Northern England: the new online start-up 'stronghold'?

21st August 2015

Manchester has taken the crown of the UK’s biggest online small business hotspot, with London surprisingly left trailing behind in 26th place.

That’s according to a recent study of Britain’s most active web regions for ambitious small firms, carried out by eBay, which placed Lancashire and West Yorkshire firmly at the top of the UK’s web start-up tree.

eBay’s business ‘Digital Density’ ranking is calculated on the volume of small online retail businesses operating in a region and their sales, as a proportion of the local population.

Although there are more solely-online businesses operating in London, other areas of the country are showing signs of more concentrated hotspots for these kinds of start-up businesses.

An eBay spokesperson said he anticipated northern cities to enjoy an even greater stronghold on online start-ups in the future.

“Our research shows that technology is opening up tremendous opportunities for small businesses across the UK, with digital clusters spread across the country, particularly in the North West.

“The region has a proud history as an industrial powerhouse – but today it’s economic potential is intertwined with tech rather than textiles.

“Our technology is now breaking down barriers to global markets by allowing small businesses access to products and services that were once the preserve of large firms, such as smart shipping, international payments and translation.

“The North West, and Greater Manchester in particular, is well placed to capitalise on this with its successful universities, famous football teams and legendary culture, making an attractive proposition for budding entrepreneurs who might otherwise have been tempted by London.

“This, combined with improved infrastructure across the north, means that we may well be witnessing the birth of a new stronghold for start-ups.”

John Allan, national chairman, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), believes small businesses are becoming increasingly durable and confidence appears to be returning to pre-recession levels.

“We welcome the emergence of digital hubs in the North West,” said Allan.

“Small business confidence is high across many areas of the UK and companies are in a robust mood.”

Mr Allan attributed the growth of northern digital hotspots to improved access to finance, additional investment in digital infrastructure and the cheaper running costs in comparison with the capital.

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