Britain heading for 'mobilepreneur' boom with over 31,000 new businesses set to start up

  • O2 Business reveals ‘mobilepreneur’ revolution could generate an extra £790million in GDP and over 35,000 new jobs over the next three years
  • Lion’s share of mobilepreneur businesses to be created by younger entrepreneurs – with a boost for the North East and Scotland
  • Barriers to business must be tackled to unleash ‘mobilepreneur’ boom, from start-up costs and access to tech to costly, inflexible mobile tariffs
  • O2 Business is breaking down barriers to enable entrepreneurship with tariffs and digital tools that flex with small and medium-sized business (SMB) needs

Britain is set for a small business boom over the next three years with 31,900 new ‘mobilepreneur’ start-ups set to emerge, according to a new report commissioned by O2 Business and conducted by Development Economics and pollsters Censuswide. The report – called ‘Unleashing Britain’s Mobilepreneur’s – defines a ‘mobilepreneur’ as someone who sets up and runs their business initially from a smartphone.

The results show that smartphone businesses could create 35,500 new jobs and add three quarters of a billion (£790 million) to UK GDP over three years – but only if barriers to entry are removed. Access to tech, costly, inflexible mobile tariffs and start-up costs all feature in the top ten barriers to starting up a business, according to the O2 Business report.

Kate Mulligan-Brown from O2 Business said:

“The UK economy can’t bounce back fully until we break down barriers to business for our aspiring entrepreneurs. Inflexible, costly tariffs for tech clearly put some people off the idea of starting a business, as they don’t allow entrepreneurs the flexibility they need month-to-month. This is one barrier we can break down right now – and our research shows doing so will unleash a wave of new mobilepreneurs.”

To help break down these barriers and unleash a new wave of entrepreneurialism, O2 Business has launched the ultimate flexible package for SMBs that gives greater flexibility tailored to their needs so that customers have the control and choice to change as their business grows and evolves. This includes the freedom to choose different contract lengths, from just 30 days, automatic data rollover every month and data tariffs that can flex up and down as business needs change. For businesses that find themselves needing to work in a new way, they can also add a range of flexible digital tools such as Office 365 and McAfee at any time.

Young people bounce back from lockdowns to lead mobilepreneur economy

After a difficult year for younger people that has seen schools and universities closed and retail and hospitality shuttered, millennials and Gen Z are set to bounce back and lead the mobilepreneur revolution. Roughly a third (11,800) of the 31,900 new businesses predicted by the O2 Business report will be established by millennials (aged 25-34), followed by Gen Z (aged 16-24) who are set to start 8,900.

The findings build on an entrepreneurial streak that emerged during the first national lockdown in March 2020. According to research commissioned by O2 and conducted by Censuswide, just over two-thirds (67%) of 18-24-year-olds surveyed attempted to sell at least one item online using marketplace smartphone apps since the beginning of first lockdown, with 31% of respondents selling ten or more items. The main driver was the need to make additional money, with 43% of those who have sold items online claiming smartphone sales allowed them to make some extra income. This activity helped to supplement their existing income and to help support them during their studies.

London to recover whilst North, East and Scotland will see business boost

Despite a particularly difficult year for its economy, the capital still dominates new business and job creation predicted by O2 Business’ report. Aligned with population demographics and economic productivity, 11,900 mobilepreneur businesses are expected to start in London. However, there is good news for the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda in the research, with the East of England, North East, Scotland and Yorkshire all in the top five regions expected to see the most new business starts.

Region Mobilepreneur business starts after 3 years
London 11,900
East of England 3,600
North East 3,300
Scotland 2,400
Yorkshire 2,300

Jemma Broadstock is the Devon-based founder of virtual assistant agency Collectively Done. Jemma, 25, said: “Using my phone to set up two businesses in the past few years was far easier than I had ever thought it would be. I founded and run a virtual assistant agency which I set up completely on my smartphone, and I’ve also been working as a business mentor to help people set up their own businesses in the same way that I did. I love the freedom and flexibility being a ‘mobilepreneur’ gives me, I really can work from anywhere. I use social media to find my clients, do all of my business banking on apps and this past year it has been great for virtual networking.

“Before I started my business I thought that setting up a company needed huge investment and I had no idea where to get started. I quickly realised I was able to do everything on my phone, and my only barriers had been not realising what I was capable of.”

Kyle Frank is the London-based founder of Frank’s Remedies, a vegan sustainable skincare brand. Kyle, 26, said: “I founded my business from my phone when I was at university after struggling with acne for over 5 years. I travelled extensively to investigate other cultures’ approaches towards acne, and my international data plan was instrumental in helping me maintain contact with local farmers for my product’s ingredients. Back in the UK, I used my smartphone to create my company’s website and work on my business plan. I loved how easy it was for me to make quick changes to plans or respond to emails on the go, the flexibility has always been so helpful.

“When I started the business I was really worried about the cost of equipment, such as laptops and cameras for photographing my products, but I really was able to do everything on my phone. This obviously saved me a lot of money, but without giving up any quality.”

Kate Mulligan-Brown added:

“The next few years will be crucial for the UK as we rebuild and create a more balanced, inclusive economy. Our report suggests that a diverse group of mobilepreneurs will play their part in this – and at O2 Business we are determined to back them all the way. In 2021, all you really need to start a business is a smartphone, the right support and a tariff you control.”

For more information on O2’s flexible Business plans available to SMBs, please visit: https://www.o2.co.uk/business/why-o2/flex-your-business.

-ENDS-

Notes to Editors:

Methodology

Polling: This survey was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 2,001 general respondents in the UK (Aged 18-24). The survey was conducted from a random sample of UK adults. Fieldwork was carried out between 12th – 16th February 2021. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles

Economic modelling: The household survey responses – coupled with ONS demographic data – were used to identify the potential scale of additional business start-ups that could occur across the UK over the next 3 years if constraints relating to telephony costs were eased.  Steps were then taken to constrain the scale of potential gains for the overall population of enterprises, as well as the net additional jobs and output generated by these newly established businesses.  These steps included the use of evidence-based assumptions concerning survival rates for new enterprises, as well as adjustments to factor in potential displacement impacts on already established UK businesses.