Why London’s entrepreneurs are increasingly looking to the East

LAST week was certainly a good one for the London technology scene. The first half saw TechCrunch Disrupt, Silicon Valley’s largest technology event, come to London for the first time. And this is just the latest event in a strong year for the London entrepreneur community; think of the Zoopla initial public offering, the launch of Google Ventures in London, or Google’s acquisition of UK businesses like Rangespan and Deep Mind. London has every reason to feel confident.

It’s unsurprising then that talk is increasingly turning international. For many entrepreneurs chasing big investment and new markets, the natural step has been West, towards Silicon Valley. But the capital’s entrepreneurs are increasingly looking elsewhere. Asia has long held the imaginations of both investors and entrepreneurs, who dream of its untapped possibilities, unparalleled population size and remarkable growth opportunities. What’s more, these are markets with an insatiable appetite for technological innovation.

Of course, Asian markets are often viewed as insular and difficult, with language and culture barriers, and a more protracted decision-making process. But times are changing, and Asian investors – excited by the technologies coming out of the UK – are increasingly looking to bridge the continents. Just look at the launch this week of Infocomm Investments, a state-funded Singapore venture capital firm in London. Infocomm was particularly drawn to the vibrant fintech scene in the capital – its first European investment is going towards a fintech accelerator, Startupbootcamp, which offers advice and resources to small businesses.

Japan is also an interesting frontier for London-based technology entrepreneurs and investors. In June 2014, DoCoMo Capital, the venture arm of Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo, invested in Shoreditch-based CertiVox’s web security technology – its first European investment. In Tokyo, there is major appetite from cash-rich corporations looking to invest in new technology and develop into global markets – just look at the likes of e-commerce giant Rakuten, which launched in the UK last week. It was with this in mind that Octopus Investments headed to Tokyo for a series of meetings with Japanese investors and business heads, like Recruit Holdings, which recently floated on the Tokyo Stock Exchange for $1.9bn (£1.2bn). The welcome was a warm one.

London’s technology sector is making waves around the world. Our financial heritage has resulted in a booming fintech scene. We’ve also seen breakthroughs in e-commerce, and our world-leading universities continually provide us with exciting deep science and technological talent. Now may be the time for London entrepreneurs to stop dreaming of California and start looking East.

Chris Wade is strategic adviser to Octopus Investments.

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