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Startup Manifesto Launches with Backing of 250 Entrepreneurs

Following the raft of announcements from the main parties designed to woo business leaders – such as overhauling business rates or a climate apprenticeship programme – The Entrepreneurs Network and Coadec have identified 21 policies entrepreneurs truly need from the next government. 

As the Startup Manifesto highlights, political uncertainty hasn’t dented the UK as a global hub of entrepreneurship: since 2010, the number of people engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by a third from its previous long-run rate. Over the last four years we have seen a 35% rise in the number of high-growth businesses.

Startup Manifesto outlines a three-pronged action plan to ensure new ventures can survive and thrive: access to world-class talent; incentives to start, then access to capital to scale; and a clear, simple set of rules and regulations flexible enough to encourage new and innovative startup business models to grow.

In terms of policies, this means reforming our visa system so startups can attract the best and brightest without unnecessary bureaucracy; streamlining tax reliefs so we can get timely investments in ambitious businesses, and reforming pension regulations to attract more funding into early-stage businesses.

On Talent, Startup Manifesto notes that our visa system is not fit for purpose and has acted as a barrier to entrepreneurs and the talented workers they need to scale. Of the fastest-growing businesses here in Britain, 49% have at least one foreign-born co-founder. We call on the next government to ensure the Startup and Innovator Visas are implemented successfully so that more entrepreneurs come to the UK to start and grow businesses. 

over 250 UK entrepreneurs are lending support to a Startup Manifesto outlining reforms to make Britain the best place for startups and scale-ups

We ask that the Tier 1 General Visa be reintroduced. The salary threshold for the Tier 2 Visa should be reduced, and government should allow stock options to be considered in visa applications. These policies have been endorsed by Signal AI founder Dr Miguel Martinez and toucanBox founder Virginie Charles-Dear, to help plug the skills shortage. And we suggest that the Minister for Equalities have female entrepreneurship in their remit to support more women to start and scale businesses.

On Access to Finance, we call on the next government to devise a coherent regional startup strategy, to allow defined contribution pension schemes to invest in new companies, and to eliminate delays in the advance assurance process for EIS and SEIS tax relief to unlock more investment in high-growth startups, a policy endorsed by EnterpriseAlumni founder Emma Sinclair MBE. 

On Regulation, we ask that government works with startups to ensure tech regulation does not create new barriers to entry. The sandbox has helped small companies concentrate on innovation as well as compliance and should be extended to other tech sectors in the guise of five-year provisional licences to innovative companies with business models that conflict with existing regulations. Not only would this encourage innovation, it would highlight regulation that is “holding back innovation”.

What Entrepreneurs Really Need – An Open Letter from 250 Business Leaders

“As founders of some of the UK’s most successful businesses, we call on the parties seeking to form our next government to prioritise the needs of Britain’s startups and scaleups.

Despite Brexit uncertainty, the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit is undimmed. Since 2010, the number of people engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by a third. Total venture capital investment in UK tech topped £6bn in 2018, more than any other European country. And all this growth has meant hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Entrepreneurship is essential to the British economy. That’s why we support the Startup Manifesto by The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec) & The Entrepreneurs Network.

What startups need from government to build world-beating companies is simple. Access to top talent from both here in the UK and abroad; the right tax incentives to foster and grow early-stage businesses then access to the capital needed to scale them; and a clear, simple set of rules and regulations flexible enough to encourage new and innovative startup business models.

This means reforming the visa system so startups can attract the best and brightest without needless bureaucracy, streamlining tax reliefs so we can get timely investments in ambitious businesses, and reforming pension regulations to attract more funding into early-stage businesses.

These policies would be good for startups, but more importantly, they would be good for the UK. When you support Britain’s entrepreneurs you support the whole economy. We urge all the political parties in this election to bear that in mind and develop a startup and scaleup friendly approach for the years to come.”

21 Policies to Boost British Business

On Talent

  • Ensure that the Start Up and Innovator Visas are implemented successfully; 

  • Reintroduce the Tier 1 General visa – or an equivalent;

  • Reduce the Tier 2 Visa Salary threshold and allow stock options to be considered in visa applications;

  • Extend the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa to European citizens;

  • Modernise EMI by increasing current limits from a £30M asset capitalisation to £100M, and from 250 to 500 employees;

  • Support more women to start and scale businesses;

  • Utilise private coding schools as lifelong learning providers.

On Access to Finance

  • Reform the Tier 1 Investor Visa by lowering the minimum qualifying investment threshold for investment in UK startups, scale-ups and venture capital funds;

  • Reform advance assurance for EIS and SEIS to unlock more investment in high-growth startups;

  • Unleash pension fund capital by adjusting the pension charge cap;

  • Encourage the British Business Bank to provide more risk capital;

  • Reform R&D Tax Credits so that they are fit for a modern digital economy;

  • Improve access to Innovate UK grants;

  • Devise a coherent regional startup strategy.

Regulation

  • Secure a Data Adequacy agreement as soon as possible;

  • Promote innovation in regulated sectors by creating a cross-sector regulatory sandbox;

  • Use Open Banking-style reforms to promote innovation in sectors such as telecoms and energy;

  • Revolutionise the way government collects, stores and shares data;

  • Redraft the Age Appropriate Design Code to be more pragmatic;

  • Work with startups to ensure tech regulation does not create new barriers to entry;

  • Protect encryption from politicised attacks.

Dom Hallas, Executive Director at Coadec, says:

“Founders consistently tell us that startups need three things to thrive. Great talent. Access to the capital needed to grow. And easy to understand, pragmatic regulation. The manifesto is full of ideas in all three of these areas to make lives easier for tech entrepreneurs across the UK. We can only hope that the political parties are listening.”

Philip Salter, Founder of The Entrepreneurs Network, says:

“The party manifestos have policies that will impact business owners, but they don’t go far enough in terms of the reforms needed to boost UK entrepreneurship and ultimately support economic growth. This Startup Manifesto, which is backed by the founders of some of Britain’s fastest growing companies, is a blueprint for how the next government can support Britain’s most ambitious entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs are creating most of the UK’s new jobs and building the innovative companies that will make us all wealthier, healthier and happier.”

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