Silicon roundabout:a force to be reckoned with?
It has been claimed that ‘London will never be the new Silicon Valley’. But could Silicon Roundabout be, in its own way, just as influential?
The debate over the UK versus the US environment for start-ups rages on.
London’s Silicon Roundabout has seen its fair share of digital success stories and we can count ASOS, LoveFilm and Betfair among the home grown businesses that arguably attracted the government interest in the east London hub, now home to around 100 digital start-ups. Cameron’s overtures to the likes of Google aim to increase the amount of investment in the area, and certainly the UK’s digital start-up scene is burgeoning.
The big ‘but’ though is that the UK, and in fact Europe, is yet to product a behemoth on the scale of Facebook or Google. It is this that prompted Paul Carr’s recent article in The Telegraph which claimed that ‘London will never be the new Silicon Valley’. The Telegraph is looking for the 100 brightest, young European technology firms, and Carr’s article disparaged the entire notion that it might be possible even to find 100 promising tech start-ups in Europe. He put the blame for this at the tendency to copy Silicon Valley, thereby creating a ‘Facebook of London’ rather than embracing the difference between US and European environments and playing to European strengths such as creativity and biotech.
Unsurprisingly, this view proved controversial, and today David Langer, the founder of Groupspaces (and one of Growing Business’ 2010 Young Guns), suggests Carr’s view is outdated by some years. He argues convincingly that increasing numbers of European digital entrepreneurs are delving into venture capital after selling their businesses (Brent Hoberman, Michael Birch, Ben and Jos White…) thereby increasing the amount of funding available to young businesses such as his – whose first round funding was led by Index Ventures. London is the capital of the healthy, vibrant, European technology start-up ecosystem, he says, and has everything one could need to build a billion dollar company.
Today, however, the sheer number of investors in Silicon Valley, and the experience they hold, still means ambitious businesses have better chances of success across the pond. But if investors continue to look with growing interest towards Shoreditch, and if entrepreneurs continue to play to the strengths of themselves and their environment, maybe, just maybe, not for much longer.