“You work hard; you get a helping hand; you can achieve anything - that’s the London Promise,” said Sadiq Khan speaking to the Federation of Small Businesses at Fora workspace.
The Mayor of London was discussing the Capital’s unique benefits for entrepreneurs, whilst also acknowledging the challenges they face and describing how his office strives to help them be part of London’s continued success.
Sadiq Khan joked with his audience that his own humble beginnings, growing up in Tooting as the son of a bus driver, was a tale they might have heard before. But in retelling his own story he illustrated how the London Promise had a very personal meaning to him. The assistance and support he’d received at home, at university and when setting up his own legal start-up was something that clearly resonated with the small business owners, and he saluted their own courage in starting their own companies.
The Mayor was also joined by his Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal who arrived in London from India in 2001 with £200 in his pocket and whose fintech company now has a turnover of $4bn, employing 120 people in its London office. The majority of Londoners work for small businesses, many of whom are at the cutting edge of technology and innovation. Sadiq Khan emphasised how he wanted to foster those companies. “It isn’t politicians who create the prosperity; it’s you. But we can create an environment where you can thrive,” he said.
Standing in the main atrium at one of Fora’s newest locations, Sadiq Khan talked about the importance for new businesses of issues such as finding workspace, attracting talent and of continuous professional development. “This is a great piece of shared workspace,” he commented, going on to describe London as a unique ecosystem - a centre of finance, tech and life sciences - with more AI start-ups than Paris and Berlin combined and more foreign students at world-class universities than any other city in the world.
Against the backdrop of Brexit, the Mayor re-emphasised that the city remained open to both people and ideas. He’d come from a meeting with the mayor of Istanbul and regularly meets with counterparts from around the world to learn how they tackle the challenge of running a major metropolis. “Steal ideas well rather than invent them badly,” was one piece of advice he shared with the audience. The Mayor also reflected that London faced global competition, and that attracting and retaining skilled workers was essential for the Capital’s future prosperity.
“I want London to be the Tech Capital of the World,” said Sadiq Khan, but he highlighted that the city’s success, like the London Underground, had not been built overnight, and that its future, such as infrastructure projects like Crossrail, required long-term thinking. “Most projects take ten or twenty years. Most politicians are no longer in office by then,” he said - although he fully expects to still be in office when Crossrail is completed after next year’s mayoral elections. “It takes leaders with foresight and bravery to make these visions a reality.” Something the Mayor’s audience would surely agree with.