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The big debate: Are UK companies ambitious enough?

"Too many British businesses are happy merely to survive, rather than take risks and grow." That's the contentious motion being debated at the Investec Entrepreneurs' Summit, hosted by Real Business and the CBI on June 13, 2012.

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"Too many British businesses are happy merely to survive, rather than take risks and grow." That's the contentious motion being debated at the Investec Entrepreneurs' Summit, hosted by Real Business and the CBI on June 13, 2012.

While the UK has historically produced world-dominating businesses (think Unilever, HSBC, Vodafone, Land Rover), many say that our performance in the new, internet era has been disappointing. “Where is the British Microsoft/Google?” is a common question, not easily answered. Sure, we have technology success stories (Sage is a FTSE 100 stalwart), but others – such as Autonomy – have been acquired before achieving world domination.

The criticism most often levelled is that the UK produces great innovations, but then fails to maximise their potential on a global scale. Plastic Logic, the Cambridge start-up that attracted more than £100m of European venture capital investment, ceded the opportunity to be the world pioneer in intelligent screen technology to the likes of Apple and Samsung.

Partly, the UK may be a victim of its own highly successful financial services industry, which enables British entrepreneurs to cash out too early in their journey. On the other hand, as is described in the CBI's recent Future Champions report, UK companies may simply not be unlocking their full potential in international markets (the CBI reckons mid-sized companies could contribute £20bn more to the UK economy).

This is the backdrop to the Entrepreneurs' Summit debate. Proposing the motion will be: Kevin Sneader, UK and Ireland managing partner of McKinsey (which worked on the CBI's Future Champions report), and Ariadne Capital founder Julie Meyer.

Arguing against the motion will be Britain's best-known private equity investor Jon Moulton; and Errol Damelin, founder-CEO of Wonga, the highly ambitious entrepreneur who has set himself the objective of disrupting the global financial services sector through the use of technology.

The Real Business Debate is just one session at the 2012 Entrepreneurs' Summit, held in association with Investec and supported by the CBI, Land Rover and Spring Law, on June 13 at the London InterContinental, Park Lane. This will be the most high-density gathering of high-growth businesses in the UK this year.

For tickets and information about the 2012 Entrepreneurs' Summit, visit the Summit website or contact Silvia Natalicchi on silvia.natalicchi@caspianmedia.com 

Star-name speakers at the Summit include:

Business secretary Vince Cable

Lloyd Dorfman CBE, founder and chairman, Travelex

Neil Bentley, deputy director-general, CBI

Geoff McGrath, MD, McLaren Applied Technologies

Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton

Scott Button, CEO, Unruly

Kate Craig-Wood, CEO, Memset

Margaret Manning, CEO, Reading Room

Bev Hurley, CEO, YTKO

David Van Der Walt, CEO, Investec

Kelway CEO and founder, Phil Doye (in this year's Hot 100)

Jos White, MessageLabs co-founder and serial VC investor

David Spencer-Percival, CEO of Spencer Ogden Energy

Ed Cottrell, Investec

Andrew Mullinger, co-founder & director, Funding Circle

Will King, founder, King of Shaves

Dermott Rowan, co-founder of the international Orla Kiely brand

Wayne Lysaght-Mason, online pioneer and CEO, Ironmongery Direct

Surinder Arora, one of Britain's most remarkable hotel entrepreneurs and founder of Arora International

Alastair Mills, CEO, Six Degrees Group

Tim Perry, CEO-founder, Spring Law

Martin Leuw, former CEO, Iris

Alastair Lukies, CEO, Monitise

Paul Lindley, CEO, Ella's Kitchen

Dr Graham Hine, CEO, SGX Sensortech

David Milner, CEO, Tyrrells Crisps

Stephen Welton, CEO, Business Growth Fund

Katherine HIbbert, founder, Dot Dot Dot

Will Butler-Adams, CEO, Brompton Bicycles