I’ve just returned from London Tech Week and, as always, it was an inspiring week filled with interesting conversations with smart people from around the world.
Here are my brief observations and musings:
Brexit is on everyone’s mind, but things will be OK. Londoners were clearly stunned by the result of the 2016 referendum (young London professionals voted overwhelmingly to remain) and the tech community in particular worries that Brexit will put a dampener on their thriving ecosystem. But there’s plenty of reason for optimism. Last year there was almost £3 billion in venture capital investment in London – twice the previous year. And that’s post Brexit referendum, so clearly investors haven’t been spooked. At the LeadersIn Tech Summit on the first day of the week, venture capitalist Saul Klein presented data showing that in 2017, London firms raised more significantly more capital than any other European city. So while Brexit does still loom large, the London tech scene seems to have overwhelming momentum right now (see more data).
There were themes of inclusivity everywhere. Perhaps because they are worried about the perception of Brexit (or perhaps because they want to capitalize on the perception of Trump) every presentation that I went to seemed to emphasize that London is open to all and that London tech companies value diversity and inclusivity. It’s refreshing and invigorating to hear.
Fintech continues to rule the roost. Almost half the 2017 venture capital in London (£1.34 billion) went to Fintech startups, and London continues to be the global leader in financial services technology.
The emphasis on AI is growing. The number of AI-focused startups in London is second only to Fintech. There are currently 745 companies in London developing AI-related technology (view data) and the city is way out in front as Europe’s leader in artificial intelligence (and globally is second only to Silicon Valley).
Talent is tight. I’m a Silicon Valley guy, so I’m used to hearing companies complain about how difficult the recruiting market is but I was struck by how many execs I talked with in London who said that being able to hire is a significant barrier to growth for them. It’s a very difficult hiring market (which is one of the reasons why Brexit still worries them).
Open Innovation is definitely flourishing. There’s a real emphasis within the London tech culture of sharing and cooperation. Unlike some second-tier centers of innovation I’ve visited where everyone is very secretive, London’s tech scene is all about openness and collaboration, which I personally enjoy (and think yields better innovation results for all).
It was a great week. I was fortunate enough to give a keynote about innovation at the LeadersIn Tech Summit on the first day, and enjoyed spending the whole rest of the week immersed in one of the world’s most vibrant centers of innovation, hanging out with a bunch of really smart people who are changing the world.