If there is one thing that everybody knows about the British economy, it is that compared to the US, we are rubbish at building new businesses. Facebook, Amazon, Google, Tesla – the list of zeitgeist-defining, world-beating US companies goes on. Even Sweden built buy-now-pay-later service Klarna and music-streaming giant Spotify. Why can’t the UK create industry-disrupting behemoths? What’s wrong with us? And how can we do better?
In reality, this is a myth. The UK has created more than its fair share of unicorns – classed as privately held businesses with a valuation of more than $1bn – such as Betfair, Just Eat, Ocado, Cazoo, Deliveroo and BrewDog. Less well-known unicorns include internet security company Darktrace, gene-sequencing firm Oxford Nanopore, online security pioneer Snyk, machine-learning business Graphcore, computer game firm Improbable, and neobanks Monzo and Starling Bank.