London Technology Week: Talent, funding and not comparing ourselves to Silicon Valley
Russ Shaw, our correspondent at London's biggest ever tech week, on the key messages to drive the UK's technology business forward
As London’s inaugural Technology Week draws to a close, there is little doubt the combination of engaging events, inspirational speakers and captivating discussions has made the week a resounding success.
Over the last five days, London’s technology community has truly been brought together; some of the biggest names in tech and enterprise, including Bebo co-founder Michael Birch, Expedia co-founder Simon Breakwell and government enterprise advisor Lord Young of Graffham have imparted their wisdom to over 30,000 entrepreneurs, investors and business people.
The week also served as a fantastic opportunity to inspire the next generation of London’s tech innovators, and as a platform to debate the strengths and weaknesses of London’s tech sector. All the speakers’ valuable insights have painted a picture of both the industry’s causes for celebration, and areas where we must work harder to maintain our competitive edge.
From a personal perspective, the last five days has been a flurry of diverse and captivating events, many of which I have attended or spoken at. And the week started with aplomb, Mayor of London Boris Johnson and former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg kicking off proceedings in Shoreditch.
Over the last few years, both men have spearheaded their respective cities’ tech renaissances, and today both London and New York can proudly identify themselves as global digital hubs. The opportunity to discuss London’s tech industry with both was certainly a personal highlight of the week.
The drive for talent and funding
On Wednesday, two of the main themes to emerge from LTW – talent and funding – were highlighted at Level39. WANdisco’s Big Data Breakfast focused on the talent required to make Big Data a British success story with the launch of an apprenticeship scheme and more commendable initiatives such as this will be required if we are to tackle our tech industry talent shortage.
Level 39 also played host to the Tech London Advocates Women’s Group Finance for Female Entrepreneurs event. Both start-ups and more established tech firms are crying out for greater funding opportunities, which is why one of Tech London Advocates’ core missions is to reform the London tech industry’s funding culture.
Ultimately, while alternative sources of finance – such as crowd-funding – have gained traction in recent years, what is required for long term funding security is greater confidence from UK investors to back British tech firms in their journey from start-up to scale-up. It is primarily the private sector that holds the key to unlocking the potential of London’s tech start-ups, not the state, angel investors or crowd-funders.
Other notable events included the Tech London Advocates Property Hangout. The free event (with beers, of course) offered advice for tech start-ups looking to move or expand in London, including information on which tech neighbourhood to move into and what rents tech businesses should be looking to pay.
Why? Because with Berlin, New York, Tel Aviv and Hong Kong vying to attract the most promising tech firms, it is vital London stays ahead of the game and showcases the fantastic opportunities and infrastructure it has to offer.
If one key message has emerged from London Technology Week, it is this: It is time for London to stop comparing itself to Silicon Valley. We aren’t going to replace its gargantuan tech presence, but neither are we in its shadow.
And neither do we need to be like Silicon Valley; whilst it certainly isn’t a time to be complacent, London has its own unique set of skills, achievements and talents to celebrate.
For the global tech industry, London is calling.