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Cambridge Software Start-ups and Scale-ups

5 months ago - Mark Ashton

Cambridge Software Start-ups and Scale-ups

What Is a Scale-Up and How Is It Different To A Start-Up?

Cambridge is going through a real boom right now in terms of start-ups, and I often hear the phrase scale-up business being bandied around as well.

So I thought I would write a quick post on the key differences between the two


A nod to Technology companies in Cambridge that have been huge successes over the years.

What Defines a Start-up and Scale-Up?

A start-up is the foundation of a scale up. A start-up is an entrepreneurial business, newly emerged, targeting to solve a market-need by acquiring, augmenting and leveraging on present-day innovations in terms of products, platform, process or service.

Start-ups are best known to be disruptive in the marketplace as well as being vibrant in nature. Even though most companies stick with the start-up tag, scale-up is the next logical step. The start-up tag comes with many goodie-bags, perhaps the most embellished is start-up capital.

A scale-up represents a business that has already anchored its market-value with a product or a service. Its position in the market has been validated and therefore sustainable.

“Some, Most, All (delete as appropriate!!) of the start-up problems have been solved or at least noted.

A scale-ups distinct sign is an upward momentum representing growth. This growth is pegged on tried and tested economics from when the business was a start-up.

Let’s examine the differences:


Management teams for a startup are different from those required for a scale-up. The start-up norm is forgiving in terms of necessary competencies required to run a business. It’s often a team of 2 or 3 buddies sharing a common idea where one is a Spacecraft engineer; the other often better with the pennies.

A scale-up requires a competent and market –educated employee to take up the process. Ideally, it’s often an experienced employee from competing large company who has been there and done it before.


Start-ups mostly do not have systems in place for operations. Anything goes. If you needed to communicate with a fellow employee, you’ll need to just kick your feet and chair-skate over to them. Scale-up represents more organisation, like filling in tickets for job orders.


Start-ups represent a miniature clientele loop. The business model is yet to be sold into markets soul, the customers. It’s an experimental phase. Not much value is attached to the business. Scale-ups need an operation and customer service support team. Nothing is left to chance. The valuable experience from start-up affords a streamlined system of what works, and what doesn’t.

Scale-ups, therefore, represents the next logical step for start-up when specialisation and market-value kick in. It’s when the business antenna needs to be raised.


Cambridge AKA Silicon Fen

Cambridge, AKA Silicon Fen is no stranger to new Technology companies. Renowned as a scholarly hub for engineering and science, and a hotspot for technology-oriented talent, frankly it’s no wonder so many companies have leveraged the wonderful talent in the city.

Here’s just a few companies that were once in the Start-up / Scale-up phase in Cambridge. In no particular order either:

  1.    Redgate Software

Founded in 1999, Redgate has over 250 employees. It’s a software based tech-company developing simple tools to complement the Microsoft software environment for professionals across the globe. They award freedom and opportunities to excel in teams of peer experts.

  1. Arm Holdings PLC

Part of Softbank, Arm Holdings was founded in 1990. It has over 5000 employees at the heart of its computing and connectivity revolution. Arms Holdings strives to channel brilliant minds productively through a collaborative workplace ecosystem. The company encourages and recruits employees from different cultures to reflect its global reach.

  1. CSR PLC

Now part of the world-renowned Qualcomm organisation, CSR PLC was founded in 1998. Its core mandate is the production of location, imaging, connectivity, and audio chips. CSR PLC believes in providing room for growth and offering endless opportunities to its employees. This includes material support. Focus tightly targeted at small workgroups to enhance collective growth. CSR was a spin off from Cambridge Consultants (CCL) and flourished in growth and revenue during the early 2000’s when they led the field in Bluetooth technology.

  1. RealVNC

Formed 2002 after the AT&T research lab in Cambridge closed the original inventors of VNC have built a multi-award winning company with customers in 160 countries, but still proud to be local to Cambridge. They have done this by providing an excellent work/life balance and a relaxed, informal working environment. They arrange employee events such as champagne celebrations for success, summer garden party for the family, Xmas party within the historic university. It has adopted a flat hierarchy, and so the workplace is relaxed and passionate. Employees are encouraged to be self-sufficient.

  1. Darktrace

One of the most innovative enterprise companies on the planet. Established 2013 by cyber intelligence experts and Cambridge University mathematicians they are a world leading Cybersecurity vendor employing 500+ and now have offices in 11 countries. Their rise to market leaders in such a short period of time has been astonishing. Employees are well remunerated, and clear road map for the future has been outlined. Their staff are selected from a talented pool, with well-developed aptitude abilities.

  1. Bango PLC

Bango adapts mobile payment platforms for mobile app stores. It enables customers to buy apps or in-app content and allows them to be billed directly via a phone bill. The company was established in 1999 currently has an employee base of over 200. Bango is a family. The relationship with employees is founded on a solid base of openness and transparency. The workplace atmosphere is warm and welcoming, to some extent, tolerable to curiosity-as an ingredient for innovation.

  1. Frontier Developments

Founded in 1994, it has a 300 strong employee base. It’s a British video game developer aimed at high-end viral games that capture the attention of the world. The management has successfully built an atmosphere that is friendly and accommodating. The company offers snacks to its employees from a stunning location where their offices are based.

  1. Cambridge Consultants

Being in business for 50 years, Cambridge Consultants have perfected providing innovative product development in engineering, intellectual property licensing and technology consulting. The work environment is fun and friendly, augmented with great pay packages that are founded on genuine talent and hard work. Employees enjoy free lunches and attend numerous companies’ social events.

  1. Marshall Aerospace and Defense Group

Marshall ADG was founded in 1909 and deals with aircraft maintenance, design, and modification. Lately, it has adopted new technologies in aircraft design and testing. Being a family run entity, all employees are said to be put first. It has perfected the art of drawing and retaining top talent across the globe. Of critical importance to the company is employee safety and nothing has been left to chance to safeguard employees at the workplace. The pay package is excellently modelled and enticing.

  1. CR360 (Now UL EHS Sustainability)

Founded in 2002, it develops and offers web-based solutions in terms of software to EHS (Environmental, Health, and Safety) companies, supply chain and corporate social responsibility. It has forged a great working environment to enhance employee productivity. The directors of the company have nurtured a culture of vision, openness, and creativity through sheer enthusiasm at work and when dealing with employees