I owe my billions to American capitalism – now anyone can make the same from their couch

New York
New York

Technology bleeds into every sector, everywhere, meaning anyone, anywhere, can build a world-bettering business and profit en route.

That wasn’t always true. For ages, geography was destiny. Success meant going to where industry and capital were. Think of the Industrial Revolution spurring urban influxes, Britain was the place to be.

Or America, long dubbed the Land of Opportunity. But now opportunity is everywhere and anywhere: London. Lichfield. Birmingham or Bath. For anyone. Yes, you too.

When I began managing money professionally over 50 years ago, location was key. It was New York or... well, nowhere really. In the 1970s and 1980s, business builders flocked to California’s Silicon Valley – where myriad technology companies blossomed in a modern gold rush.

Bankers, eager to cash in, followed. Sand Hill Road became the world’s venture capital (VC) epicentre. Specialty investment banks made fortunes underwriting tech company stock market listings for startup Davids that became Goliaths. The nouveau riche needed lawyers, accountants and wealth management – hence, other firms (like mine) followed.

In 1979, I launched my firm in Woodside, California, on Silicon Valley’s outskirts, in my basement with nothing. No fancy office. No hifalutin degree. But it was the Land of Opportunity.

All that money sloshing around meant loads of people needing help building the financial future they dreamt of – while I built my firm. There were oceans of opportunity – vastly more than were in Alabama, Albania or St. Albans.

But since then everything has changed. Financial services fully globalised. My firm has offices spanning four continents, including in London’s Canary Wharf, and clients worldwide. Our home base is now Dallas, Texas – one of many burgeoning US tech and finance hubs.

VC funding has soared in America – but elsewhere, too. It is estimated that over 90pc of 2011’s global VC financing was in America, half from California. By 2023? More VC funding flowed outside America than inside.

The UK ranks third globally in total VC investment, behind only America and China. Now, with giants like Amazon funding startups, you may not even need traditional VC investment.

The same goes for private equity (PE) money. Most leading PE firms are fully global (unlike 10 years ago) providing capital banks never did. Google “private equity London” and see what happens. There is a steady staircase of financing opportunities from teensy to gargantuan.

Hence, you have seen the UK’s privately-backed unicorn herd (companies with a valuation of £1bn-plus) grow to 160 – easily Europe’s largest. Britain’s first unicorn, ARM, re-floated in New York last year after being taken private in 2016.

Ignore headlines touting a VC and PE “winter”. Yes, UK VC fundraising slid more than 30pc in 2023. But that was off 2021 and 2022’s insane highs. Instead, consider this – despite 2023’s dip and mild UK recession, its £21.3bn in VC funding was the UK’s third-highest ever – 24pc above 2019 levels and more than six times 2013’s £2.9bn.

Short-term wiggles are a part of any market – especially with start-ups. (Note: This is likely also behind the London Stock Exchange’s alleged listing “woes.”) Data illustrates that point.

The UK saw 868,040 new business incorporations in 2023, up nearly 84,000 from a weak 2022. Q1 2024 incorporations rose a similarly strong 10.2pc year-over-year. Moreover, while the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom is a flawed gauge, the UK gets near-identical marks to America.

Barriers beyond geography are falling, too. In the US, record numbers of women and minorities launched PE firms in 2023. This year, that should top 1,000 – 10 times 10 years ago. In the UK, female-founded new businesses totalled 164,000 in 2023 – up 26pc from 2019. Doors are opening fast.

Have an idea? The internet lets you find funding from your couch. World Bank data show 97pc of the UK’s population is online, edging America’s 92pc and OECD nations’ combined 87pc. That is means and market.

Britain’s online business registration process via Companies House is amongst the easiest and cheapest globally – even after May’s fee increase to £50. Yes, that frictionlessness attracts some fraudsters but the benefits vastly outweigh the risks.

Business operations, tech support, legal advice, tax help and more can be handled remotely, too and cheaper than ever. Harness it. Then build. Let your actions better your customers’ and employees’ lives. Anyone can do it, anywhere.

Yes, most UK startup investment is in London. But VC investment is growing rapidly in Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow and elsewhere. Opportunity is nationwide. Use it.

Few will have the guts to do so – better for you. Profits are the payoff. Capitalism’s beauty is the decentralised harnessing of creativity. Its mantra: you never know what succeeds until you try. Yes, you may fail. But failure isn’t fatal. I failed for 10 years before succeeding. It is how you learn – the churn is healthy and persistence pays off.

The barriers to entry are broken. What is stopping you?

Ken Fisher founded Fisher Investments and built a fortune estimated at $6.3bn. He writes a monthly column for Telegraph Money.