A dispatch from Mike King, co-founder of Karbo Com’s UK-based sister agency, Eleven Hundred
By Mike King, co-founder, Eleven Hundred Agency, London
When the Coronavirus crisis hit, like any business owner, I was deeply concerned about the financial impact it was going to have. I had serious discussions with my business partner, Claire about the emergency steps we could take, should we see a significant drop in revenue. At the top of our priorities was ensuring all our staff would continue to be fully paid for as long as possible.
It turns out that, in spite of the broader economic downturn that followed, our concerns were unfounded. I feel almost guilty writing this, but the opposite of what we feared has actually happened. Since the UK went into lockdown in March, we’ve seen continued growth in revenue and have taken on additional staff.
As a PR agency that specializes in working with technology firms, my feeling is that this says more about the resilience of the UK tech sector than it does about our specific company. And it represents a unique opportunity for tech companies looking to expand to the UK.
Tech Outperforms Wider UK Economy
According to official UK government statistics, GDP fell by a record 20.4% in Q2 2020, the second consecutive quarterly decline following a 2.2% drop in Q1. Admittedly, there are some signs of hope as we come out of lockdown, with GDP growing by 8.7% in June 2020, but there is no doubt that the UK economy has been hit hard.
In the technology sector, it’s a much different picture. In June, the Financial Times published an article looking at companies that have performed well through the pandemic. The list was dominated by large technology companies.
IT spend in the UK is predicted to rise as tech budgets increase. According to CWJob’s annual Confidence Index, 49% of IT decision-makers believe their companies will increase their tech budgets as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.
UK Tech Growth Sectors
This growth in UK tech mirrors our own direct experiences. Changes in working practices and the massive increase in the number of people working from home have boosted areas such as cloud computing, cybersecurity, communications, video conferencing, HealthTech and EdTech. In many instances, digital transformation programs that were already underway have been accelerated, with long term implications on the way we live and work beyond the current pandemic.
“We are now very much into what many people are calling the “new normal,” said Steve Leighton, CEO of Voneus, a rural community broadband specialist. “The pandemic has forced people to spend more time in their homes which means they’ve had to work, learn, shop, play and relax without going out. A reliable broadband connection has never been more important and demand for our services has never been greater,”
“Business has remained robust during the Covid-19 crisis,” said Chris Lewis, head of group marketing at Livingstone Group. “We help clients save on average 38% on their major software and cloud contract renewals, avoid substantial penalties from non-compliance fees from software publishers and ensure their software and cloud estates are optimized and clients are only paying for what they actually need. With many organizations now focusing on cost savings because of the financial pressures caused by the pandemic, demand for our services continues to grow and our organization is growing as a result.”
Of course, some areas of the technology sector are suffering. Tech firms that sell to hospitality, leisure and travel sectors, for example, are having to adapt to massively reduced customer demand in the short term with many re-evaluating how they move forward. At Eleven Hundred Agency, we have seen a couple of clients suspend PR activity to reduce expenditure, but this has been more than outweighed by those clients that have increased PR spend to take advantage of market growth. It is true to say that we have never been busier; at times of rapid change, there is a lot to communicate.
“VAR’s are looking for new and exciting technologies to offer their clients in an effort to stimulate their own businesses and we have signed up nine new reseller partners in the past two months,” said Peter Christou, EVP international sales at BotRx, a cybersecurity firm that protects against automated bot attacks.
UK Tech Start-Ups Continue to Prosper
According to research published in June this year by Tech Nation and Dealroom.co, many UK tech startups have continued to attract investment, recruit staff and see positive growth. London has outperformed all other European cities, raising more VC investment than Paris, Stockholm and Berlin combined so far in 2020, with Fintech and enterprise software the two largest areas for investment.
The UK Government is keen to stimulate this area by supporting start-ups in the UK tech industry. In May, it opened its Future Fund for applications, providing £250m in loans to support growth and innovation in sectors such as technology, life sciences and the creative industries.
US Companies Looking to the UK
There are opportunities in the UK for U.S. technology firms that are operating in growth areas, but in the current climate, they need to tread carefully. The big difference now is the pace at which we are seeing change. Here’s my checklist of critical steps that need to be taken to increase the chances of success:
Following these essential steps, U.S. tech companies will be well-poised to capitalize on the continued growth of the UK tech sector.
Mike King, Co-founder Eleven Hundred Agency, London
Mike has more than 25 years’ experience of running PR agencies in the technology sector. He has worked with clients ranging from global tech brands through to innovative, fast-growth start-ups, and has helped many US-headquartered companies expand and grow in the European market. Originally a technology journalist, Mike ran the London office of a small European PR group for several years before founding his own tech PR agency, Johnson King, in 1992. Johnson King grew to become one of the leading European tech specialist PR firms and, in 2014, was acquired by a large global agency. After completing an earn-out, Mike co-founded Eleven Hundred Agency with Claire Ayles in 2018.
With the recent ransomware attacks that originated in Ukraine – listed under numerous names: Petya, NotPetya or GoldenEye – happening just weeks after WannaCry, security experts worldwide say that these new cyber attacks are just the beginning of a global ransomware epidemic.
These new attacks are impacting the way computer users have traditionally done things. In the past, users would take their time in adopting to new versions of software, because just like new car models, you want to make sure all of the kinks are worked out before taking the next step.
In the case of software, new versions are often adopted slowly, with trepidations from the possibility of new bugs introduced or new minor “feature” introductions that are not always welcome additions. Other users postpone the automatic patches because it disrupts their workday and they figure they will just run them later – sometimes months later, or they never get around to it.
But after these latest ransomware attacks, that traditional slow approach to software updates and patches has to change. Keeping your software up-to-date becomes imperative, from both business and personal perspectives. The need is to ensure your software is up-to-date to guard against malware and ransomware attacks that may not only hold your data for ransom, but may utilize your data and personal data for far more damaging results.
BDNA found that in one organization with more than 550,000 software installations, 56 percent of its software was found to be end-of-life (EOL), posing a very high security risk. More than 6,350 instances of the software installed had come to EOL more than 14 years before, and included applications from Microsoft, SAP, IBM, Symantec and more.
This kind of environment can become a ransomware attacker’s heaven. The driving force of ransomware will drive users to update their software more diligently. But human behavioral changes can take much longer than businesses can sustain.
So what’s the answer? How can organizations stay ahead of the ransomware game?
Software vulnerabilities in commercial products are the biggest source of data breaches in the enterprise. Not managing EOL of enterprise applications has major implications on enterprise security, compliance, and the ability to enforce critical processes.