Cambridge has influential tech scene but could strive for more

While the UK tech scene is largely led by its glamorous capital city London, there are a number of other digital hubs that are major drivers of innovation and entrepreneurship. Cambridge is one of these, supplying the brains and the academic environment for many willing young tech start-ups. Located close to London, Cambridge corporate finance is expanding on the back of the generally positive mood surrounding the UK acquisitions and venture capital environment.

The city is an internationally renowned hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurship, Over 250 high-tech start-ups have been established in Cambridge over the past 10 years. In contrast to London’s vibrant digital and creative start-up scene, however, much of the attention locally has been directed towards hard-science fields such as microprocessors, pharma/biotech, and cleantech. This has left sectors such as the web, mobile apps, digital marketing and software development a little behind, although the potential for their continued output is there.

However, unlike the more modern centres of digital innovation, such as Bristol, Cambridge has been relying too much on its reputation and not enough on results. Out of Cambridge, only the start-ups AlertMe and Horizon Discovery emerged in the upper echelons of the Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50 awards in 2013 and it has been several years since Cambridge produced a UK winner. AlertMe, the smart home technology business, was named the third fastest growing technology company in the UK last year and was also named regional winner for Cambridge & East and was ranked first in the Internet category. Personalised medicines pioneer Horizon Discovery was the second-highest ranking Cambridge business, in 22nd place in the UK.

We at Acuity see the potential in Cambridge, where some of the world’s brightest minds are in action every day. We have already advised two companies from the city, Zinwave and PrismaStar. Zinwave, a leading global supplier of in-building wireless coverage solutions, was sold to McWane Technology, a division of one of the largest privately-held companies in the US. We also drew on our unique technology sector expertise to complete a £2 million investment deal into PrismaStar with venture capital specialists Octopus Ventures Limited. PrismaStar is a software as a service (SaaS) business that uses patented consumer guidance technology to help consumers find the very best products and services, personalised to their own individual needs. The company also provides analytics and market research data to retailers and product manufacturers.

Cambridge as a region has probably the highest density of technology entrepreneurs in the UK and possibly in Europe. Furthermore, there is already a pre-existing entrepreneurial community with a propensity to support and mentor. This is, in part, due to successful Cambridge entrepreneurs reinvesting their earnings into new opportunities. If Cambridge could marry its academic might with local and international financing, the city could one day rival London for the status of UK’s digital darling.

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