Today at City Hall, Mayor of London Boris Johnson drew a parallel between the success of the James Bond film Spectre and the global opportunity for London-based SMEs to scale-up and expand internationally.
Delivered with his usual aplomb, Johnson said: "How many brands do you think are plugged in Spectre? British brands? Seventeen. Seventeen, including Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, Macallan Whiskey and about 10 other brands including, of course, the biggest, most important London export of them all, the new, wonderful Thomas Heatherwick’s hop-on hop-off Routemaster bus."
Drawing upon big-name British brands such as Aston Martin, Johnson was appealing to the assembled audience, many of whom were in the first stages of their journey to become a globally-recognised brand and business. The draw for the audience today lay in that one word – global – with Johnson launching a new initiative designed to maximise the international business potential of London-based SMEs.
The Mayor’s International Business Programme is the first programme of its kind, using peer-to-peer mentoring and private sector backing, to help London-based companies to scale up and internationalise.
The initiative aims to support 800 high growth companies over the next three years, helping those firms break into new international markets or grow their existing operations overseas. The companies joining the initative will span the technology, life sciences and urban sectors.
Led by London & Partners, the Mayor’s official promotional company and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the initiative will provide companies with bespoke advice and mentoring from some of the world’s most recognised and celebrated businesses leaders.
Those joining the first cohort of the initiative today included fifty of London’s fastest growing companies, including transport app Gett, Technology Will Save Us, Kano, Adzuna, Grub Club, Bloom & Wild, Big White Wall and RealEyes.
Kevin Smith, London Chairman at industry partner KPMG said: "Doing business in international markets is absolutely vital for any small enterprise looking to grow but where to start and how to find out what opportunities are out there is often the biggest barrier for business owners.
"KPMG is delighted to support the Mayor in his International Business Programme helping start-up businesses in London by offering advice on how to export, connections abroad and access to opportunities to build confidence and sales. We believe we have a role to play in helping to make this journey as seamless as possible for the small business owner with big ambitions."
Calling London a ‘disproportionate exporter’ and ‘amazing achiever’, Johnson hopes the initiative will play a key role in doubling London exports by 2020, a target which seeks to build upon the existing £140bn worth of London exports which contribute to the capital’s economy. Highlighting the fact that London is home to more than a quarter of all companies in the UK that are exporting, Johnson also said:
"London has a strong heritage as an international trading city and our position at the centre of the business world means the city offers the perfect springboard for companies looking to expand internationally. London’s businesses and entrepreneurs continue to be at the forefront of innovation and creativity and I have seen first-hand the demand for their goods and services across the world. By helping the capital’s businesses become the next global leaders we will see the creation of more jobs for Londoners."
28% of London-based SMEs are currently trading internationally (importing or exporting) according to recent research conducted by KPMG Small Business Accounting. However, more than 40% say they aim to be doing so within the next five years.
Kim Hayward, International Liaison Partner at industry partner BDO, said: "London is one of the command centres for the international economy but we cannot take its pre-eminence as a truly global city for granted. One of the crucial areas for development is around helping London’s businesses expand abroad – especially its highly ambitious and entrepreneurial mid-market businesses.
"That’s why schemes like the Mayor’s International Business Programme are so important and will help businesses on the journey from strong domestic scale-ups to successful exporters to international businesses."
In addition to BDO and KPMG, other companies such as PA Consulting Group, Benoy and London Chamber of Commerce and Industry are also supporting the Mayor’s International Business Programme.