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In the loop: new beginnings and bittersweet endings

Written by Maria Barr on Friday, 28 October 2016.

While a new innovation centre gets set to open its doors and two startups win financial backing, it’s the end of the road for video platform Vine.

In the loop: new beginnings and bittersweet endings

Tennis champ Andy Murray backs British startups

He may be best known for his returns on Centre Court but in between ice baths and gruelling matches Britain’s top seed Andy Murray has also accumulated a healthy portfolio of investments through Seedrs, the crowdfunding platform. And the savvy Scot, who also owns the 77 Group, the sports management company, has just added two more startups to his list of investments on the platform: Perkbox, a benefits scheme, and WeSwap, the peer-to-peer travel-money platform. 

With two Wimbledon wins and the tantalising possibility of being crowned world No 1 this year, his tennis career is stronger than ever. But should he choose to retire at some point in the future, his work in the startup scene could keep him busy. We’d definitely prefer to see him joining the Dragons in the den than donning lycra on the Strictly set.

The government cracks down on the gig economy 

Startups like Uber and Just Eat that have unpredictable demand are reliant on the so-called gig economy: self-employed contractors who aren’t entitled to earn the national living wage or receive benefits like parental leave. In the UK, almost five million people are employed in this way.

But there is mounting concern that workers aren’t getting a fair deal, especially following high-profile investigations involving companies like Hermes and Sports Direct. In response, HM Revenue and Customs has launched a dedicated unit to investigate companies that rely on self-employed staff to avoid providing employment protections. In a letter to Labour MP Frank Field, financial secretary to the Treasury Jane Ellison confirmed the decision and said: “Individuals cannot be opted out of employment rights and protections simply by an engager calling them 'self employed'."

We’ll have to see just how HMRC plans to judge and enforce regulations without stifling innovation in Britain’s startup scene. 

Twitter sheds Vine, influencers mourn…Pornhub to the rescue?  

Twitter’s not having the best time. Not only does the social network have around a fifth of Facebook’s average monthly active users but it's also just announced plans to part with Vine in the coming months and will be axing 9% of its workforce.

But while the end of Vine has provoked something of an outpouring of grief among social-media influencers who have come to rely on the video platform, there could be a last-minute saviour willing to keep it going. In a letter from Corey Price, vice president of Pornhub, to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, which was shared with CNET, Price suggested that the site would be willing to do a deal and that Twitter “could benefit from a cash infusion from the sale of Vine”. We have a feeling the platform could take a whole new direction if it is kept alive by new owners.

New innovation hub to open in London’s East End 

Last night, Britain’s tech community gathered for a soft launch of Plexal, a brand spanking new innovation centre in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which will officially open its doors in the spring of 2017. 

Set within the Here East complex, which is envisaged as a cluster of tech firms, universities and creatives, Plexal will offer services like entrepreneurship courses, a testing and prototyping lab plus acceleration and incubation programmes. The venue aims to house both large businesses and startups under the same roof to encourage innovation and collaboration.

At the launch event on Thursday, Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK, the organisation that supports Britain’s tech sector, shared his optimism about London’s potential to breed world class startups to rival those coming from Silicon Valley and Seattle, something he credited to its unique mix of creatives, digital talent and strong finance sector. Watch this space: you may be spotting unicorns roaming around the Plexal campus before long. 

 

About the Author

Maria Barr

Maria Barr

As our web editor, Maria is on the lookout for stories and news about Britain’s most exciting startups and small businesses. Part Singaporean and part Scottish, Maria has a background in content marketing and editing.

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