Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 5am

Unicorns and More at London Technology Week Launch

London Tech Week

‘Working shoulder to shoulder with unicorns’ isn’t just make-believe jargon at the 2015 London Technology Week launch at The Shard; it’s an alluring promise that illustrates the buzz and opportunity for tech graduates and MBAs in the UK’s capital city. London Technology Week is a week-long celebration of the capital’s technology sector which currently employs nearly 200,000 people and runs through June 19.

The ‘unicorns’ in this instance are what they’re calling the US$1bn+ companies which grew from humble startup roots and are exactly the type of business many of Old Street’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’ startups are hoping to become.

A total of 13 European tech companies became ‘unicorns’ in the last year, with eight coming from the UK according to a recent research report from GP Bullhound, which values European ‘unicorns’ at an average of $3bn each. While the number of US$1bn+ companies in London may seem proportionally impressive, sights are set on growth with the launch of sites like Tech.London: a new collaboration between IBM, the mayor of London’s office and Gust.com which lists news, jobs, courses and events for the startup community and aims to continuously support the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Mayor of London cites infrastructure improvement as key

London has cemented its position as the most important tech hub in Europe in terms of number of international tech investment projects according to EY research, but improvement to infrastructure and connectivity across the capital are still priorities according to mayor of London, Boris Johnson, five years after he and the UK prime minister, David Cameron launched the Tech City initiative – formalizing the organic tech cluster around the Silicon Roundabout.

The office of the mayor of London in collaboration with some of the world’s tech giants like Amazon, Google, IBM were joined on June 15 by startups like Just Eat, Blippar and Funding Circle to discuss the challenges, success and the future of the tech scene. London as a location for global business seems like a no-brainer for some but it isn’t without its own set of challenges and one which came up often today was access to top talent when growing a startup into a medium or large-sized business.

Technology giant Amazon’s recent London HQ move from Slough to London’s city center illustrates just this; the main reason for the investment into their new offices in and around Shoreditch was to attract top-talent and they knew it was where they needed to be. “We now have in excess of 2,000 permanent employees based in London in addition to the thousands of permanent employees in our UK fulfilment and customer service centers across the UK,” said Christopher Noth, managing director of Amazon UK, who then went on to discuss that their top-choice for MBA recruitment comes locally from London Business School.  “The building of our new office in Shoreditch is a further illustration of the important role that London and the UK will play in our global operations.” 

Schools like Imperial College gives London unique ecosystem

In terms of future-planning, Gordon Innes, chief executive of London & Partners, the mayor’s promotional company for London, expressed his hopes that we will see computer coding being taught as a second language in schools to better prepare students for graduate employment. Additionally, Ambarish Mitra from Blippar, an augmented reality startup, shared that being based in the ecosystem of London allows them to grow by recruiting grads from Imperial College and Cambridge, also working with professors to address their needs for technical engineers. Remarks like these were repeated in several panels alongside the need to address visa regulations for importing candidates from abroad, demonstrating strongly the demand for specialized top-talent directly from UK institutions as well as highly-qualified international applicants.

The number of companies in London’s digital technology sector has grown 46% since 2010 according to Oxford Economics, with many businesses citing London’s location as an ideal one for international commerce. Technology and engineering grads, as well as MBAs, should be well-poised to take advantage of the growth in this sector via London’s latest startups and the increased attention from some of Europe’s leading ‘unicorns’.

For more information on London Technology Week events, visit the official website.

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Senior marketing manager - Asia Pacific at QS.

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