Written by Michael House
If anyone’s told you over the last 12 months that London’s tech scene is in danger of taking a dip post-Brexit, you would have been well advised to send them down to Here East in Stratford yesterday.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs, tech heavyweights and ‘all stage’ investors gathered for the London Tech Advocates (LTA) Investor Showcase. It was a strong signal that our capital’s tech scene ain’t going anywhere. This was a message confirmed at the start of the event by LTA Founder Russ Shaw, who revealed that the organisation’s membership has grown to over 4,000 since its inception.
With such a sense of optimism, a month out from London Tech Week, it was somewhat fitting, that unbeknownst to most people at the event, SoftBank was crossing ‘Ts’ and dotting ‘Is’ on its latest massive investment in a British firm. The news broke at dawn that VR start-up, Improbable, had joined the Japanese VC’s stable.
It was, for me, a roar of warning to any other city looking to challenge our tech standing at the top of the tree.
Not lying down
After nearly 12 months of listening to Brexit doom, gloom and anxiety, it was refreshing to be at an event that was brimming with optimism. Every single panel I listened to inevitably came back to the ‘B-Word’, but each time was met with a fantastic attitude from participants. What was really refreshing was the ‘can do’ attitude from the panellists this considering that (I’d bet) most of them voted Remain last June.
There was no ‘re-moaning’, only solutions.
Saul Klein from Index Ventures, was particularly inspiring. He pointed out the hunger that exists here in London – predicting that the next 20 years will see the tech space ascend new heights. He pointed to new opportunities based on historic links with the likes of Africa (where mobile growth far outstrips any other continent on earth), Asia and the Middle East. He also highlighted that fact that the UK is the only country in the G8 with Tech Nation and Entrepreneur visas.
He summed it up perfectly, when he said: “Entrepreneurs are used to dealing with risk and uncertainty. There’s more chance of failing because of a fallout with a co-founder than the UK leaving the EU. People are still excited by the UK tech scene and despite Brexit we are all hell bent on making it a success.”
Klein also directed us to the growing successes we have in London – Deliveroo and TransferWise to name a couple. This success, experience and confidence, he said would trickle down and change the very fabric of the tech sector.
Important to be cautious
But it wasn’t all just bullish optimism and never say die attitudes. There was also acknowledgement that Brexit won’t all be plain sailing for London technologists and a level of caution is needed.
For instance – talent (despite the afore mentioned visa schemes) is still a major worry – especially in light of a potential drain on EU workers. More must be done to ensure this flow can continue – as well as proper investment at a grass roots level to ensure a new generation of UK workers is properly equipped.
There was also reference to global powerhouses of old – Rome and Athens for instance. This, a panellist said, was important for London to remember, and should be a solid incentive for the Government not to be complacent that everything will remain hunky dory, without the continued investment.
For me, the event was a great showcase of a thriving British tech scene. A sector where investment still remains strong (and perhaps not as over-hyped as other regions). It was an opportunity for us to tell the world that people still want to come here to create the next big thing. But most of all it showed the opportunity that exists for investors and founders alike, in what I consider to be the greatest city in the world.
I fully buy into what Saul Klein believes and look forward to watching the next 20 years unfold, technology wise.