Microsoft: Why start-ups love London

Microsoft: Why start-ups love London
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

November 15th 2013 at 2:50PM

The platform holder's Anand Krishnan tells Develop why the UK is the ideal base for this new talent

The rate of new companies opening doors is increasing, and many of them are finding a home in the UK.

Last month, Microsoft carried out an independent survey into the demographic of app developers working in the country, and found that a significant portion were new to development, or were still finding their feet in the industry.

Speaking to Develop, Microsoft’s general manager for Developer and Platform Group Anand Krishnan explained why he believes the UK’s capital is perfect for start-ups.

“London has become the biggest hub for start-up activity for a variety of reasons,” he said. “There’s a critical mass of resources that start-ups need in order to survive, such as financing, mentorship, legal advice, accounting advice and so on. And they all need to be set up in a manner that is accessible to a company that is just three people and an idea. That’s what we see in London.”

Krishnan’s comments echo those of TIGA’s Richard Wilson, who told Develop this month that research by the trade body shows that more than 50 per cent of the UK’s games businesses first opened doors within the last four years.

Similarly, developer networks Game Kettle and Game Republic – which represent North East England and Yorkshire respectively – have commented on the number of new studios that are setting up in their regions.

“I’ve never seen so many start-ups in this area as I have in the past few years,” said Game Republic director Jamie Sefton.

MIGRATING TALENT

Krishnan added that a significant portion of UK start-ups didn’t originate here, instead moving over from the continent to take advantage of London’s plentiful resources.

“I meet a lot of entrepreneurs that started out in smaller centres in Europe and decided that they had to go somewhere bigger, and that place becomes London,” he said.

“They come over to London, they open up their new business, and they too become part of that innovation ecosystem that we’re engaged with.

“On estimate, we believe there are 30,000 to 40,000 London-based start-ups, and that is significantly more than what you’d expect.”

And while Microsoft’s study focused on the broader world of apps, encompassing video games, Krishnan highlighted our industry as one of the strongest sectors that Microsoft works with. In fact, ex-games devs are behind some of the most promising app start-ups.

“London is really strong when it comes to the gaming ecosystem,” he said.

“A disproportionate segment of new app developers probably come from gaming. That’s partly because the opportunity has drastically changed with the power of self-publishing and app stores. It’s also because gaming is one of the sectors that is closest to having figured out how to monetise and do so in a profitable manner.

“A good indicator would be that one of the focus areas of our accelerator programme is gaming. In our pilot programme, two studios out of five are games developers – that’s 40 per cent of our current batch.”

The Microsoft exec is also keen to encourage other tech giants, publishers and accelerators to assist as many start-ups as they can: “Collectively, we’re at a time where the big players need to do more things to help the whole ecosystem and fewer things related to one-on-one adoption. That’s good for all of us.”

All this month, Develop is publishing its Start Your Own Studio guide online. You can find all of our start-up articles at www.develop-online.net/startupspecial, plus a full schedule of the guides still to come by clicking here.