London Calling: When should you move your business to the capital?
Following a £10 million round of investment from Smedvig Capital in late 2016, Infinity have been empowering marketing departments to add substantial value to their company’s bottom line. In the article below, Infinity CEO and founder Paul Walsh talks to us about developing a business outside of a major city and why the time was right to open Infinity’s first London office this Summer.
Go to some of the big co-working spaces in London and there’s a good chance that in the communal area you’ll see rows of hot-desking company founders eagerly hustling to turn their dream into a reality. They’ve often come from all over the country, or even the world. Some will fail, some will become billionaires, all chose to launch their company in London. As a founder of multiple businesses myself, I can’t help but wonder, why here?
Location is a question that founders will think long and hard about. In the UK, we’re lucky to have a good selection of towns and cities to set up shop in, but London will still be the top name on the list for many. In the early days, I spent hours debating whether or not to keep my software as a service (SaaS) company in Reigate, or whether it was time to move it to London.
Previously, it wasn’t right for us for a mix of reasons. But over Summer I opened Infinity’s new London office in The Shard. It will be a hub for customer success, dev, and sales teams to serve the capital’s enterprise market.
Are you are hearing the call of the capital and wondering whether to answer it? If so, I thought I’d run through my first-hand experiences of launching (and growing) a business outside London and why I felt that now was the right time for us to throw open our doors to the city.
What were the benefits of starting outside London?
In the early days I based my businesses where my first clients were, near where I lived in Reigate. When you’re putting in 15 hour days getting a company off the ground, the last thing you want is to add an hour commute at either side of it.
We offered a different lifestyle
It turns out I wasn’t alone. As we grew, I found that we initially attracted a workforce with a bit of experience under their belt, who were settling down with families and quite liked the idea of spending time with them in the evenings. I’ve been privileged to have built multiple businesses around a strong core of brilliant talent, who have settled nearby and enjoy the lifestyle that we are able to provide.
This appeal doesn’t just apply to the more mature members of our workforce. As one of the best opportunities for a career in tech for miles around, we’re an attractive option for smart, ambitious young people in the area.
Over the last few years, we have had a healthy amount of younger employees enter the company in junior roles, but as they’ve developed we have been able to offer them leadership roles in senior positions. It’s a tremendous benefit to our culture that we’ve had these people grow up professionally with us.
The benefits of loyalty
At tech companies in London, it can be a real struggle to maintain those junior staff members for longer than 18 months. The longevity of my staff in Reigate means that strong relationships can be built with clients, I have a roster of people with a deep understanding of our product and there’s a tight bond among them that is hard to replicate.
The world was our oyster
In this period, we were still able to secure six-figure deals all over the world, despite only having feet on the ground in one location. Sure, we travelled, but we were able to conduct a lot of business remotely over the phone or via email. From this base we responsibly grew a successful, profitable SaaS company.
Why London? Why now?
If it’s so great outside London, why are we opening an office there now? It’s only an hour away and we could always get the train if we need to visit.
Firstly, we’re ready now. I didn’t want to rush in before we had a business that could sustain the move, nor did I want to shoehorn us into whatever four walls we could afford inside the M25. I wanted to do it properly. But why else?
A wider net
There’s a flipside to the talent coin. As we scale up, we need more of those brilliant people and cannot sacrifice on quality. For simple geographic reasons, there aren’t as many people with the specialist skills we need who live around Reigate. We were casting our net wider and finding that London was a more convenient location for a growing number of our staff and applicants. It made sense to offer them a base.
Clients on our doorstep
Customer success has become vital in top SaaS companies, and it’s an integral part of our business. This means that the importance of regular face-to-face contact with our enterprise clients rises. Most of our large UK clients have a base in London and it’s comforting to know that we are only ever a short tube ride away if they want to sit down with us and discuss opportunities on our platform.
Over the last few years, we have devoted a substantial amount of our resources to building a platform and service that enables us to meet the demands and exceed the expectations of enterprise brands. We noticed that a lot of our clients at this level often had very complex challenges and closing these opportunities smoothly required regular engagement between a mix of teams on both sides.
In the past we travelled to London for sales when we needed to, but we’re having those meetings daily now. Having somewhere convenient where our prospects could learn about our product, meet our team, discuss technical specifications and get to know who they would be working with ultimately became necessary to serve our prospects.
We’re not alone
Partnerships with both marketing agencies and other tech providers have been crucial in our growth and we see them playing a big role in our plans going forward. Our entire agency team is now based at our London office, minutes from many of our biggest agency partners, who they work with daily.
We’re also very near to the offices of many of our biggest tech partners. This proximity allows our developers to work side by side to serve our mutual clients on groundbreaking projects.
Is your capital right for you?
Ultimately, my story is mine. My roadmap may not be right for your business as there are a lot of variables you will need to consider. Here are some things I recommend looking at when assessing a move to London, but they apply to any major international city:
- Firstly, what’s your sales approach? Do you need to be face-to-face with people, or can you do it over the phone. A B2C may have different sales needs to a B2B company.
- Do you need the talent? London has more people, but you may find you already have who you need nearby.
- Is London the hub of your industry? Some sectors have equally exciting opportunities elsewhere.
- Can you afford it? Salary expectations, office space and living costs are all higher in London.
- What kind of space do you need?
- Who do you move there? You may be able to base some teams elsewhere.
Have you set up a business in London, outside London, or are you considering your next steps regarding a major city? Let us know in the comments, I’m very keen to hear from other entrepreneurs about their experiences. Meanwhile, if you’re ever in London and want to discuss call intelligence, start a conversation with us and pop in!