#5 Starting a business in Cardiff

Supoorted by a £1.2bn City Deal bid, the Welsh capital with a booming fintech and technology sector could help your start-up take off...

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Why start a business in Cardiff?

The capital and commercial centre of Wales, Cardiff’s traditional financial and professional services sector is well-developed, with banks, pensions providers and insurance brokers making up the bulk of successful businesses.

However, this is not the whole story; tech businesses can access a growing range of support, and if you are an aerospace or biotech business, the networks on offer rival anywhere else in the country – making the city our fifth pick in the Startup Cities Index 2017.

Last year, in March 2016, the UK government agreed a £1.28bn City Deal for the Cardiff Capital Region in partnership with the Welsh government and 10 local authorities, to invest in infrastructure through a 20-year investment fund. The deal will deliver a number of programmes designed to improve connectivity, physical and digital infrastructure and regional business governance, resulting in an estimated 5% increase in GVA.

Population:357,200 (2015)

Connected to London via the M4 motorway and a direct train (taking just under two hours), Cardiff has good international links via Cardiff International, which is half an hour’s drive from the city centre. Whilst the city’s port business has dwindled, the Cardiff Bay area has played host to a major redevelopment in recent years and now hosts a number of restaurants, bars and tourist attractions.

Access to talent in Cardiff

business talent104,200: Working age population with NVQ Level 4 and above (2015)

£531.40: Average full-time weekly earnings (2016)
3: Universities

There are three universities in Cardiff – Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan and the University of South Wales. In particular, Cardiff University is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and has a reputation for its financial and professional services offering, reflecting the business strengths of the city as a whole.

Additionally, it has several colleges with a good reputation in law and business, meaning it should serve as an excellent source of talented students and graduates for ambitious start-ups. The University also offers a range of services to local business, including recruitment services, business networking and events, and specialist training.

Number of new start-ups (2015):1,800  – see how this compares with other cities

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t find talented recruits difficult to come by in Cardiff. A whopping 43.5% of the working-age population (104,200) have NVQ Level 4 qualifications and above, making it one of the most qualified cities in the country in terms of proportion of skilled labour.

Access to business support in Cardiff

business support1: Accelerators
2: Science parks

As the Welsh capital, Cardiff has always had a good range of business support available, and it is set to receive a particular boost through the Cardiff Central Enterprise Zone. This is a new 140-acre business district, currently under development, which incorporates Cardiff Central train station and will take in a number of major regeneration projects.

Compared to its well-developed professional services sector, Cardiff’s tech scene is small, but growing. In September of 2016, accelerator network Entrepreneurial Spark opened its Cardiff hatchery in Cardiff’s new 1 Central Square development.

Powered by NatWest, the accelerator hub provides support, mentoring, networking and office accommodation for up to 70 entrepreneurs. At the time of launch, accelerator partner KPMG said Cardiff was an ideal destination for start-ups as “one of the top five fastest growing digital economies in the UK.”

Survival rates (2010-2015):40%

For bioscience and life sciences start-ups, support is available through the Cardiff Medicentre project, which offers serviced offices, desks and laboratories as well as tailored business support to its tenants. There is also Cardiff Business Technology Centre (CBTC), a technology and science park which offers focused business support packages as well as office space in the city centre.

Aerospace companies have a long history in the Cardiff region, and this is reflected in the city’s second Enterprise Zone – St Athan, located near Cardiff Airport and around half an hour’s drive from the city centre. It has a number of art work shop and hangar facilities available for businesses with large-scale space needs. The Ministry of Defence is one of a number of long-standing tenants in the area.

More generally, the Welsh capital provides a good range of office space. There is currently around 25,000 sq ft available of Grade A office stock in the city centre in addition to 150,000 sq ft of additional speculative developments in the pipeline, including the recently-completed eight-acre mixed-use development at Capital Quarter. The Central Square development area is also set to provide a huge boost to Welsh business – the council-funded project will eventually provide 750,000 sq ft of mixed-use space.

For start-ups, Cardiff Start is a recently-launched programme that aims to connect entrepreneurs in the region with business partnerships and investment. Three key co-working spaces are available; IndyCube, Founders Hub, and the Welsh Innovation Centre for Enterprise (based just outside of Cardiff in Caerphilly).

While there aren’t any formal accelerator programmes available in the city, NatWest launched an accelerator hub in Cardiff last year.

Access to grants and funding in Cardiff

business funding

Unfortunately for entrepreneurs in Cardiff, grants and funding schemes directed at the city are comparatively thin on the ground. The Capital Cardiff Fund used to provide small grants of up to £5,000 to assist new start-up companies in the area, but is currently closed.

Number of business deaths (2015):1,195

The council can also provide businesses with assistance and advice, and financial aid on a “discretionary” basis, to support enterprise in Cardiff. This information can be found here.

The main business angel network in Cardiff – and Wales generally – is xénos. It acts as an introduction service between businesses and local investors, and has facilitated investments of around £200,000 in the past. Elsewhere, you can contact Angels Den which can provide advice and support to help you secure angel investment.

Quality of life in Cardiff

quality of life£191,582: Property price average (September 2016)
91.67: Crimes per 1,000 people (June 2015)
30.2mbps: Average broadband speed (2014)

In the context of the UK as a whole, Cardiff sits in  the middle of the table when it comes to statistical factors affecting quality of life. Average house prices for September 2016 stood at at £191,582 on average, much lower than equivalent metropolitan cities such as Edinburgh (£231,103) but higher than the likes of Belfast (£149,252) and Glasgow (£121,430).

Crime levels are at the higher end of the spectrum compared to other cities, at 91.67 crimes per 1,000 people and the number of recorded crimes has risen on 2014 (up from 86 crimes per 1,000).

Once known as an industrial town, Cardiff has become a lively and modern capital city of late, with large areas pedestrianised in the city centre and a record number of parks contributing to a relaxed, al fresco atmosphere in the summer. Attractions include the historic Cardiff Castle, Bute Park, the Millennium Stadium and the visually impressive Cardiff Bay area.

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