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UK is an e-commerce superpower, Eric Schmidt says

Google's former boss thinks the landscape is perfect for the next billion pound startup to launch on our shores

Eric Schmidt

Google's former CEO Eric Schmidt thinks the UK is a hotbed for e-commerce and doesn't think there's a reason the next billion-pound startup couldn't be launched here rather than elsewhere in the world. 

"Britain has every aspect to build billion pound, ten billion pound, hundred billion pound companies," he told the Today programme on BBC's Radio 4.

"You have the right regulatory environment. You've got the right role within [the] continent. Look at the e-commerce plays and service plays that are now happening in London. Europe is pushing on a European digital single market and in the timeframe of you building a small start-up, the Europeans will figure out a way of building a single digital market for your products," he adds. 

Such an environment means start-ups are able to compete more effectively with much larger, global companies because they take lean distribution models, rather than going in full throttle and being a slave to high overheads. But, product quality is key when building a solid business, so with the UK's engineering expertise, it is easier to find the right people to do the job in-house, according to Schmidt. 

"If you have three people and a vision, you should be able to raise funds from friends and family, crowd-funding and early venture groups," he said.

He added that the UK's e-commerce industry is way ahead of the US' and that gives us a great advantage in the international marketplace. However, he also warned against companies prematurely selling off their businesses, even though they are likely to raise quick capital. Europeans are more willing to sell off their companies in the early stages of success and this could be a company's downfall, especially in the tech sector, Schmidt said.

"If you have a strong franchise that's growing quickly, you're probably better off waiting a while [before selling]," Schmidt advised.

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