Help for hi-tech Brits to storm fortress America

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THE GOVERNMENT is backing a joint initiative with the private sector to provide a one-stop shop for British hi-tech entrepreneurs seeking to break into the United States and compete head-to-head with Silicon Valley.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has identified several barriers British businesses encounter when trying to enter the American hi-tech market, including America's "culturally aggressive commercial climate".

Today, Interregnum, a specialist IT venture marketing company, and the DTI-backed Software Business Network (SBN) are launching enterprise.USA.

The venture aims to help entrepreneurs tap into American venture capital funds and put together marketing strategies and administrative structures - often the most difficult tasks faced by British IT entrepreneurs in the US.

The idea is that enterprise.USA will enable British businesses to access American customers, capital and management resources. This is vital if British IT start-ups are to compete successfully on a global scale, given the size and influence of the US IT market.

Michael Wills, the Trade and industry minister, said: "I hope large numbers of UK companies will take advantage of this initiative."

Interregnum was set up in 1992 in London and now has 16 employees and an office in San Francisco, with associates in Silicon Valley and New York. Ken Olisa, the managing director of Interregnum, said: "The programme will reduce the risks for UK software and IT services companies entering and competing in the US."

The enterprise.USA scheme will provide an individually tailored "support package", which will include back office support in setting up a subsidiary or parent company in the US. This will involve assistance with visas, US payroll, recruitment, offices and legal and accounting support.

The scheme will also help in developing strategies for the American market, together with a fundable business plan, advice on intellectual property rights, guidance on setting up local partnerships and "hands-on support for raising capital from US and UK sources".

The Government said that the scheme was worthwhile because the US has the largest IT market in the world; Nasdaq is driving IT sector values; most global trends and standards start in the US; and the English language gives UK companies operating there a competitive edge.

Mr Olisa said various factors hinder British businesspeople in the US.

For instance, the management of the administration and service of US clients is easier for US-based companies. It is easier to raise high- risk capital and exit routes for technology start-ups in the US, which gives American businesses a head start.

The Software Business Network (SBN) was set up in February last year 1998 in an effort to encourage the growth of small and medium-sized software companies in the UK.

It operates as part of the Computing Services & Software Association (CSSA) and is a self-help collaborative network. SBN is funded by the DTI and the seven founding sponsors: Close Brothers, 3i, Sun, PricewaterhouseCoopers, IBM, Elderstreet and Warburg Pincus.


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