Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2021

Select a section to expand and explore this year's review.


As the ScaleUp Institute remarked in 2020 the effort of the ecosystem to provide training in leadership to entrepreneurs is helping to reduce scaleups’ concern about lack of leadership skills holding them back.  

However, they now want more focus on help to develop their wider leadership team (such as Chief Operating Officers and Chief Financial Officers), support to recruit senior level talent with experience of growing a business and links to Non-Executive Directors with skills relevant to their needs.

Scaleups continue to value most locally delivered support and the advice and challenge they receive from peer-to-peer networks. One in three told the Survey that easier access to a network of peers is an important factor for their future growth.   

Since its inception, the ScaleUp Institute has consistently highlighted the importance of peer group networks and in 2021 we were delighted to collaborate with Innovate UK in launching a nationwide peer learning initiative for scaling business leaders.  For this initial cohort Innovate UK EDGE, the agency’s business growth and scaling service, selected 120 founders, MDs and CEOs of innovative scaling businesses from its portfolio of clients.

This year we are pleased to endorse BizSmart which is primarily based in Worcestershire.  Its flagship service SmartBoards – peer to peer communities involving groups of six participants from diverse backgrounds and non-competing sectors. Participants report that being part of the programme has helped them establish clear objectives, work through difficult challenges and implement impactful changes.

Other previously endorsed programmes continue to provide very valuable peer benefits to scaleups.  In 2018 we endorsed Vistage which supports 1,500 UK business leaders in a curated and formal peer-to-peer network that encourages them to step away from their day-to-day duties one day a month to focus on their business and connect with leaders in similar roles. The Supper Club, first endorsed in 2017, has found that building a digital component has increased the geographic diversity of its UK membership across the UK and is now reintroducing in-person events following the pandemic. These will have an emphasis on the themes of shared experience and inspiration with the ambition that this will help form new long-lasting relationships.

Scaleups are also looking for the support and guidance of experienced business people with 5 out of 10 already having a mentor, almost all of whom find their guidance valuable (96%). The most significant challenge facing those who do not yet have this kind of relationship with a mentor is a lack of knowledge about where to find suitable individuals for this role.

This year we are pleased to promote the Royal Academy of Engineering’s SME Leadership Programme from One to Watch to fully endorsed. Renamed the Shott Scale Up Accelerator, this programme calls upon the expertise of partners and its network of Fellows to provide leadership education, mentoring and 1:1 coaching to business-minded engineers. Thanks to a significant donation, expanded training is now being offered built around the major challenges faced by scaling companies:  People and Culture (Talent management), Good governance, Product development, Customer acquisition and marketing, Access to new markets and Securing growth capital.

We are also highlighting the Scale Up Scotland leadership programme as One to Watch.  This 18-month programme offers a blend of experiential, business, and peer-to-peer learning to a cohort of ambitious entrepreneurs.  Delivered by the Hunter Foundation, it takes Scottish entrepreneurs through the critical components and complexity of business scaleup with the aim of enabling them to achieve their potential quicker.  Content is co-created and delivered by business practitioners and entrepreneurs.

Offering targeted specialist support is also at the heart of other successful endorsed programmes such as Tech Nation’s Upscale which focuses on the UK’s fastest-growing tech companies and The British Library’s Innovating for Growth Programme which has now supported 613 businesses with expertise underpinned by wealth of business intelligence and IP information held by the British Library.  In addition, Strathclyde Business School’s Growth Advantage Programme (GAP) links high-quality executive education with the insights and shared learning that comes from peer networks. The Effective Board element of GAP also helps business founders build high-performing leadership teams.  More than 1,800 businesses have graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK (10KSB UK) programme since its launch in 2021, benefiting form over 100 hours of support including specialist workshops, coaching and networking with peers. 10,000 Women, its worldwide initiative to support female entrepreneurship, builds on the model developed through 10KSB UK. 

We continue to highlight international programmes: the MIT Venture Mentoring Service, whose mentors support students, alumni and staff who have ideas they want to turn into businesses and the Lazaridis Scale-Up Program which provides focused support to tech-enabled scaling businesses across Canada. 

As we have shown and continue to highlight, a growing range of programmes are available to scaleup businesses. But the ecosystem cannot rest on its laurels as the economy recovers from Covid it remains vital that scaleup leaders can source locally-provided opportunities, peer to peer groups and development opportunities for their teams. We also need to ensure there is parity of offering across all regions.  There is now a large body of evidence demonstrating what works and successful programmes that we describe in our case studies need to be replicated across the country.

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