development workshops for female founders – just a small sample of what diverse events are on offer. Considering the size of London, there is no shortage of opportunities to network and find resources as you grow your business.

However, as The Economist reported in 2016, "Gone are the days when barely qualified hopefuls could pitch away." The global startup ecosystem has matured, and now Venture Capitalists (VCs) can be more selective. Young founders that lack presentation skills or provide insufficient business plans are not going to secure funding or places in accelerator programmes. As founding resources are becoming more prevalent, accessing those resources requires an ever higher level of skill and preparation – simply having a good idea will no longer do. eLab helps by showing you how to avoid common pitfalls as well as giving you valuable feedback. Young entrepreneurs can hone their pitch skills and business plans so that they enter the competition for resources secure in their abilities and confident in their startup's fundamental value.

The city’s competitive environment is precisely why London is the perfect place for the eLab cohort to be cutting their teeth. If an entrepreneur can learn to stand out in London, they’re likely to be the kind of entrepreneur that can be successful anywhere. London is a city humming with inspiration and connection. The eLab curriculum is designed to add value to an early startup so that it stands out in London’s demanding startup ecosystems. Additionally, eLab mentors, speakers and partners are ready to empower entrepreneurs with the tools to navigate past the competition with ease and successfully persuade investors to fund their new ventures. 

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