What with funding boosts, job fairs, and shared working spaces, East London’s Tech City is showing no signs of slowing in its quest to become the UK’s answer to ‘Silicon Valley’. But how likely is that REALLY to happen?
In a post on The Next Web last year, London tech scene veteran Steve Kennedy asked whether or not London’s Tech city could in fact ever rival Silicon Valley, eventually pointing to one key difference between the tech startup scenes in the US and the UK:
“The VC attitude in the UK is substantially different so that in the US, where companies are encouraged to try and, if they fail, try something else. While in the UK once you fail you’re marked for life. Getting finance in the UK is also much more difficult than the US and there may be many more conditions placed on getting the finance in the first place. The UK is based on old money and old processes which are hard to change, but maybe the emphasis on East London will somehow get the old city money into new startups as they’ll now be neighbours.”
A year on, Steve Kennedy has announced an event to try and get more money invested from the City (i.e. bankers) in local tech startups. “CityMeetsTech hopes to get high net-worth City bankers excited about investing in early stage tech startups”, says Kennedy. “This can kick-start the UK tech eco-system so we can genuinely match Silicon Valley. There have been a few successful exits from the UK, but money has generally been acquired from the US.”
CityMeetsTech is taking place on Thursday December 1st, at law firm Taylor Wessing‘s offices in London, who are co-sponsoring the event alongside DFJ Esprit. “We’re aiming for around 100 people from the City, and around 20 tech people who can be presentable and speak their language”, adds Kennedy.
So, the event aims to get potential investors from the City interested in tech in the first instance, with a view towards demonstrating that there can be successful exits and it can be “de-risked”, through initiatives such as the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), as well as highlighting that risks are an inherent part of the innovation process. The event hopes to raise interest initially for startups based in Tech City, and it’s hoped there will be more similar events to follow.
“Next year we’ll hold follow-up events where they can actually put money into something”, says Kennedy. “This could be straight-forward startup pitches, something like ‘UK AngelList’, or even introductions to existing investment vehicles, or maybe even setting up a fund.”
How did CityMeetsTech come to fruition? “The initial idea came about as I tried to get a friend, James Rowsell, who’s the former CEO of MF Global, involved in the technology scene”, says Kennedy. “He’s always said he doesn’t understand tech. But he happens to own a stud farm and races horses. I introduced him to Jason Trost of Smarkets, as I know he understands gambling. He said ‘great company’, to which I replied ‘that’s the most techie company you’re likely to see’, and he got it. Jason had mentioned that startups need more early stage investment from the City, because once you’ve got traction this can then progress to venture capitalists. That’s how it all began.”
An advisory panel was then set-up to set the wheel in motion, consisting of Steve Kennedy, James Rowsell, Jason Trost, Scott Sage (DFJ), Anil Hansjee (former Google M&A and partner at EQT), Glenn Shoothsmith (CEO BookingBug) and Sean Setton-Rogers (Profounders) to get things moving to where they are now.
At the event, there will be talks from Kulver Ranger (Mayor’s Director of Digital and Environment), Eric Van der Kleij (CEO Tech City investment organisation), and a panel chaired by Glenn Shoosmith consisting of Anil Hansjee, Jason Trost, Spencer Hyman (former COO of Last.fm, now CEO Artfinder), Tom Allason (sold eCourier to TNT, now CEO Shutl) and Simon Cooke (DFJ).
The event will conclude with a 15-minute talk by a representative from Taylor Wessing, on the tax advantages of investing in startups.
Although the event is aimed primarily at CEOs and big-wigs from the City, there is space for entrepreneurs, angel investors and such like, so you can contact them if you’re keen to attend. You can see the full schedule for yourself here.