Do you aspire to be a unicorn company with a valuation of $1bn?

That was the question posed to four leading businesses who took part in BusinessCloud’s discussion at Tech Show North 2019 in Manchester on Wednesday.

Lucy Buckley, co-founder of Dr Fertility; Wais Shaifta, CEO of Push Doctor; Andy Lord, CEO or Code Nation; and Matthew Elliott, co-founder of Nivo, took part in the discussion entitled ‘Building a global business in the North of England’, chaired by BusinessCloud editor Chris Maguire.

Panel

All four businesses are doing well but had contrasting responses when asked if they wanted to be a unicorn.

  1. Wais Shaifa is the CEO of Manchester-based Push Doctor, which is the UK’s No 1 online GP service and has a reach of 1.2 million people. The company has so far raised $36m in funding. Shaifa said: “The aim is to build a scalable and safe solution for our patients. When you approach healthcare there are morals and ethics behind it. We want to build a business that can be profitable and scalable and a partner of the NHS. As we grow and scale we’ll review the opportunities that come to us but that (becoming a unicorn) is not our focus for now.”
  2. Lucy Buckley is co-founder of Dr Fertility, which was launched on 2017 and is growing at a rate of 270 per cent a year. Buckley said: “I think our main focus is to be able to offer our customers a complete end-to-end solution to support them in their fertility journey and making sure we do it in the right ethical way and making sure we give a really good standard of care. The sky’s the limit for Dr Fertility but the important thing for us is providing the right care for people.”
  3. Andy Lord is the CEO of Code Nation, which is training some of the people need to plug the estimated one million unfilled jobs there will be in the digital skills sector by 2021. He said becoming a unicorn was not on his agenda. “A billion dollar valuation is not something we’ve got our heart set on,” he said. “We’ve had an offer to buy the business (but turned it down). We are in a space where eventually more and more businesses will need to be. The recruitment world specialises in moving talent around. We specialise in making the talent and it’s quickly dawning on people that you’ve got to make more because there isn’t enough to move around.”
  4. Matthew Elliott is the co-founder of Manchester-based instant messaging network Nivo, which last week secured £2m of funding. Elliott said: “I think we’ve got potential to be (a unicorn). Our mission is to transform how easy it is for everybody to get the right product and services for them. It’s too hard at the moment. There’s too much friction. Our network is unique. It’s having incredible results so I don’t see any reason why we can’t have every single person on the street using it to contact every single regulated service provider brand in the UK and beyond.”