Last Friday I had the privilege to participate in a Panel at the 2013 London Web Summit. Moderated by Martin Bryant, editor of The Next Web UK, the panel included Eileen Burbidge (Passion Capital), Arnaud Betrand (HouseTrip), Pete Smith (Songkick), Greg Marsh (OneFineStay) and yours truly, representing Campus London.
The panel was a discussion on the state of the London startup ecosystem. Some of the feedback I got was that it wasn’t contentious enough, but maybe it’s a sign of the times: while the rest of the economy is going down, tech and startups in London are on the rise. Things, it seems, are going well, and everyone (investors, startups, corporates and government) want the startup ecosystem in London to thrive. That’s were growth can come from in the future and so far, as far as Europe goes, it’s working.
Main points from the panel:
- Momentum: The London startup ecosystem is in the best shape it has ever been… but we still have a long way to go. When it comes to exits and valuations, the US is still way more attractive, causing a “migration” of successful UK startups to greener pastures.
- #10: The government is doing a lot to support startups in the UK… but there are a few key factors that still need correcting (availability and price of highly skilled technical talent, recruiting senior execs and raising growth capital in order to avoid early acquisitions)
- Tech City: TCIO has done a great job drumming interest and connecting the startup community with government (see the interview of TCIO’s new head Joanna Shields and the WSJ’s Ben Rooney). Sometimes, it resulted in swift policy changes to help startups, like the entrepreneur visa. However, the UK has several emerging clusters outside of London including Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and of course, Oxford and Cambridge. Maybe instead of TechCity, we should consider changing the name to Tech Nation. Regardless of government, as a startup community, we should be better at communicating with each other. Events like TechBikers connecting between hubs (shameless plug) are a good step in that direction.
- What’s missing:
- EXPERIENCE – While the density of network is growing rapidly, partly thanks to places like Campus, it’s still not trivial to get the entrepreneurial experience and support you’d get in the valley. Any entrepreneur can almost answer your questions on funding, advisors, deal making, while in London you’ll need to look a bit deeper.
- DEVELOPERS – wouldn’t it be great if we had an influx of 150,000 skilled developers? everyone seems to be hungry for that sort of talent, not just in London. Changes to the University curriculum and more willingness of graduates to go into startups (and out of banking) could help alleviate it.
- RECIPROCITY – the valley is full of entrepreneurs who made it and came back to invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs. In Europe, it’s rapidly improving, but the culture of reciprocity and giving back to the next generation of founders could be stronger. I’d like to take the opportunity to invite experienced founders who sold their startups to come to Campus – speak with early stage entrepreneurs, inspire them and help them avoid mistakes from your experience.
- BIG SUCCESS STORIES – the UK has yet to produce massive tech companies like Google, Facebook or Amazon, but it’s just a matter of time. As Saul Klein mentioned in his speech, the Internet represents 8% of the UK’s GDP, more than any other country in Europe and it’s about time we see companies grow to billion dollar exits out of the UK. Some contenders already exist: Moshi Monsters, Wonga, King.com to name a few.
Watch the video of the The state of the London tech scene panel:
If you have the time to watch other sessions, I highly recommend you watch the panel with New York’s Super-Angel David Tisch and Wired’s David Rowan and the demo from SmartThings and Hapifork. All the videos are posted here: http://new.livestream.com/websummit/LWS13. The victory in the London Web Summit’s startup competition belongs to London-based Flubit, which promises to find you a discount on any product. See the other finalists here.
Hats off to Paddy Cosgrave, an Irish rising star, for pulling off yet another sold out event. The entire team producing the event seems to be under 30, yet the people, atmosphere and attention to detail were excellent. If you’re interested in my thoughts on the London startup scene, you may want to check out my previous articles on the topic in The Times and VC Cafe.