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Celebrating London’s Tech Hub - The IPA reviews London Technology Week

The second London Technology Week launched in style at Level 22 at The Shard last Monday morning, 15 June, with hundreds of people and a buzz of excitement. The IPA was there in force, represented by Janet Hull and Nigel Gwilliam from the IPA itself, Lawrence Weber from Karmarama, and Paul Mead from VCCP Media.

Setting the scene

First up to report on London’s success was Sir Ed Lister, Deputy Mayor, Policy and Planning for London.

There are now 40,000 companies in the tech space in London, employing over 200,000 people. The narrow definition of Tech City as an East of London phenomenon is now spreading to encompass the whole of the City. For years, London was dependent on financial services. While this is as big as ever, tech is catching up fast. This encompasses kinds of tech: financial, retail, creative, health…every sector is being transformed and London is at the heart of it.

London Technology Week is the brainchild of London & Partners, UBM, Excel Live and Tech London Advocates. Over 40,000 people attended in 2014, and the same number or more are participating in 2015. This year there are 210 confirmed events, 1000 international delegates and 12 delegations including from the Middle East, Malaysia, Australia, Jordan and China.

Why London?

Chaired by Bindi Karia of Silicon Valley Beach, the Why London session included Dan Cobley, formely ofCapital One and Google, now running FinTech start-up Brightbridge Ventures; Russ Shaw, founder,Tech London Advocates; Mark Gregory, Chief Economist at EY; and Manish Madhvani, Co-Founder of Investment Capital Fund GP Bullhound.

Between them they made the case for London as a thriving all-tech cluster gaining momentum globally. Its fantastic heritage created a unique DNA for FinTech, CreativeTech, RetailTech, HealthTech and CyberTech.

According to Dan Cobley, London's FinTech sector is twice the size of Germany and three times the size of France.

Manish Madhvani announced the findings of his new report on the European scene entitled ‘The European Unicorn’; a league table of 50 tech companies with valuations above or around the $1bn mark. 17 were from the UK and 13 in London. Of the 13 new ‘Unicorns’, 8 were from the UK, including Just Eat, Zoopla and Funding Circle.

Obstacles to London’s continued success

According to the panel, the main issue for London was not starting up, but scaling up. There was a need to keep the talent pipeline coming through; the funding going, and to develop London’s infrastructure - to become a gigabyte city, with first class transport links and co-working property and space.

Dan Cobley observed that one of the huge untapped assets of London was its intellectual capital. 30% of the world’s international postgraduates study in London, a massive statistic when you consider that London represents only 1% of the world’s population. But most of them leave because of visa restrictions. Dan pleaded for a change to the rules to let them stay.

In Manish Madhvani’s view, London also needed to reset its ambition level when it came to investing in tech start-ups. His research showed that it takes $140 million of investment to create a $ 1 billion Unicorn business.

London is rightfully proud that is has created 40 Unicorns with a total valuation of $12bn. But these pale into insignificance alongside the scale of upstart Uber, valued at $40bn; or Facebook, now valued at $230bn.

Top four priorities for London

Summing up, the top four priorities identified by the panel were:

  • Connect London to other tech hubs; like Bangalore, Tel Aviv and China
  • Celebrate what we do well; get better at promoting ourselves
  • Connect better with the rest of the economy; tech is relevant to all sectors and all cities
  • Raise London’s financial ambitions to the next level

London success stories

The second panel introduced three UK Unicorns to demonstrate what success looked like.

John Hughes, Just Eat

Now 13 years old, Just Eat came over to London from Denmark in 2006. Since then it has been through three rounds of financing and an IPO. It has risen from a valuation of £30 million in the early years, to an IPO of £1.5 billion. And John was keen to point out that this was just the beginning.

Ambarish Mitra, Blippar

Augmemted reality firm Blippar is just 3.5 years old. It started in London but is now in 11 cities worldwide and employs 250 people. It is used by over 250 brands and 86 publishers. Blippar now features on 12 billion products, and 100 million pages of publishing. It is this advocacy that is enabling Blippar to accelerate growth so quickl

Samir Desai, Funding Circle

Funding Circle is 6 years old. It provides an online marketplace to lend money direct to small businesses. It is now the fourth largest net new lender to small businesses in the UK.

To find out more about how your business can access finance to start-up, scale-up or sell-up, join Creative England, Creative City Partnership and the IPA on the 24th June in Birmingham, for an evening event at the Hippodrome. For more information, click here.

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