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VCTA research shows international ambitions for British scale-ups

by | Dec 7, 2023

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·  Survey of growth companies conducted by the VCTA show more than 90% of respondents are looking to expand significantly outside of the UK

·  53% of companies surveyed already operate in the US, while 42% export to Europe

07 December 2023, London– Research from the Venture Capital Trust Association (VCTA) reveals how successful VCT companies have been to identify the next generation of ambitious British businesses.   Polling from 119 fast-growing, VCT-backed firms demonstrated that 90% of firms surveyed are looking to expand overseas. 


This research shows that the UK’s start-ups and scale-ups are seeking to capitalise on international growth opportunities. The data showed that the desire to scale UK companies into international markets was consistent throughout the growth of a business. 85% of companies with a turnover of £1-2.5million said that they had plans to expand overseas, while 100% of companies with a turnover of £100-125million said likewise. 

And there was a similar picture across the regions and nations of the UK. While 93% of companies based in the East of England said that they intended to expand their reach overseas; the 87% of respondents in Wales and Northern Ireland said likewise.

In addition to investment, VCT-backed companies also receive guidance from experienced investment teams at some of the world’s leading investors. VCTs routinely invest in companies where they have expertise or sector specialism.


Some notable examples of VCT-backed companies have gone on to become international success stories.   Depop, the social e-commerce platform founded in 2011; secured backing by Octopus Ventures; as a result the company expanded from the UK, to Australia, United States and Italy; in 2021 the company was acquired by Etsy for $1.6 billion. 

There is a similar story for UK online stationery brand Papier; founded in 2015, it first began selling to American customers in 2018 when it was less than 5 per cent of total sales.  Investment from VCTA member, Beringea among others, brought total investment in Papier to $65 million. Papier opened their New York office, their first office outside of the UK, in 2022.

The polling demonstrates that international growth is not an empty aspiration; the research showed that many firms have already established operations overseas; 53% are already in North America, while 42% are already in Europe.


Will Fraser-Allen, Chair of the VCTA, said: “Our research shows that VCTs are helping to identify and grow the next generation of global British companies.  Entrepreneurs rightly understand that to build and sustain billion-pound businesses, they need to expand beyond the UK market; and to expand rapidly, by accessing new overseas markets, early-stage businesses with limited track records rely heavily on VCT funding and guidance to transform their plans into reality.

Overseas expansion is a proxy for ambition; expanding overseas can be a powerful way for businesses to capture new markets and customers. It is not a straightforward process but, executed well, it dramatically boosts growth and is entirely commensurate with the mindset of VCT-backed entrepreneurs.  The VCT model provides ambitious entrepreneurs not only with investment, but with guidance on how to execute their ambitious plans.

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