London is already the financial capital of Europe, and now the current government is pushing for it to become the technology capital of the continent as well. In fact, some of the journalists are already talking about London increasingly becoming a threat to Silicon Valley, but I think we are still very far from there.
While the Silicon Roundabout is no Silicon Valley it is definitely ahead of many other places. And this is evident in the effort that the government is putting in making East London the tech city, the various startups that have been created here, the various incubators that have sprung up and the numerous tech networking events that are held here every week.
I have attended a few of these startups events till now, and must say that though London is no Silicon Valley the spirit of entrepreneurship here is really commendable. You can feel the enthusiasm and the hunger to do something in people who attend these events. Having said that, there are some problems as well because of which, in my view, these events are not able to cover that last mile in promoting the London startup ecosystem -
- Few developers, mostly business and marketing guys - One of the key problems that I, and many others that I have talked to, have noticed is that these events are mostly full of business and marketing guys and do not have many developers. So while these events are good for meeting other people and finding out what others are working on, if you are looking for a techie that you can employ or partner with to start your own thing, good luck with that. In fact, I have yet to come across an event where the techies outnumber business guys.
- Focus on apps, not creating a business around it - Probably the most disappointing and common thing that I have found in startup pitches in these events is that a lot of them are just about apps, and not really about products and businesses. While I have seen some good products and good potential businesses in these pitches, a lot of people have developed something just to put it out there. I have met a lot of "entrepreneurs" who have created apps and started calling their venture a startup, while it is no more than just another software application. Not that I am against or do not believe in serendipitous entrepreneurship, but I am sure you will understand if I become skeptical when a lot of people start trying out their luck. That is how - at the risk of being topical - bubbles form.
- Too much networking - Networking is good, I agree. But I also believe that there is something called too much networking or unnecessary networking. There are so many networking events for tech entrepreneurs every week here in London that attending them can pretty much become a part-time job. This makes it imperative that people choose the events they need to attend wisely. I have even met people here that attend these networking sessions so much that they have almost formed a group and discuss the next networking event they are going to attend in almost every event that they do. Some people might find that okay, but if I have to choose between creating a better product and over-networking, I will chose the former.
Problems aside, meeting people, visiting events and sitting through pitches, I have become a big believer in London and in the fact that will become, if it has not already, one of the greatest centers of entrepreneurship in the world. It has all the resources to make that happen: top financial institutions, some of the best educational institutions, top multinational companies, government support, patrons of art and culture in addition to finance and technology, and a multi-cultural and multi-national population. I guess now it is just about walking that last mile.