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Russell Buckley’s advice to UK startups – think like Americans

Tim Green

UK’s digital mentor says homegrown firms should be more boastful.

In her best selling book Watching The English, the social anthropologist Kate Fox picks out a few phrases that nail the character of anglos (and for the sake of argument the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish too).

They include ‘never mind’ and ‘mustn’t grumble’.

You could argue that these words denote an admirable stoicism. But they just won’t do when you’re trying to impress VCs who want a billion dollar exit from your tech startup idea.

This is why Russell Buckley, angel investor, digital mentor and head of the tech team at the UK Government’s Venture Capital Unit, has this advice for founders of UK startups: think (and act) like a 24 year old Californian man – even if you’re a woman.

He says: “I don’t think (the Brits) lack ambition, but there is a lack of necessarily thinking big enough.

“VCs are looking for 10x return on their money or maybe even a billion dollar unicorn investment, so the vision has to be big.

“So we try to challenge the thinking (of UK startups) and make them think bigger. There’s a natural tendency among British people to be a little bit modest in their vision – and the way they express it.

“So one of the tips I give is: pretend you’re a 24 year old Californian guy!

“They have be aggressive and believe they are going to change the world. They often do believe that. They are just not very good at expressing it.”

The coaching takes place inside the ‘Afterburner’ program, which Buckley started in April 2014 with the aim of bringing UK startups to the attention of the world’s VCs.

Happily, the ‘think like a Californian’ advice (plus, of course, much other support) helped the first cohort of 25 to raise $80m in series A funding.

Now, the search is on to find the next batch of UK startups.

Buckley explained more about the aims, origins and methods of the Venture Capital Unit in this exclusive video with Hot Topics.