Last week we entertained the Traveling Geeks here in London on their week-long mission to share knowledge and ideas.
Our roundtables took place at The Globe theatre where we explored trends, challenges and common issues experienced by internet-focused companies on both sides of the Atlantic.
Much is made of the physical and cultural gulf between Silicon Valley and everywhere else. Even in the US there is a marked difference between those tech companies that inhabit The Valley, and everyone else. So Europe, and specifically London, must be totally alien, right?
Actually no, if you you listen to craigslist founder Craig Newmark, who says there are more similarities than differences. He also learned a thing or two about the local vernacular while in town:
There remain a few differences. Craig’s comments about the lack of stigma associated with failure in Silicon Valley are accurate in part, though a healthy fear of failing is no bad thing, in my book. However this mindset relates to the large funding cloud that surrounds Silicon Valley. After all, it is much easier to take risks with somebody else’s money. In Europe, VC and angel money flows at a slower pace, and I think that’s one reason why some entrepreneurs take a more prudent approach to risk, and why failure is perceived slightly differently.
That said, this stigma about failure is just a mentality thing. It’s relatively easy to change your mentality. But it’s much harder to engender an amazing physical support network such as there is in San Francisco.
Yet, despite rumours to the contrary, London itself is a thriving technology hub with a real offline scene for those who want it. It is very much a hybrid of New York and Silicon Valley. Maybe we don’t do the offline networking thing as much as we should, but there’s an internet-related event on pretty much every day in London.
I guess Craig’s point about the “culture of collaboration” is something that we can learn from, as occasionally you come across insular, impenetrable cliques that are at odds to their beautifully open webby creations. This is something we can get better at.
The European startup scene has taken a few knocks in the past week, but there really is plenty to talk about here. The point at which you judge a startup is open to debate. Can a pureplay internet company be considered a failure if it doesn’t make money? Or just when / if it dies? Obviously the latter is a bona fide FAIL situation, and I for one think businesses should make money, but that’s what VCs are for… to provide funds to take you to break even and beyond, and to support ambition, (measured) risk-taking, and so on. A number of startups will always fail. It’s the nature of the beast.
But here in London there is more to life than startups. The rate of innovation among the non-startups is astonishing, as Marko from lastminute (officially no longer a startup!) demonstrated by showing Robert Scoble a very sexy iPhone app. There are numerous other examples, a number of which are featured in our regularly updated Innovation Report.
The established brands, especially those in the travel and retail sectors, are doing some amazing things. They engender talent. There are some very smart people now firmly ensconced in the web teams set up by the larger companies. We remain tuned in… particularly as this year’s innovation awards loom ever larger on our horizon.
At any rate, it was good to meet some of the more well-known names in internetland as well as seeing some familiar faces. Those who attended the roundtables seemed to enjoy them, at least judging by Jim Sterne’s blog post, and David Bird’s for that matter.
The lovely Susan Bratton took a bunch of pictures of the event, which you can see here:
We look forward to doing this again – preferably in San Francisco next time – and to forging further relationships with our counterparts in the US.
On that note, our New York office – headed up by Rebecca Lieb – will be coordinating roundtables in the US so keep an eye out for those. There’s also our inaugural Peer Summit event that takes place in New York in October (registration now open, and some great names already coming along). A posse of UK-based Econsultancy staffers will be flying out for that event. We love New York and are looking forward to meeting a bunch of industry people for the first time.