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Private sector must do more to drive Tech City growth

Russ Shaw

Russ ShawRuss Shaw believes the private sector must drive growth in Tech City

I’m unashamedly positive about the way London is handling its tech scene.

People often forget Silicon Valley has been around for 75 years, so we’re already off to a great start.

There are issues that need addressing, so I recently launched an advocacy group called Tech London Advocates. ‘TLA’ is a private sector led group of senior leaders who are eager to promote and build a vibrant and robust London technology

Leadership from the private sector

There needs to be more private sector leadership to drive the growth of London’s tech sector.

The government has done an excellent job raising awareness and getting things organised. From TCIO to UKTI to the Mayor’s Office and organisations like London & Partners, we have strong support from the government and not-for-profit sector.

My strong belief is that the growth of tech in London (and across the UK) will need to be driven and sustained by the private sector.

The concerns that I have raised around later-stage capital and the talent required to run later-stage businesses must be addressed by the private sector.

If you look at places like Silicon Valley, NYC and Tel Aviv, there is government promotion, but the activity is largely driven from the private sector.

Time to connect the dots

We have all the right ‘ingredients’ in London to make it a success (which may not be the case in SV or NYC). What is needed now is more ‘connecting the dots’ across the broad tech ecosystem.

Our advocates are not only based in London, they are across the UK and ‘Overseas Advocates’ in the US, Mexico, Europe, China, Korea and Hong Kong. All of them believe in building a world-leading digital and tech sector for London.

The focus for the Advocates is to promote London’s tech scene when speaking at events, blogging, doing interviews, etc. In addition, Advocates have all agreed to help address some of the key challenges on the horizon. We all appreciate that it will take many years to do this, but the commitment is really there.

London’s two biggest challenges

From an advocacy perspective, I am focusing Tech London Advocates on two important areas: 1) capital and 2) talent.

There is good momentum behind the early stage side of tech in London. Lots of promising startups. A deep pool of angel investors. Many great incubators like Seedcamp, Springboard, TechStars and Innovation Warehouse.

The growth of tech in London (and across the UK) will need to be driven and sustained by the private sector

As some of these startups move from early to later-stage, there is a concern from the Advocates that the later-stage capital and funding is not as robust as it needs to be. The talent required to run later-stage high growth businesses also calls for a deep base of skilled individuals who understand how to run businesses and grow them.

Tech London Advocates are now coming together to form working groups to address some of these issues. For example, a working group, which addresses talent and immigration restrictions, has just been formed and is about to do some fact-finding on the issue, which it will then share with the rest of the Advocates.

Every Advocate at launch on 18th April was asked to bring on board one new Advocate before we come together again in the Autumn; these Advocates should mainly come from FTSE250, large international businesses, hedge funds, institutional investors and more.

Watch the launch video

Taking the journey further

My aim is to have Tech London Advocates complement the many initiatives that are being driven by the government. Organisations like TCIO are building excellent awareness of Tech City (and I don’t believe their PR is raising rents in parts of Tech City as was reported recently). Having a supportive government will greatly help.

But, ultimately, this is a journey that must be driven by the private sector.

The capital and talent issues that I have mentioned must be resolved through the private sector. This is capitalism at its best, and a vibrant tech sector in London will be the result.

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