Britain’s overblown tech reputation is hanging by a thread


Of those that have found their way onto the London Stock Exchange in recent years, it’s hard to think of one that hasn’t been a flop in some form. 

There’s Cambridge darling Darktrace, whose float in 2021 was seen as a major coup for a City seeking to lure more high-growth tech startups after Brexit but is now fighting accusations, which it has denied, from a short-seller of flawed accounting and activities that artificially inflate a company’s reported sales. There are concerns too about its business model and culture.

Payments giant Wise arrived with similar hope but quickly went from fintech trailblazer to tax rebel after founder Kristo Kaarmann was named and shamed by HM Revenue and Customs for defaulting on a £720,495 tax bill. 

The revelations triggered an FCA investigation, and are one of the main reasons why its shares remain nearly 30pc below the listing price.

Deliveroo deserves a special mention – a food delivery app masquerading as a sophisticated technology champion that with overwhelming predictability has spectacularly failed to live up to expectations. But then, few floats have been quite as ludicrously over-hyped.

Away from the public markets there was Powa, the payments app that went bust; Karhoo, a would-be Uber rival that went under having spent so heavily that it was unable to pay its bills and staff at the end; social media app Fling, which burned through $21m in less than three years before filing for administration; and Ve Interactive, a digital advertising start-up that collapsed in 2017 with £50m of debts just months after one investment bank tipped it for a $10bn valuation. 

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