Bri­tain wins race to host global HQ of soft­ware uni­corn Figma

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Hasan Chowd­hury

BRI­TAIN will land a new uni­corn startup in Lon­don from Sil­i­con Val­ley as Figma, a ri­val to US soft­ware com­pany Adobe, is to un­veil its in­ter­na­tional head­quar­ters in the cap­i­tal this week.

The $2bn (£1.5bn) start-up, founded in San Fran­cisco in 2012 and dubbed the “Google Docs for de­sign­ers”, of­fers a web-based app that al­lows teams to col­lab­o­rate on vis­ual projects, ri­valling soft­ware sold by Adobe.

Figma is set­ting up its in­ter­na­tional base in Lon­don amid a surge in de­mand for its soft­ware in the UK, where it has grown 86pc since Jan 1 amid a slew of sign-ups from cus­tomers in cities such as Leicester, Sh­effield, Manch­ester and Bris­tol look­ing for new dig­i­tal tools to sup­port staff work­ing from home.

To date, the com­pany has raised $133m from a string of high-pro­file back­ers, in­clud­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley in­vest­ment giants Se­quoia Cap­i­tal and An­dreessen Horowitz. It ex­pects to have 20 work­ers in Lon­don by the end of the year. Figma is hop­ing the move to Lon­don will help it es­tab­lish greater con­tact with its users, 80pc of whom are out­side the US. Among its busi­ness clients are Bri­tish firms such as BT and De­liv­eroo, as well as listed com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Spo­tify and Uber.

Dy­lan Field, co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the firm, said the move to Lon­don and boom in de­mand for its ser­vices came at a crit­i­cal time, as the pan­demic had ac­cel­er­ated a shift on­line for busi­nesses, with an “en­tire world econ­omy be­com­ing dig­i­tal”.

“We’re see­ing this tremen­dous growth in de­sign­ers across the world and I think it might be a re­ac­tion to the mega-trend of ev­ery­thing in the world be­com­ing more dig­i­tal,” he said.

Busi­nesses have been forced to adapt their ser­vices in re­cent months as lock­down re­stric­tions glob­ally to curb the spread of coron­avirus have driven a boom in soft­ware use.

Danny Rimer, a part­ner at In­dex Ven­tures and one of the ear­li­est back­ers of Figma, sup­ported Mr Field’s view that the com­pany’s of­fice in the English cap­i­tal would help it of­fer greater ser­vice to its grow­ing cus­tomer base in the UK.

“This of­fice is be­ing es­tab­lished to pro­vide bet­ter sup­port and ac­count man­age­ment to their cus­tomers,” he said. “More im­por­tantly, Lon­don’s vi­brant tech and de­sign scene will make it eas­ier for the com­pany to hire great tal­ent.”

Sev­eral other over­seas tech­nol­ogy firms have set­tled on Lon­don re­cently for their in­ter­na­tional base but it re­mains un­clear if ByteDance, Tik­Tok’s par­ent, will press ahead with its own.

The firm was look­ing for a new 30,000 sq ft of­fice in the cap­i­tal and planned to treble its staff to 1,000.

How­ever, un­cer­tainty over its fu­ture, amid ris­ing po­lit­i­cal ten­sions be­tween the US and Bei­jing, have cast doubt on the plans.

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