Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, brings you the highlights from London Tech Week 2016.
Convergence, fashtech and unicorns – London Technology Week 2016 has been and gone.
Bigger and bolder than before, 400 events and 43,000 attendees celebrated the very best of London’s digital industry.
In 2014, tech entrepreneurs joined Boris Johnson and Michael Bloomberg in Central Working for the inaugural London Technology Week. What began as an experiment has ended in an international celebration of London technology.
We proved that high profile entrepreneurs and community events can showcase startups to international investors and build on our excellent technology brand.
Whilst it can’t take all the credit for the record levels of investment, world-class businesses and highly skilled talent, the city’s tech sector now produces very good results.
In terms of size and scale, few tech events can match London’s digital festival.
‘Home of the unicorn’
The result is an ecosystem capable of producing globally competitive tech success stories. This was best demonstrated by GP Bullhound in their annual European Unicorns report.
The research showed that 18 of Europe 47’s billion-dollar digital startups are now based in the UK, with London clearly the home of the unicorn in Europe.
As ever, amidst the keynote speeches, debates and discussions this week, key themes have emerged – from emerging specialisms to challenges yet to be addressed, all taking place in the shadow of the threat, and then the reality, of Brexit.
There have been some obvious standout moments. Ed Vaizey, Digital Minister, took his first Instagram at the official launch and Baroness Oona King gave an impassioned plea for greater diversity in tech with the Tech London Advocates Women in Tech at the London Stock Exchange market opening.
Industry experts have come out in support of London’s fastest growing new tech specialisms: 300 people came to City Hall to discuss the opportunities around Health Tech within the NHS and events were held for creative tech, retail tech, data tech and IoT to name just a few.
London’s position as a beating heart of the global digital community was exemplified by international delegates and spokespeople: the Permanent Secretary for Singapore attended London Technology Week events, and there were specific gatherings for the Nordics, China and Africa.
The launch of TLA Australia and New Zealand and the TLA Austin Chapter showed that London tech is continuing to foster international relationships with advanced economies.
Diversity in tech
But London Technology Week 2016 has also acted as a reminder that we can’t afford to allow complacency to replace innovation and growth.
Diversity was a key topic of conversation, with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, calling for greater inclusion as a means to both bring the opportunities tech holds to Londoners, but also to unlock creativity and innovation within businesses.
Computer Weekly celebrated the top 50 women in tech in a stirring event that called on all tech professionals to raise their game and tap into unrealized potential by increasing diversity.
The winner, Maggie Philbin, who leads Teen Tech, knows this very well.
‘A global tech hub’
This week showed that London tech is no longer just reaching for the top, we have established London as a very important global tech hub.
The referendum has resulted in new threats and challenges, but we saw during this past week how many hurdles we have already overcome as an industry.
London has rocketed from an unknown factor to a leading player on the global tech stage in less than a decade.
We now have a responsibility to fight even harder for this position of leadership with an inclusive agenda, and Tech London Advocates will be leading this fight. Our journey continues.