October 2015

Bit of good news: Bitcoin currency hits a 2015 high

bitcoinNews broke today that the digital currency Bitcoin recorded its highest value for 2015. The currency has steadily been gaining speed all month, but today surpassed its July peak to hit a record $320. This is good news for investors in the currency, as it puts the bitcoin up at 37% over the month.

During 2014 Bitcoin prices dropped dramatically. They fell from an encouragingly high $1,150, and showed few signs of recovering at the start of 2015. Indeed, the currency began the year by falling 43% to crash through its $180 floor.

The last Bitcoin peak came in July this summer. The cryptocurrency increased by nearly $300 as Greeks bought it in their droves when their country’s financial future looked ominous. However, the currency fell back down again in August.

This latest peak, though, is the culmination of a slow and steady rise. No wonder it’s caused experts to venture the new value could be here to stay.

‘We need more infrastructure’, say British Businesses

Silhouette of businessman standingand looking at city

According to a new poll released today by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and infrastructure services firm AECOM, almost 66% of British businesses want the government to hurry-up the delivery of promised infrastructure projects.

Whilst more than half of respondents told the CBI they didn’t expect to “see necessary upgrades in the next five years”, almost all said the quality of infrastructure was a “key deciding factor in planning their investments”.

“The arteries of modern Britain are working overtime” said John Cridland, Director-general of CBI. “Whether it’s our creaking railways, clogged roads and crowded runways, or digital links and the energy to power them struggling to keep up” he continued, “businesses now want the government to deliver the large scale upgrades it has made ambitious strides towards”.

There are currently £441bn worth of pending infrastructure upgrades, according to the CBI. All of which are integral to the UK’s future, and include: a new runway in the south east, investment in new energy sources, and general upgrades to the rail network.

Political procrastination over infrastructure threatens economic growth and jeopardises investment” said Richard Robinson, AECOM executive. “When infrastructure decisions are deferred, businesses takes the hit”.

Innovate UK’s £140,000 smart city competition

Insurance Concepts

Innovate UK’s IC tomorrow programme is well underway. The contest, which ‘seeks to encourage digital innovation that improves cities at a human scale’ opened for applications earlier this month.

Targeted at digital start-ups and SMEs seeking funding, the contest has four different categories – each with a prize of up to £35k.

The four smart-cities awards are:

  • Enhanced travel data with Transport for London
  • Effective journey management with Centro
  • City-scale communication with Clear Channel Outdoor
  • Citizen init to city design with Atkins

Not only will winners scoop the prize-funding, but they’ll also get the chance to work with a relevant commercial partner. The Future Cities Catapult has agreed to grant entry onto its SME programme – as well as access to data, experts, and exhibition space. Peterborough City Council will provide guidance on how tech solutions can be applied in modern cities.

“As the number of people choosing to live in cities around the world continues to rise, it is vital that we think about the future” says Matt Sansam, lead technologist – as well as digital economy and programme manager – for IC tomorrow. “Innovative digital technology has the power to provide solutions to ensure that our cities are effective and efficient for the users.”

Application deadline is 12 noon, Tuesday 24th November 2015. Winners will be announced in January.

Barclays and European Investment Fund unlock £100m worth of loans for UK SMEs

Photo of businesspeople crossing the finish line

The alternative finance industry has grown at a phenomenal rate. Funding options – such as peer-to-peer lending, and crowdfunding – have in many instances displaced the traditional role of the high-street bank. In fact, eBay recently discovered that 72% of the UK’s small businesses avouched they were no longer dependent on banks. 

But now that the recession is widely accepted to be over, Banks are behaving with less caution and remerging as viable options for SMEs seeking finance.

In a new move to support SMEs, Barclays and the European Investment Fund (EIF) have agreed to provide £100m worth of loans over the next two years. The European Commission has backed the initiative, and its European Fund – launched initially to bridge the investment gap – is actively supporting the campaign.

Barclays’ head of finance, Karl Nolson, has said: “The UK economy needs innovation, and innovators need finance”. He added: “In offering Innovation Finance it enables us to provide additional funding solutions, supporting more businesses in the UK with the potential to be blue-chip companies”.

Jryki Katainen, European Commission VP, also commented: “There is a thriving start-up scene in the UK and this agreement under the Investment Plan for Europe will give those start-ups as helping hand”

We’re looking forward to see the first SMEs realise blue-chip status as a result of the agreement.

Digital companies account for over half London’s economy

Woman hand share the cloud against blue background. Concept image on cloud computing theme with copy space.According to recent research carried out by Oxford Economics on behalf of Virgin Media Business, more than half the companies based in London claim to be digital content or digital service providers.

The research, which was published within the report: ‘UK’s £92bn Digital Opportunity’, asserts that a further £48.5bn could be generated for London’s economy if better “digital capabilities” were made available.

Digital companies currently comprise 54% of London’s economy. Collectively their revenues grew by an average of 4.4% last year – which is significant when compared to the UK’s overall economic growth of 2.6% in 2014.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, said of the report: “Today’s report comes as no surprise”, adding “we see digital disruption sweeping across the city’s traditional industries.”

He also made hints at where he, and his colleagues, thought the next UK unicorn might be hiding.

“London’s tech experts believe it will be the retail industry that produces the capital’s next billion-dollar technology company. Technology has broken out of Old Street and is driving revenue, jobs and innovation from Canary Wharf to Croydon.”

