Could Luton turn out to be the UK’s first Silicon Town?

Everyone’s looking for the UK’s next startup hotspot, but they might not be looking in the right place

In the UK, everyone is keeping an eye out for where the next ‘startup hotspot’ will crop up (there’s already a ‘Silicon Roundabout’ in East London, where startups are popping up in ever-increasing numbers).

A sure-fire sign of excitement on the startup scene is when you begin to see the kind of startups whose newly-formed businesses are specifically aimed at helping other new startups get going: this often turns out to be the prelude to a sudden upsurge in the numbers of startups emerging in a place not previously thought of as a ‘startup hub’.

A perfect example of this ‘startup acceleration’ phenomenon is just beginning to surface in Luton, where a recent startup is already making impressive progress with not one, but two quite different innovative schemes aimed at helping local startups.

Stephen James, who founded his own startup, TradeArc services in July, has put together a Grant Finder service which is helping people who are either out of work, or at risk of redundancy, find funding, so that they can start their own business (this turns out to be much easier than expected, there are enormous amounts of unallocated funds just waiting for applicants).

This service alone opens up the possibility of enabling unprecedented numbers of enthusiastic startups to form and grow in Luton, in a wide range of different market sectors.

As if this were not enough of a contribution to kick-starting a Luton startup stampede, Stephen’s other scheme is looking even more promising for local firms interested in getting into the export business, but who can’t do this on their own: he is providing a Business Partner Matching service.

The export market is filled with exciting opportunities, but is a notoriously offputting option for inexperienced startups, who often can’t even envisage how they could possibly get started unless they are offered competent help in finding suitable export partners.

It’s hardly surprising that governments are always exceptionally keen to find a way to get more startups into the export business: it looks as if Stephen has found a magic formula for overcoming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle (simply by applying his own 20 years of experience to those who have none, but who show clear signs of being willing and able to ‘take the ball and run with it’).

If Stephen’s progress so far is anything to go by, it’s just possible that Luton Town could turn into Silicon Town (and be teeming with countless fast-growing startups) sooner than anyone might imagine.

In fact, if smashing long-standing UK records for new company registrations offers any kind of indication, then according to analysts Duport, the Luton startup bonanza may have already begun.