UK tech start-ups: the beginning of a revolution?
As part of their Business Insights Series, Imperial College invited Tech City Chief Executive and ex-Facebook VP, Joanna Shields, to discuss entrepreneurship and its importance in the development of economic growth in the UK.
Shields left Facebook at the end of 2012 to play an integral part in the build of the East London’s Silicon Roundabout. Previous to Facebook, Joanna held board level positions at leading companies such as Google, AOL and Bebo.
Tech City is a government project started by David Cameron in 2011 with the aim of accelerating innovation in the tech start-up community. Under the scheme, new companies will receive the help and support they need in order to expand internationally. A great focus has also been placed on bringing in direct foreign investment.
Joanna’s inspiration and passion helped a full amphitheatre dream about life in a start-up world: “What’s out there is incredible. I get Goosebumps just thinking about the potential for all of you. There’s never been a better time to ‘start-up’ in London.” Shields said, adding that in terms of tax policies and investment schemes to help support entrepreneurs, the UK has by far the best package in the world.
An example of this is ‘Tax Box’, in which product developers are able to make up to £10 million in profits before paying any tax. Additionally, distances between political, financial and tech centres in London are incredibly small, compared to the US.
“There’s a movement happening across the UK. Not a day goes by where I don’t hear about tech clusters forming. We need digital skills across the board – coding is not the absolute solution. There’s a need for all kind of professions, engineers, marketers, strategy execs, to build successful start-ups. By democratising the tools and processes for starting a new business, a lot of great ideas will come to the market and as a result, jobs will be created, youth unemployment will be tackled and economy will grow.” She said.
But Shields was clear to point out the noticeable lack of inspiring and positive attitude in UK. “Entrepreneurs aren’t as valid and admired as TV stars or music idols. Shouldn’t we celebrate talented people who create jobs through innovation and entrepreneurship? In the US, Mark Zuckerberg is a celebrity and a role model. Let’s make Summly, Makie Lab and Mind Candy heroes…”
The inspirational talk couldn’t have ended better as Shields posed the question: “What’s your quest?” She added that the next big thing could come from you. Sometimes great ideas need to wait for the market to be ready and sometimes ideas fail, but so what? Dust yourself off and start again.