London Tech Week: Much more than bearded coders working in coffee shops

Russ Shaw
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The size and scale of London's technology sector is bigger than ever (Source: Getty)

London Technology Week aims to turn the eyes of the world onto the UK capital’s thriving digital industry, celebrating the diversity of specialisms, expertise and talent in the city.

At the first of 400 events, expected to be attended by 43,000 people over the next five days, the formal launch achieved just that.

Fashion tech entrepreneurs, innovative university labs and corporate giants came together to discuss the creative collisions that emerge in the dense melting pot of London’s technology sector.

Rather than bearded coders working in coffee shops, technology is now defined by software development taking place in or alongside corporate innovation programmes. The results are incredible – from Formula One technology being applied to product manufacturing or sensors to clothing.

This theme has been immediately apparent from the first day of London Technology Week, with convergence being emphasised this morning by Eileen Burbidge at the London & launch event to collaboration between startups and corporates being encouraged at the TLA Women in Tech Market Open at the London Stock Exchange.

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This potential for cross-pollination is truly capturing the imagination of global markets. I spoke this afternoon at the InvestHK London Technology Week event, where investors from one of the world’s fastest growing markets gained insights into the digital ecosystem that has been created in London.

The result of this ecosystem is an environment uniquely conducive in Europe to the acceleration of fast-growth tech companies. GP Bullhound’s annual European Unicorns report, released on Monday, shows 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.

The details of the GP Bullhound research are worth examining. Not only is Europe continuing to produce tech companies with a valuation that competes with tech hubs around the world, but they are underpinned by profitability and serious revenue generation. European tech companies are valued at only 18 times their revenue generation, compared to 46 times in the US. Questions around a new tech bubble are deserved worldwide, but not in Europe. London is a perfect example of a tech landscape where sustainable growth is possible.

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Many founders from these businesses were at the London Tech Ambassador Reception on Monday evening at the Tower of London. Hosted by London & Partners, UBM and Tech City UK, this was an opportunity to celebrate success stories such as Funding Circle, Farfetch and Blippar in the capital’s most iconic location.

Every day this week I will providing an overview of the key themes and events taking place during London Technology Week. As I look ahead there will be many more moments when the strengths of the capital’s digital industry will be highlighted, but also times when we will be required to take a very frank look at the challenges entrepreneurs still face – from diversity, access to talent and funding.

My hope is the world’s investors appreciate the depth of quality within London’s fastest growing industry, and recognise a private sector united in trying to create the very best environment for long-term growth.

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