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Look Beyond London: Running a business in Cambridge

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“In London, almost everything has been done, and although the market is physically larger and more varied, it can be hard to be heard above the noise and to stand out,” she explained.

“Cambridge is on an upward curve, particularly in the hospitality sector, where we are seeing great independent businesses starting to establish themselves The Pint Shop, Aromi, Wildwood Disco, Food Park.

Because we re a small city, we can use local media and networks very effectively, to reach and target the right audience for products or services. Word spreads fast if you have something good to offer.

Ruczaj explained that the city is becoming more sophisticated and in tune with cities worldwide, which is ideal for those running a business in Cambridge.

Despite this, echoing the thoughts of Dunne, finding property can be an issue for leaders.

“There are still parts of the city that are stuck in the past. The university owns a lot of property, so finding venues or even affordable office space is tough,” she said.

Being stuck in the past is also a problem when it comes to driving new ideas at pace.

Audiences are perhaps slower to embrace the new, it can take longer to establish new ideas here, but this is improving,” she added.

Business in Cambridge
“There is so much of the city that is unavailable to the businesses that are trying to improve it”

Believing that those with a business in Cambridge are generally supportive of each other, Ruczaj noted organisations including Cam Creatives and Independent Cambridge as those creating a connection between entrepreneurs.

Explaining changes that would help drive business in Cambridge further, she said: “I would make those groups or organisations that are still quite closed to new ways of working more forward thinking and open to new businesses.

“The council and its associated organisations are trying to be more accessible but it is still far too complicated and difficult and sometimes one feels like, unless you’re a long-established business or a college, you have no power.

A subsidised co-working space would be on my wish list too, there is so much of the city that is unavailable to the businesses that are trying to improve it, either because of high rents or college-only access.

Offering his experiences of doing business in Cambridge next is Tim Fowler, head of the wireless & digital services division at Cambridge Consultants, which launched back in 1960.

“Cambridge Consultants is one of the founding businesses in what has since been called “The Cambridge Phenomenon?,” he explained.

?Our original mission was ?to put the brains of Cambridge at the disposal of British industry?. Today we re a global business with 800 people around the world, but Cambridge remains our home, not least because of the huge talent pool that we can access here.

As a fee for service business, we re fundamentally selling the expertise of our people, so it’s vital to be based in areas with a large talent pool. Cambridge is unrivalled in that regard.

When growing a business in Cambridge, leaders have ?more or less” everything that’s needed, according to Fowler, from academia, a business scene and innovation.

“The local investment community supports startups and scale-ups, though the huge investments inevitably arrive from further afield. The fundamental strength of Cambridge is of course the talent pool, and we re all competing for the best talent,” said Fowler.

Business in Cambridge
“You?ll meet tech leaders in the pub, on the school run or in the street”

Meanwhile, he pointed to the Cambridge Network, Cambridge Wireless, Cambridge Angels and the city’s meet-up communities that encourage community spirit.

But how does Cambridge measure up against the capital in his eyes” London has the entire technology ecosystem, but you’re unlikely to actually meet others within that ecosystem by accident.

“In Cambridge, we also house the full tech ecosystem and you?ll meet tech leaders in the pub, on the school run or in the street.

He added that there’s a confidence in the city to drive itself forward too. Look at the way Cambridge is driving forward into new industries, including machine learning and synthetic biology, without any top down government stimulus or ?Silicon Roundabout” style marketing.

So what would he change about the beloved city” It seems abundantly clear that the key issue is property, as Fowler repeated what both Dunne and Ruczaj had to say.

“There are infrastructure challenges here: property prices are high, making it difficult for more junior staff to own property in Cambridge itself, and congestion is a problem on the main commuter roads,” he detailed.

“Cambridge could be a great option for Londoners looking to work in tech and to own their own home, but with processes as they are, such people are more likely to buy in the London commuter belt and continue to work in London than attempt to buy in Cambridge.




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