Squeaky-bum-time for start-ups

agewage wework

Easier times!

Plenty of promises!

Running a start-up at this moment is spooky. The Government promises support. but each new product seems to apply to someone like you – but not you!

We haven’t furloughed anyone because what we do – help people retire – is not something that waits. So everyone on our payroll has stayed on the payroll, we’ve continued to pay HMRC tax and national insurance, and we’re paying our VAT bills.

We haven’t borrowed money under the new CBILS scheme, because we don’t have EBITDA yet, we’re a start up! We might get some help from a bounce-back loan though it’s not clear whether we quality.

Till now, we’ve had no expectation of a grant under the Small Business Rate Relief scheme, because we paid our rates through a third-party.

But maybe things are beginning to improve. Next week (beginning May 4th) we get to hear about various initiatives.

We have interest in our equity from venture capital, maybe the Future Fund can incite that future further.

We’re looking to develop our data analytics and need money for research. Perhaps some of  the £1bn promised to Innovate UK (who we have already worked with) could come our way.

And yesterday we heard that we have hope of getting some small business rate relief after all.

The shortening runway

To get the rate relief grant you have to prove COVID-19

The one thing  start-ups  find easy to  prove is that their runway is shortening. COVID-19 has focussed minds of  customers on survival but that excludes discretionary spend on nice-to-haves .

Invoices get lost , calls not returned and meanwhile the bills keep coming. We are lucky in having some suppliers who are deferring costs but we know many of our collegiate firms haven’t been so lucky.

When I visit the WeWork office (a five minute jog from home), I see rows of deserted desks, offices where the pot plants are falling into the sear (the yellow leaf).

It is really tough to think of the personal stories of the people I used to bump into each day. Now the thought of bumping into anyone fills me with horror.

I hope that the £617m which is pointed towards shared-workers is going to come in time, and that our agents (Colliers) will start helping us . Colliers  are quoted in the FT

More than 10,000 companies based in shared offices originally missed out on the grant because their premises had not been assigned a ratable value by the Valuation Office Agency, according to research from property firm Colliers.

In shared offices, such as those operated by WeWork and IWG, regular reconfigurations mean the VOA has not always assessed individual units.

The original design of the scheme meant money could be delivered quickly, but it came at the expense of comprehensive cover for companies in need, according to John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers.

“The easiest way to get to 95 per cent of businesses was using the criteria from the business rates system that was in place. But there are 5 per cent missing out,” he said.

 I can tell Colliers that in our WeWork, each office has a rateable value and I have the rateable value of the office space we occupy. The trouble is that our relationship with the City of London business rate team is non-existent. They don’t know who we are -because Colliers have never told them that we are the occupiers of the space.

As of April 27, local authorities had allocated 61 per cent of the funds earmarked for small businesses which were eligible, leaving almost 345,000 businesses waiting for the grant. “Many of the companies that have been unable to use existing government support schemes are already on borrowed time — and will need these grants paid out swiftly if they are to survive,” said the British Chamber of Commerce.

Each time I correspond with the City  Guildhall , the response comes back – “can you tell us who you are?” We are AgeWage and we’re 200 yards up Coleman Street from you!

AgeWage will come through this

You will be pleased to hear that despite the yet-realised promises and the shortening runway, AgeWage is going to make it through and that it will come out of this the stronger.

I am sure we are like most small businesses, we are able to cut our cloth to meet the current circumstances. We live in an ecosystem of optimism that ensures we look at ways to grow rather than mothball.

But we do need to be able to access the money that is on hand this quarter (eg by the end of July) and so do all the other firms.

We are happy to stand in the queue behind essential services and those in absolute poverty.  PPE is more important than SME, but if we are to come out of this pandemic with an economy capable of recovery, we must keep the spores of recovery watered!

office for agewage

Our office



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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