Cardiff Life column  – April or May 2013. Full PDF here.

As I write, I’m on the train back from a meeting in 10 Downing Street. I feel a mixture of privilege, amusement and excitement. It was a great honour to be invited, but I was also surprised at what I found inside.

Being there the day after the death of Margaret Thatcher, the low-key nature of the building was only to be expected. Several news crews were camped outside, and the police ushered us in quickly, clearly not wishing for our group’s animated discussion and raised voices to be seen by the world’s media as disrespect. All attempts by some in our group to take photos outside the building were quickly quashed, saying “any other day but today, Ma’am”.

Once in the front door of the house – the fact that the bed of Larry, the famous feline occupant is less than 2 feet from the iconic front door serves as a reminder that it is still a house – you’re greeted by a stately home kind of surroundings. It’s all wood panelling, ancient art, and silverware. But venture a few metres beyond the entrance hall, and that impression doesn’t last. Past the historical ante-chamber, and you’re in the realm of scuffed paintwork, formica kitchens, past-their-best offices, and a strong sense that your tax definitely isn’t being spent on the Prime Minister’s interior decoration. Venture into the basement to the toilet and you’re greeted with a shabby alcove which is home to a broken bicycle, a wheelie bin, and a stack of old newspapers. In many respects it feels like any other house. Apart from the armed guards.

Of course, the State Dining Room in which we meet is glorious, and the history of the room is all around. Apparently in 1985, on the 250th anniversary of Number 10, all the surviving Prime Ministers had dinner together there.

I was there, along with a panel of other regional tech cluster representatives from around the country, to meet with the Prime Minister’s senior business advisor, and the CEO of Tech City (the digital/tech startup initiative based in East London). We talked enthusiastically about the UK’s leading status in the internet economy (a higher percentage of our GDP comes from the internet than any other country) and what a great opportunity we have to grow the economy by lighting a fire under this sector.

It was genuinely exciting to hear from world class startup community leaders from around the country, but also refreshing to hear the open, transparent, and forward-thinking approach the government and Tech City are taking towards changing the way we live and work. Just by using open data, and procuring existing tech from digital startups and not just large service providers, they’re anticipating making savings in the tens and hundreds of millions of pounds.

It’s arguably a few years overdue, but it seems the government is waking up to the importance of startups.


Hello! Do introduce yourself…

  • I’m Julian Luxford, from Solviq. We’re the tech company behind CustomBooster.

What does CustomBooster do?

  • We provide everything a small business needs to get online — a mobile-friendly website, email, phone number, social media integration and support — as a subscription service.

What makes it special?

  • It’s affordable yet personal. We’re not a DIY site builder, we’re a team of real people, so our service can grow with your business at the rate you need us.

What was the eureka moment that made you realise you had to build CustomBooster?

  • 25% of businesses in Wales don’t have a website, so we realised that lots of small businesses are being left behind. We saw an opportunity to use our technical expertise to help them.

How’s business at the moment?

  • It’s really exciting to see how we’re helping the early adopters. We’re running a trial now to learn how to make it easier for computer novices to engage with us.

Where would you like your startup to be in five years’ time?

  • We aim to have a portfolio of successful technology products and services that help small-tomedium businesses, and to grow so we can provide career opportunities for talented graduates from the universities in South Wales.

Where can we find out more?