Should we stay or should we go now – is the EU worth it?

According to a new report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), staying in the EU could prove lucrative for the UK. In fact, the report suggests staying-put could generate £58bn for the British economy by 2030.

The report, which was commissioned by the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, also concluded that opting-in could bring just under a further 800,000 jobs to the UK within 15 years. However, the estimated gains predicted by the report are based on prospective economic reforms.

But even without said reforms, the revenue generated from UK exports to the EU are currently worth £187bn a year – and these could grow to £277bn a year by 2030. Lords Stuart Rose, chair of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, asserted the report iterates “not only that Britain is better off in Europe now, but that in coming years we have more to gain”.

Of course, the sentiment was very different in the pro-Brexit camp. Dominic Cummings, campaign director of Vote Leave, said: “Politicians like Nick Clegg and Peter Mandelson have been telling us for years that the EU would reform and do less. Yet every year the EU takes more power and money.”

October brings Investor confidence

According to research by Lloyds Bank, investor confidence has grown so far this month. The Lloyds Private Banking Investor Sentiment index showed an improvement in eight out of ten asset classes, and an overall four percent rise in investor-net sentiment.

Writing today for City AM, Billy Bambrough points to Japanese equities and emerging market equities as being responsible for the greatest improvements in confidence. However, as Ashish Misra, head of portfolio specialists at Lloyds Bank Private Banking, alleges: “with the US Federal Reserve not raising interest rates in September, and ongoing concerns over China, there is still much uncertainty in the global economy.”

Misra did add, though, that it was encouraging to see “the strength of the sterling dominated asset classes which continue to keep levels of (UK) sentiment in positive territory”.

What’s more, after an arguably sparse Summer a number of London flotations are returning. Retirement housing developers McCarthy and Stone, which construct complexes across the UK, has announced plans to float in London next month. The firm is looking to raise £70m to support expansion plans. Share registrar company Equiniti also recently set up a price range for an upcoming IPO, in which it hopes to raise £315m.

Food Tech Week comes to London

Fruit stand http://barnimages.com/

London’s first ever ‘Food Tech Week’ is set to kick-off this month. The event, which begins a week today, will celebrate the different ways tech is increasingly disrupting the food sector.

Success stories such as start-up Deliveroo, and take-away aggregator platform JustEat, have revolutionised the way investors look at the food and drink industry. Nadia El Hadery and Victoria Albrecht, co-founders of London Food Tech Week (FTW), have said: “Food is one of the most important economies in the world, and technology is essential to driving scalable, global and positive progress’.

The week will witness start-ups, entrepreneurs, and food-brands come together to discuss some of the biggest issues currently facing the industry. And Albrecht and El Hadery have secured some of the biggest names in the business as speakers, including: Richard Reed (co-founder of Innocent Smoothies), Camilla Dolan (MMC Ventures) and John Quilter (FoodBusker and co-founder of Cru Kafe).

A crowded schedule of food events will included a food and agriculture-tech sustainability hackathon, a pitching session at Google Campus, and a future of food event at the trendy Ace Hotel in Shoreditch.

Not sure about you lot, but we can’t wait to tuck in.

Wind power prices at all time low

The price of onshore wind power has fallen below fossil fuel production for the first time in a G7 economy.

Whilst the cost of wind generated energy has been dropping drastically in recent years, it is only now that the renewable has become more cost-effective than coal and gas.

Writing for City AM, Clara Guibourg asserts that onshore wind in the UK is estimated to cost $85 per megawatt-hour in the second half of this year. Combine-cycle coal and gas comes in at $115. This will make the clean energy source fully cost-competitive even without government subsidies.

The drop in price can be accredited to lower financing costs, and technological advancements. In Europe, Germany are also enjoying a similar trend – albeit at slightly cheaper prices. No doubt UK government will be pleased by the sector’s progress, especially in light of the carbon-free energy drive outlined in its 2015 manifesto.

Top 5 tips for start-ups seeking crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has exploded on to the financial world in the last few years, allowing innovative companies to raise funds. For young start-ups, it’s an accessible means of securing investment, and one that allows them to dictate their own valuations. This, in turn, allows them to part with a smaller equity stake, and retain greater control over their company’s direction.

Here’s 5 top tips for any start-up wanting to take its next step with a little help from the crowd:

Know you audience

If you can effectively identify your target audience you’ll be able to aim your product at people already passionate about the field. This is conducive not only to investment, but to creating the necessary buzz about your product within your niche. Make sure you look at geographical targeting, sector targeting, and different campaigners.

2.   Pick the right crowd

Again, there’s a whole host of crowdfunding platforms in the UK – and different crowds cater for different tastes. Make sure you’re pitching your product on the right platform.

3.  Work out how you will spend the money

Make sure you know where the capital you raise is going. The more detailed your plan of action, the more comfortable the crowd will feel putting their money in your hands.

4.   Make the most of Social media

Publicise, publicise, publicise. Investors won’t just happen across your company if you keep your fingers crossed. You reap what you sow, so get sowing your seed on social media sites.

5. Prepare yourself

Ready yourself for rigorous interrogation. Investors will want to know exactly what your company does. We advise preparing a FAQ sheet to prevent an email overload.