2023 identified as the year of the start-up

More than 900,000 companies were incorporated in the UK last year, making it a record year for start-ups. The new businesses boom brings the number of active companies operating in the UK to 5.31m, also a record high, pointing towards continued growth in terms of entrepreneurs.

Despite challenging economic conditions such as heightened inflation and increased operational costs, 2023’s growth was driven by new online retailers, with over 82,000 new businesses starting in the sector, according to the NatWest and Beauhurst New Startup Index.

And 49,000 also began operating in the property letting space, along with 21,000 new takeaway and street food stands. Meanwhile, the sectors showing the slowest rate of growth for new incorporations are led by packaging, passenger rail, and logistics warehousing businesses.

Northern Ireland fared better in terms of numbers with 14,000 new businesses – a 59 per cent increase on the previous year. London followed with a 20 per cent increase, and Scotland came in third with 11 per cent.

The growth in female founded businesses also continues to increase year on year, with a record 164,000 companies incorporated by women in 2023, up 4 per cent on 2022 and taking growth in the five years between 2019 and 2023 to 26 per cent overall.

James Holian, NatWest’s Head of Business Banking, said: “It is hard not to feel a sense of pride in the resilience and dynamism of the UK’s business landscape. Today’s report shows that despite the recent economic challenges, entrepreneurial spirit in the country has not just endured, it has thrived.”

He pointed out that the NatWest Accelerator has supported 1,300 scale-up leaders in the past year, of which more than half were female-led and 21 per cent ethnic minority-led ventures.

Henry Whorwood, Beauhurst’s Managing Director, Research and Consultancy, said: “The growth in these numbers speaks to the growth in the UK’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. While not all companies become start-ups or go on to become scaleups, the UK has a strong track record of helping new businesses start and succeed, and the strength in the pipeline should cheer investors and economists alike.”

For the full report, click here