Techcrunch Disrupt: Let the (tech startup) battle commence

Oliver Smith
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MG Siegler, of Google Ventures, is looking to invest millions in London’s startups
European tech startups, including two teams from London, went head-to-head yesterday in the first round of a battle at Disrupt, one of Silicon Valley’s biggest annual tech conferences, which is currently in London for the first time.
London startups Lobster – an online marketplace for regular people to licence their photos and videos – and Giftgaming – a service that allows advertisers to gift virtual currencies or coupons to players in a game – pitched against 12 other early startups for the chance to win £30,000.
The competition, which continues today, took place in Old Billingsgate Market in front of an audience of 1,500 of the top European and US investors and entrepreneurs.
This morning five startups will be selected to compete in the final round of the Battlefield at Techcrunch competition starting at 11.30am.
The first day of Disrupt yesterday also featured talks from partners at Google’s investment arm Ventures, which recently set up its European office in London. “We didn't want to create a minor league team to the US Google Ventures team,” said Google Ventures’ general partner for Europe MG Siegler. “But of course things are going to be different here.”
While Google’s European investment fund is significantly smaller than its $300m US fund, the search giant made a move to show its commitment to Europe by boosting the fund from $100m to $120m. It also told the Evening Standard that it is already on the way to investing in a London startup.


Guy Levin, a former Whitehall special adviser, was upbeat yesterday about the support that politicians are giving the digital economy. “At the Conservative party conference we had our first win with the announcement of a review of the so-called sharing economy [changes caused by new apps like Airbnb, Uber and Taskrabbit] – which was one of our recommendations in the Startup Manifesto,” Levin told City A.M. He also welcomed Disrupt for its ability to shine a light on the great work being done in London around the tech communities here: “Disrupt shows London is the centre of Europe for innovation and startups. You’ve got the leading venture capitalists, big startups with big digital successes, as well as a host of smaller companies you have never heard of, who are just setting out into the world.” Levin is executive director of policy group Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec) which launched the so-called Startup Manifesto earlier this year, calling for more governmental help to boost the sector.


The departing European Commissioner was in a bullish mood when speaking to City A.M. about the continent’s telecoms groups yesterday. The Dutch politician said the three men who will succeed her from 1 November will be faced with a number of challenges – not only pushing through the single European telecoms market proposal but also dealing with big data, online privacy and the issues surrounding that. She also believes that while European telecoms will consolidate, it will remain a competitive market: “I think that you should give opportunities to consolidate, but it’s not up to the Commission and governments to push for consolidation. But if the market is run without borders, of course there will be consolidation. And still there will be niches – there are enough players in the market who will take care of that.” She urged Europe to accept the single European telecoms market, with all the proposals in that legislation. As well as “giving opportunities for out of the box thinking”.

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