Google: Off-line firms missing out

Updated: 
Dan CobleyToo many small firms risk missing out on expanding their business because they are not online, Google's new British boss has warned.

Dan Cobley, 44, who was appointed the internet giant's managing director in the UK late last year, described the digital sector as "vital" to the country's economy.

But despite the industry being worth more than £100 billion to Britain, he said thousands of small firms are still lagging behind the times.

He is spearheading a campaign in Wales to get more firms logged on - and said Google's future plans would be "more local" than ever.

"The reason why, getting more firms online, is that it's critical to the economy," he said. "It makes up 7% of the UK's GDP and an independent study has shown that small businesses using the internet grow four to eight times faster than small businesses that are off-line. So if we can help thousands of small businesses get online it will be good for the economy and consumers."

Mr Cobley's first foray into computing came at the age of 15 - and saw him paid £10 by a magazine for his self-made game Galactic Landers.

"It was pretty rubbish," the Oxford University physics graduate admitted. "But I've always been interested in technology and people ever since my dad built a TransAm Tuscan computer with a soldering iron."

Following a stint in marketing with Pepsi and Walkers, Brighton-born Mr Cobley then made the switch to Google before rising through their ranks and being appointed as their UK MD last October.

He added: "To be part of a business which is helping change the way consumers and business interact with the world is a dream come true. It's clear what we need to do as a company is continue to innovate and at the same time create great advertising products. But most importantly, it's the user first. The future is going to be more mobile, more social and more local than ever."

His first major initiative since getting the top post is a new Welsh Government backed scheme to get more businesses in Wales online. Only 33% of local firms in the principality have an online presence - 6% lower than the UK average. The year-long Getting Welsh Businesses Online scheme aims to reverse that trend with small companies being able to get their first website set up for free.

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