Derek Bishop


Growing digitally

Date added: 24th Mar 2015
Category: Innovation Culture

Keeping one eye on the culture and flexing it to accommodate growth and change won’t guarantee success but it will mean that you are giving success your best shot.

At the beginning of 2013 when we wrote about the Silicon Roundabout it was at a very exciting stage in its development.  Google had just signed a lease on land at King’s Cross and the area was blossoming with tech companies responding to the Government’s pledge in the 2012 budget to make the UK the digital media capital of Europe.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Government has given the industry a further boost with some exciting announcements in its March budget.  TV and film tax credits are to become more generous and support for the video games industry is also to be expanded.  But Silicon Roundabout provides far more than entertainment media and the Government has also announced plans for investment in the Internet of Things as well as taking steps to “bring ultrafast broadband of at least 100 megabits per second to nearly all homes in the country.”

So successful has Silicon Roundabout been that an FT report earlier this year revealed that more than $2billion had been raised by new technology funds in London over the previous five years.  But the long term success of the venture will partly depend on how the start-up tech companies manage their growth over the next decade.  This was starkly illustrated by the FT report which commented that most investors expect the vast majority of start-ups to fail, instead banking on a few very successful companies to reward investment in the sector.

In a time of rapid growth, maintaining the ‘start up’ culture which proved to be so successful at the outset is not always easy.  This is particularly so in a sector which of itself is rapidly changing as technological developments bring ever growing potential to the industry.  Add in the continuing challenge from competitors across the globe and it is perhaps easy to understand why investors are playing the percentages and expecting a high failure rate.

So what can start-up companies do to ensure that as they grow they don’t lose sight of the culture of agility and collaboration which made them successful in the first place?  Well, the first rule is not to become so immersed in the product that you lose sight of the business and the second rule is to accept that no culture stays the same forever.  Cultures flex and change with every action and interaction and it is up to those who lead to stay culture aware; bringing in new beliefs and behaviours which will accommodate a growing organisation and discarding those which no longer serve their purpose.

It’s very important here not to bring in change for change’s sake.  For example, when there were only a few of you it was easy to chat across the desk to solve issues.  Now the business has grown that option may not be open to you; but that doesn’t mean that you have to copy larger organisations and institute long winded pointless meetings.  Keeping an eye on the importance of collaboration and innovation means that there are other more free-wheeling options available.

Similarly, don’t lose sight of the fact that the founders got together because they shared a common ethos and goal.  It’s all too tempting in a growing organisation to hire for qualifications but hiring for cultural fit will pay off far more in the long run.

Keeping one eye on the culture and flexing it to accommodate growth and change won’t guarantee success but it will mean that you are giving success your best shot.  After all, if you don’t then another new start-up will and with 15,000 new IT companies set up in the UK in 2014 there are plenty of others  who are also positioning themselves for success


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