It is more than a little tempting to think at the moment that nothing in Britain works very well. Anybody with tickets to the Rolling Stones or the cricket in Headingley next week will face a rail strike, families looking to get away for a well-deserved break will need to carry a week’s supplies just to get through security, and getting on the phone to any kind of customer service agent feels positively Sisyphean.
It’s a good job, then, that Tech Week – the capital’s celebration of all things digital – to remind us that despite the best efforts of our government and our unions, London still has a unique ability to develop new technology and businesses at a dizzying pace.
At the heart of London’s tech success, for all of its image, is cut-throat competition. One CEO of a listed company told a City A.M. reporter last week that London was the best place in the world because it was the most competitive place in the world, and along with New York he may well be right.
The tech scene is so successful perhaps because the competition is so fierce and because the risk appetite and more specifically the potential reward is there for investors.
Move fast and break things was a famed slogan of the original online disrupter, Google, but many of the UK’s best new companies live and breathe the same ethos.
And best of all, new, digitally enabled entrants are making our older businesses better. Insurance start-ups are forcing established players to up their game. Fintechs disrupting cross-border payments have forced our biggest lenders to become more nimble. Even tech-enabled retail investor platforms have forced stockbrokers and analysts to drive up standards. This week will be a celebration of the best of British business – innovative, competitive, and ultimately benefitting not just the founders and investors but the consumer.
If the tech companies could turn their attention to air and rail travel next, we’ll have something else to celebrate.