Business management

2023 was a record-breaking year for start-ups

A new report by NatWest Group and Beauhurst shows that a record number of companies were incorporated in the UK last year.

  • NatWest Group and Beauhurst’s New Startup Index reports a record 900,000 companies started in 2023, up 12% on 2022
  • Biggest growing sectors include online retailers, property, and street food stalls
  • Fastest growing region Northern Ireland (+59%), followed by London (+20%) and Scotland (+11%)


The New Startup Index, a report into business and venture creation in the UK was jointly authored by NatWest Group and Beauhurst. It shows the growth in corporations in 2023 was an 11.8% increase on the numbers from 2022. 

These incorporations contribute to the UK having a record number of active companies and given the year-on-year growth speaks to the continued growth in the UK’s population of entrepreneurs. As 2024 dawned the UK had 5.31m active companies.

A strong start and healthy rolling averages

The first quarter of 2023 saw the most companies incorporated out of any quarter in 2023, with subsequent quarters slowing. Nonetheless, the rolling average of quarterly company registrations peaked in the final quarter of 2023. The rolling quarterly average was 225k companies registered per quarter at the end of the year. 

Cautious optimism from first quarter trends

The first quarters of 2022 and 2021 were also each the respective peaks of their calendar years so there is reason for cautious optimism for another record quarter at the start of 2024. 

The rolling average means we should also be confident in seeing over 200k more incorporations. 

Not all incorporations are equal

Not all of the incorporations are new businesses. They include those that might be restructuring, and also holding companies. It’s important to note that some are likely linked to fraud. 

Of the 900k new companies, 500k have only filed one document at Companies House. So, it’s also important to recognise that some companies are a flash in the pan. Of 2023’s incorporations, 1.3% (nearly 12k companies) were dissolved in the same year that they were incorporated.

The UK’s enduring entrepreneurial spirit

James Holian, Head of Business Banking, NatWest, 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.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, accounting for three-fifths of employment and about half of the private sector's turnover. As the UK’s biggest bank for business, we believe we have a key role to play in fostering an ecosystem where businesses are given the tools to start, scale and succeed.

The NatWest Accelerator stands as a beacon of this commitment. In the past 12 months alone, this free initiative has supported 1,300 scale-up leaders of which more than half were female-led businesses and 21% ethnic minority-led ventures. Businesses can apply for our first cohort of 2024 until 16 February at Entrepreneur Accelerator

Henry Whorwood, Managing Director, Research and Consultancy, Beauhurst said: “The growth in these numbers speaks to the growth in the UK's entrepreneurial ecosystem. While not all companies become startups 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.”

New Startup Index report

To find out more about startup landscape, including regional incorporations and businesses started by female founders, download the report.

Find out more about our Accelerator programme on our Entrepreneur hub.

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of NatWest Group, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Copyright © NatWest Group. All rights reserved.

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