A survey of over 300 leaders of tech SMEs across the South West has revealed what makes the region so well suited for both new and experienced entrepreneurs to set up shop. 

The research, commissioned by Bristol-based Antidote Communications, in conjunction with TechSPARK, found that 36% of surveyed tech business leaders identify as female. This far surpasses the national averages of 22% of tech directors, 17% female startup leaders (Startup Salary Survey) and only 8% of the FTSE CEOs. 

What do South West tech leaders prioritise?

The research highlighted further areas where the South West proved to have fewer barriers than the rest of the county. 29% of the leaders are non-white and 23% didn’t have a University degree. While these figures are positive and higher than national averages, they are only a step in the right direction and show much more work needs to be done to reach equality. 

Between July and September 2021, there were 178,517 new incorporations in the UK. The South West has proven to be one region driving the surge in new businesses. Within this innovative wave, the leaders in the South West are predominantly first time entrepreneurs.

90% of those surveyed had never sold a business before and only 19% have received funding for their business. Experience did seem key in securing a leadership position, as 80% of the business leaders had helped bring a product to market previously. 

Whilst the research found that there has never been a better time to start a successful business, an encouraging result found that the majority of these leaders are purpose driven. 72% of the surveyed tech leaders put purpose before money.

This humanisation of business culture may have a lot to do with the pandemic, but its origins also lie in a strong ethical and environmental movement in the South West that is attracting like minded people and entrepreneurs to the region. Interestingly, this figure saw the greatest difference between the age categories. 90% of the 26-30 age group placed purpose above money, while only 40% of the 56-60 age group did the same. 

How these tech leaders describe themselves shines a light on what they see as important attributes of success in this exciting but competitive sector. 67% said they are rational, which seems to match with the largely analytics driven tech industry. Slightly more of the leaders said they were innovators (56%) vs trusted leaders (42%). 68% say that they are risk seeking, while it seems female tech leaders (43%) are much more risk averse than men (26%). 

This mostly purpose driven outlook and gregarious descriptors came across in these leaders’ preferred ways of working. 79% prioritise relationships over success. 97% described themselves as collaborators and 73% said they were dominant extroverts.

This people focused purpose potentially explains why the majority (74%) of South West tech leaders have moved to a hybrid work model, allowing face to face interaction but creating an environment that works best for their employees. With 58% saying they are recruiting more than pre-pandemic and 96% are highly confident about their business, the future looks bright for these businesses. 

Becca Williams, Antidote Communications CEO, comments, “Despite the pandemic, the last two years have seen a record number of new businesses erupt onto the tech scene. These findings show why many chose to set up shop in the Southwest while also exploring what it takes to be a successful tech leader.

“It’s highly encouraging to see that the majority of these leaders are purpose driven, looking to form connections, build strong relationships and make a positive impact.”

The research was conducted by TechSPARK. 307 participating tech leaders were spread between founders/owners (104), c-suites (109) and directors/MDs (94). The survey was conducted online and undertaken between 5th and 22nd July 2021.