Tom Keighley

UK small businesses driving business trends

The UK’s small businesses are driving innovation and future trends, not corporates, a new piece of research suggests.

Index B, the experts in commercial behaviour, release their ‘Ones to Watch’ report today, which aims to cut to the roots of current business trends, and identifies 25 companies that are shaping the future of business.

Studying business at all levels and across the globe, the report suggests that SMEs are leading innovation, and indicates six key emerging trends.

John Owrid, CEO of Index B and co-author of the report, said: “Whilst it is fashionable to characterise the year ahead as one laden with unpredictability, this view is still quite selective and too hasty.

“In fact the future is more predictable than often realised.

“While most commentators focus on short-term macro-economic forces, the business world is being reshaped by long-term trends, and the companies that reflect these trends are increasingly important for economic growth, and worth watching.

“It is not large corporates driving these trends; it is primarily innovative small and mid-sized business, although often they ultimately often get taken over by large corporates.

“Apple taking over Siri in order to use its innovative voice recognition technology for its new mobile phones is a good example.”

The report aims to step back from commentary on the immediate past and future of business, and looks towards longer-term trends.

It notes the presence of technology at the forefront of these long-term trends, representing a historic behavioural revolution in the way business operates.

The first of the key trends identified is the transition of the internet from a medium that predominantly served communication and entertainment function, to one that now addresses “less sexy” areas of functionality.

Companies highlighted in this area include Dropbox, the simplified file accessing site, and Evernote, the personal organisation software.

The advent of the smartphone is encapsulated through the mobile commerce trend; turning to companies such as Proxama, who develop customisable payment devices for mobiles, and Metaio, who are innovators in applications that facilitate the overlay of digital content on the physical world.
Elsewhere, the report notes sustainability as a driving trend, with firms such as Closed Loop Recycling, who have repurposed 20% of the UK’s plastic bottles, and Whipcar, the vehicle sharing group.

Another sub-set of organisations were highlighted as pioneering new ways of facilitating funding, following waning faith in the financial establishment.

Organisations such as CrowdCube, BankSimple and Mitie demonstrate a trend in alternative access to money.

Tools for one-man businesses to extend their influence were noted in the case of CubeSocial and their personal CRM software and Basekit’s software which has revolutionised the cost and time involved in website creation.

Finally, the growing influence of community gains models is exemplified through the likes of Kaggle, the collaborative platform for researchers, and Songkick, which applies a social network dimension to live music events.

Roger Trapp, the report’s co-author, said: “Overall smaller companies are now the forerunners of behavioural change, and it is good news that British companies feature heavily in the report.

“The UK is definitely at the head of the curve in terms of having a good share of innovative smaller businesses that will shape the future.

“London’s Silicon Roundabout gets a lot of publicity, but it embodies the spirit of tech-savvy entrepreneur and will prove a huge asset for the UK economy.

“It also presents a major challenge to government policy, which has previously relied on handing billions in grants and subsidies to large companies to create jobs and skill-creation.

“This has always had disappointing results, and as a viable approach now looks hopelessly dated in a decade when innovation and employment comes from the self-employed and smaller businesses.”

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