UK startup support
Starting and scaling a company can be a challenging and lonely job. Amongst the vast lake of advice online it can also be hard to know where to start, and what guidance is most relevant for you. Here we pull together the most relevant startup support services and schemes available to UK founders, to help take your startup to the next level.
There are nearly 2,000 venture capital funds in the UK, and a further 12,000 startup-backing investors including corporates, corporate venture capital funds (CVCs), family offices, angels, syndicates, private equity firms, crowdfunding platforms and more. So it can be hard to know where to start.
Explore the data for the most active investors into the UK startup ecosystem as well as the most active UK based investors here on the Dealroom platform.
UK's most active investors
Most active investors in UK startups
SEIS and EIS are important UK-specific investment schemes to be aware of. These schemes were set up to incentivise potential investors and high-net-worth individuals to invest in homegrown companies with high potential. It comes in the form of tax relief.
- Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) – For startups and early-stage companies raising a round of up to £250,000. This provides private investors with income tax relief of 50% of investments up to £200,000 per year. Investments are also exempt from capital gains tax if held for at least three years. And in the event of illiquidity the investment can be claimed in full against an income tax bill. More in Seedrs’ ultimate guide.
- Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) – Similar to SEIS but for more mature scaling companies. This offers investors 30% income tax relief on up to £1,000,000 invested per year, via rounds of up to £2,000,000. More in Seedrs’ ultimate guide.
Many early-stage investors, whether individuals, syndicates or investment trusts will only invest via these schemes, so it is important to be familiar with the opportunities they provide. Some founders may also be able to raise a “friends and family round” via these routes.
Grants and tax credits. Depending on your business, there may be options available to get capital without giving away equity in your business.
- R&D tax relief – Claim up to a 186% deduction in R&D costs against yearly profit to affect corporation tax bill, or claim a payable tax credit in the event of generating a loss. Qualifying expenditure includes data licensing, and cloud computing costs.
- Patent box scheme – Worth considering whether your company’s technology is patent-worthy, because it could end up resulting in a reduced corporation tax of 10%.
- Grants – There are dozens of schemes offering grants for small business and innovative companies starting at a few hundred pounds, but the most sizeable and relevant for most startups will fall under the Innovate UK competitions. There are generally more than 30 competitions running at any given time, issuing grants of £25k to £10m. Broader UK business grants schemes can be found here, and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) may also offer small business grants in your area.
- The Data Commons – the UK startup database isn’t just used by investors but also job hunters looking for cool companies to join. Get your free founders account, claim your startup’s profile, and add a hiring pitch to your profile.
- Tech Nation Visa – This visa – the tech version of the Global Talent Visa – allows workers to come to the UK for five years, untied from any job or job offer. Two options allow applicants to apply under the Talent or Promise routes depending on levels of experience. As the worker does not need to be sponsored by an employer it allows for a derisked move for both parties.
- Innovator Visa – Visa route for international entrepreneurs looking to set up and run an innovative business in the UK.
- Visas – A general guide to UK visas for those looking to work in the UK and employers seeking to employ talent from overseas, including details on the points-based immigration system.
The UK has been a pioneer in creating regulatory wiggle room for startups and new innovations come to disrupt incumbent industries. The Financial Conduct Authority’s Fintech Sandbox provides guidance to startups, and well as a two-way dialogue channel about how regulation should be formed and adjusted. They also provide an operational grace period before a company needs to comply with full FCA requirements.
The UK’s Trade Register – Companies House – is one of the world’s most open and easy to use. A company can be set up in a matter of hours.
See the full guides to startup support advice, government departments and resources here.