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British Hoping to Import American Innovation, Entrepreneurial Spirit


Britain may have a royal wedding in the works, but America’s got risk- takers, brilliant innovation and an inspired entrepreneurial drive. That’s why 19 hand-picked, U.K.-based Web technology companies are in the United States this week hoping some of the residue of the American Dream – in the form of Twitter, Microsoft and Google -- will rub off on them.

Called Web Mission 2011, 19 growing British Web technology companies are meeting with a contingent of American web technology companies this week, including a meeting with Twitter that took place yesterday (March 7).

The participating companies were chosen by the U.K.’s Technology Strategy Board, a business-led government body which works to create economic growth and innovation. The goal of the mission is to help entrepreneurs in England’s Web technology sector take their businesses into the global marketplace. The group will meet with Facebook when they return to London next week.

The companies, already highly successful in the U.K., will meet the media as well as peers from around the world, investors and potential partners. They will also engage with experts on the financial and public policy agendas relevant to Web technology businesses.

Meeting with businesses including Microsoft, Google, Shop It To Me and Quera were also on the technology companies' agenda.

Jasper Westaway, CEO of document collaboration software company OneDrum, said he is inspired by American companies’ ability to create a series of billion-dollar companies in a very short time.

Barry Smith, co-founder of Skyscanner, Europe’s leading flight comparison website, told BusinessNewsDaily that American companies have a more voracious appetite for entrepreneurialism and risk-taking, something European firms can learn from.

“Failure is seen as a rite of passage in any entrepreneurial and high-growth company in the U.S. and the appetite for risk and speed of execution appears to be far greater than in the U.K. and Europe," Smith said.  “Sometimes there is a lot to be said for just ‘going for it’ – and delivering 90 percent of what is needed in a month, is a far better approach than striving for 100 percent, if it will take you 12 months to get it out of the door. The premise seems to be, if you’re going to fail at something, do it quickly and inexpensively, and then move on.”

Glenn Shoosmith, founder of BookingBug, an online service for booking services and activities, agrees.

“I think there is a huge amount to be learned from the attitudes and aspirations of U.S., and in particular Valley-based technology companies," Shoosmith said. "The sheer volume to businesses in the Bay area, combined with the amount of hard work and dedication that those startups put into fulfilling their visions, puts many other countries in the shade. Any European business that visits the Valley gets a taste of that culture, and can't help but be infected by it.”

Ning Li, CEO of Made.com, a crowdsourcing furniture retailer, believes American firms have the benefit of a more receptive audience.

“American companies are not only more capable of taking the risk of testing new things and innovations, but they also have the joy of a domicile market much more receptive of new things. The American consumers generally adopt new business models much quicker than the European audiences,” Li said.


Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.