The second part of the recent MarkelTech webinar saw senior leaders from across Markel UK, Markel Law and Markel Tax take us on a journey through the lifecycle of a growing tech business to demonstrate how their unique proposition supports tech SMEs at every stage.
Find out more: Watch the MarkelTech webinar
During the conversation, the team explored the lifecycle of tech businesses from the initial idea behind a start-up, right through to the exit stage where buyouts and winddowns occur, highlighting that the lifespan of a tech business is as unique to the space as its advisory and insurance requirements. Markel UK’s aim is therefore to be a partner for every stage of a tech business’s success. Exploring this, webinar presenter Joe Glover (pictured top, centre) noted that during the four stages of the lifecycle – start-up, expansion, growth and exit - advisory solutions spanning from legal and tax guidance to a balanced array of sector-specific insurance services are required to empower growth.
Though the webinar detailed the array of solutions available for every step in the evolution of tech businesses, with so much innovation in the tech space and so many new names springing on to the scene, it seems fitting to examine some of these solutions through the lens of start-up businesses.
Starting with the good news, Justine Dignam (pictured top, right), director of incentives and reliefs at Markel Tax, highlighted the tax reliefs available to new businesses looking to bring something new to the UK market. The most essential thing for these start-ups to know, she said, is how crucial it is that they reach out to the right advisory services for information on research and development (R&D) tax relief as early as possible. Especially as most entrepreneurs don’t necessarily come from a business background but simply have a great idea and want to take it to market.
“It’s good for businesses to speak to us in those early setup stages,” she said, “Because even though a company has to be trading 12 months to qualify for this [tax relief], the key to that is they must be incorporated. If a company is unincorporated and does their first year as a sole trader and spends a shedload of money on innovation and investing, they won’t be able to get this R&D tax relief…
“And bear in mind that of probably 3.5 million businesses in the UK, just less than 60,000 are actually claiming R&D. So, it’s a massively under-claimed tax relief, which is not means-tested or clawed back, just given to businesses looking to innovate in the UK.”
Looking at the legal side of the equation, Mark Rankin (pictured bottom, right), solicitor and technology lead at Markel Law, outlined some of the key ways he and his team support clients in the inception stage of their businesses. Most of these entrepreneurs are going to be first-time small business owners, he said, or have been involved with maybe one or two ventures before. This brings a whole minefield of issues, and perhaps the most useful service available to them is the advice lines offered by Markel.
“Markel Law has got one of the longest-serving advice lines in the country through some of its predecessor firms, with over 40 qualified barristers and solicitors on those lines, giving 24/7 advice to clients about a whole host of queries, whether it’s employment-related, or regulatory, or about commercial contracts… And that, coupled with our Law Hub with its access to template documents, and letters, and guides, [shows] we really do try to arm people with the opportunity to deal with day-to-day legal issues themselves without incurring the cost of someone like me coming in and charging them an hourly rate.”
People are empowered by this access to knowledge and expertise, Rankin said, and, alongside its advisory services, there’s a fee-paying arm to Markel Law where further support can be provided. Markel Law’s services run the gamut from ensuring that clients don’t miss out on the tax reliefs available, to offering the advice of employment consultancy experts who can help policyholders avoid tribunal actions, to its 15-strong employment litigation team available for any disputes that do arise.
Particularly when it comes to tech companies, a real concern is around intellectual property, he said, as an idea is only a valuable commodity if it can be commoditised. As such, part of his team’s role is to help clients protect their ideas during initial discussions with potential partners and making sure the right level of confidentiality through non-disclosure agreements is firmly in place. Recently, GDPR has become a bigger issue and businesses with lots of data need to make sure they have the right processes in place to consider how they’re going to use that data.
“So, really, it’s just getting the building blocks in there for as [these businesses grow],” he said, “and making sure that compliance becomes the mainstay and the norm of what they do.”
Offering a perspective on the insurance element of this start-up phase, Mark Lowther (pictured bottom, left), head of financial lines sector sales at Markel UK, emphasised the role of insurance in protecting valuable assets. At the R&D stage, he said, there are a few essential points to consider, including that there is no minimum premium on this product. Start-ups with one or two members of staff, who are renting premises and may require some public liability, employment liability or contents cover can, therefore, find coverage at the R&D/initial incubator stage.
“And then, as the company then moves through and commercialises their product, the beauty of the product as we have it is that it’s there - it’s the same policy wording, it will just activate different parts of that product as they grow and as they need different sections of cover,” he said. “So, at the stage when people need basic insurance covers… we can engage with the broker [and] start to have that conversation where we tailor the wording that they want.”
If you want to explore the full range of client requirements for every stage of a tech business’s lifespan, check out the MarkelTech webinar today.