Mike Butcher believes that London’s tech scene has the ability not only to compete with the likes of Berlin and Stockholm, but to rival Silicon Valley. As editor-at-large of technology blog Techcrunch, Butcher has seen the capital’s tech hub around the so-called Silicon Roundabout at Old Street mature into a developed community, large enough to persuade Techcrunch to move its flagship conference from Berlin to London this year.
“Just the mere fact that Techcrunch is doing this [Disrupt] in London is a massive vote for the ecosystem here,” says Butcher. “London is such a great crossroads between Europe and Silicon Valley. We can bring over Valley investors and entrepreneurs very easily to London, they’re familiar with it and can do business while they're here, and they can also get a taste of the European scene.”
While London has yet to produce consumer-facing tech like Facebook, Google or Twitter, Butcher believes the capital has a stronghold in a number of niche fields in which startups here are excelling.
“London doesn’t have a Silicon Valley, we have multiple Silicon Valleys. There’s a potential Valley for design, fashion technology and wearables, we have a potential Silicon Valley in finance tech, we have another in music and media startups. London has an excellent ability to produce companies in these big verticals instead of trying to be the platform for social networks, which has been done elsewhere.”
This week Disrupt will highlight many of these niches, showcasing startups that are pioneering in their fields and hosting panels to discuss the latest financial technologies.
“It’ll be a major theme of the conference as it’s a strength that London plays to very well, with something like 44,000 people employed in fintech within 25 miles of the capital,” says Butcher. While Butcher adds that Disrupt can’t solve all of London’s challenges, it will showcase why it’s easier than ever to start a tech business here. “Whether it’s access to early stage funding or the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme which has been a great shot in the arm for angel investors, all of these we’ll be highlighting.”