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Thrive is set up by Funding London, a venture capital company bridging the finance gap for early stage businesses based in London. With over a decade’s experience in supporting the startups of London through a variety of funding vehicles, Funding London sensed a need to illuminate the ever-evolving scenario of London’s early stage businesses.

Thrive features interviews with and opinion from budding entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts. A mix of contributors from all areas of the industry is desired in order to spark genuine discussion about ongoing critical issues. While it showcases the effectiveness of successful ventures, it also encourages sharing lessons learned from missteps and unsuccessful projects.

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Mayor’s International Business Programme – a gateway to the US market

About

Blair is based in the New York City office of London & Partners, supporting London-based companies to expand into North America. Previously she worked for the UK Department for International Trade, based out of the British Embassy in Washington DC, focussed on technology and advanced engineering companies expanding to the UK.

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4 February 2019

Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey and how you arrived at London & Partners.

When I first graduated from college I moved to Washington DC and became a ghost writer. I wrote on behalf of the founders of tech start-ups. My role was to write articles and pitch them to various news outlets, with the goal of raising the tech founder’s profile and making them experts in their chosen field. It was a very interesting job, having to write in another person’s voice and capture their sense of humour…or lack thereof!

Directly after my time spent as a ghost writer, I joined a start up in a sales and marketing capacity. The start up was headquartered right outside of DC and we had some interesting security clients. I learned a lot in that role and was given a lot of room to try new things. I left the start up after a few years and went to work for the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT). At DIT, my role was to spread the gospel of the UK to American technology companies in the Mid Atlantic region of the US.

I’ve always dreamt of living in NYC and when a position opened in the London & Partners NYC team, I went for it!

Tell us more about the Mayor’s International Business Programme.

The Mayor’s International Business Programme (MIBP) helps ambitious high-growth companies from London’s technology, life sciences, creative, and urban sectors to expand their businesses internationally. The Programme is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is tailored to fit a company’s specific international growth ambitions.

I am the North American Business Manager for the MIBP. My role is to support the companies on our Programme that are interested in the US and/or Canadian market.

How can a company join the Mayors Programme and what experience do they need to have?

The Programme is open to companies in London operating in four broad sectors: technology, life sciences, creative, and urban. Companies must also have a minimum of 10 employees, at least a million pounds in revenue or a million pounds investment, and can show 20 percent year-on-year growth.

How is the Mayors Programme supporting the Global growth of London Businesses?

The Programme provides support in a variety of ways: one-to-one and one-to-many mentoring and ongoing guidance from entrepreneurs and business leaders; focused workshops and events that provide the opportunity to learn from expert advisers; live leads for specific business opportunities in North America, Europe, China, and India; the opportunity to join high-profile targeted trade missions led by our team of international business experts.

How do you source your mentors who offer expert advice on the programme?

London & Partners has offices across North America and globally. My international colleagues are always networking and meeting new people. We source many of our international mentors this way and we strive to have mentors that can provide support with a myriad of issues and can share from their real-world experience.

My colleagues in London source many mentors through the Programme, specifically MIBP companies that have graduated and are willing to share their experience. They also source mentors via the corporate engagement we do as a company in London and abroad.

Lately, we have had an influx of mentors approach us. I chalk that up to the awards we’ve won lately: Startups Awards 2018 – Growth Business Enabler of the Year ​& E2E Entrepreneur Ecosystem Supporter 2018. The Programme was also recognized as “Best in Class” for an international export Programme by the UK Scale Up Institute.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the Mayors Programme at present.

A big part of my role is to meet with North American corporations and sell them on meeting our MIBP companies. Honestly, I rarely need to make the sell. Most corporates immediately tell me how excited they are to meet the high-growth British companies in our programme. Corporates are aware of the high calibre of companies in London, especially those in fintech, life sciences, and the creative industries. London’s international reputation is a huge opportunity in itself.

Another opportunity for the MIBP is that London is truly the epicentre of the UK. London is where the technology, financial services, and government worlds merge. In most countries, including the US and Canada, these sectors are spread across multiple cities. At the MIBP we take advantage of being centrally located and having access to these resources.

One challenge that the MIBP faces is that other programmes in the UK (and in other European cities) exist to support high-growth companies and that competition constantly keeps us vigilant. We are unlike other programmes in that we really approach the support we give companies holistically. That being said, we need to continue to ramp up our activities to remain the premier programme.

How can Funding London and our LCIF Tech Start-ups, help support the Mayors Programme and the work you are doing?

You have already been a big help and we really value the relationship. Moving forward, we always appreciate help getting our name out there and direct referrals for the Programme, whether that be companies interested in joining or contacts that want to get involved in other ways (mentoring, etc).

What are the biggest challenges the Tech industry will face during the Brexit process? How will this affect the work you are currently doing for the Mayors programme?

While Brexit has created some short-term uncertainty and challenges for the business community, London is a dynamic city that is always reinventing itself. The fundamental strengths of London as a global hub for innovation, technology and creativity will not change. The Entrepreneurs we work with are adaptable and disruptors by nature. From talking to the companies on the Mayor’s International Business Programme, many of them remain positive and we continue to help lots of businesses explore new opportunities to grow.

What are some of the most exciting innovations you are seeing in Tech this year? How do you see the Tech landscape developing over the next 5 years?

I’m based in NYC, a strong hub for fintech. Because of that, I’ve always paid particular attention to the innovation coming out of London’s fintech scene. There are so many fintech companies to watch, including Revolut and Monzo, two London-based companies that reached unicorn status in 2018. I’m sure there will be plenty more success stories in the financial services sector in 2019.

Otherwise, I am paying very close attention to the AI sector. Companies are applying AI to all verticals in new and exciting ways. The MIBP has seen an influx of AI companies join the Programme and I’m sure we will continue to see an upward trend as the AI sector matures over the next 5 years.