London, January 2016
By Maya Plentz
Business Insider UK celebrated London’s tech with a list of its 100 top influencers. This is the second year that the American business, celebrity, and tech news website publishes the list. Last year there were only 50 on the list. 2016 brings that number to 100. And while there are hundreds more that make London’s tech ecosystem tick, those who made the list this year are la creme de la creme in venture capital raised and policy-making influence.
You missed it? Here is a recap of the evening.
As I walked in I saw Passion Capital’s Eileen Burbidge, who was appointed Chair of Tech City UK in the Fall of 2015, where she works alongside CEO Gerard Grech (who also made the #UKTech100 list) to shape policy for the sector – working directly with government representatives and leaders in the digital economy.
Created in 2010 to make London relevant for tech companies and venture capital, Tech City UK’s mission now is also to grow digital clusters across the whole of the UK.
Burbidge is a founding partner of early stage venture capital firm Passion Capital, which has invested in high-profile startups such as GoCardless, Smarkets, and Thread,
and was appointed to the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group as well as the UK Government’s Special Envoy for Fintech.
Was about to speak with her when I saw Julian Childs, MD of Business Insider UK, who had invited me to greet and meet the 2016 Business Insider UK Tech 100. A turn to one side and I spot Neil Murray of Nordic Web chatting with Alice Bentinck of Entrepreneur First, she is also on the #UKTech100 list with her co-founder Matt Clifford. Bentinck and Clifford are co-founders of an accelerator that focuses on young, fresh out-of-college entrepreneurs.
They raised £9.1 million in 2015 to expand their program. To date EF has helped the 37 companies hatched under their guidance to raise more than £40 million with a total valuation of £150 million.
Then a quick chat with Jessica Butcher, CMO and co-Founder of Blippar, the augmented reality startup that is advancing visual search and has moved its research team to Mountain View, to focus on AI, machine learning being the sector du jour – and Silicon Valley holds sway.
Blippar allows users to search based on image recognition. It creates unparalleled opportunities for content. Image recognition software is not new, but the way that Blippar is approaching it is.
The applications are multiple: from advertising to integrated, contextual, learning experiences. There is more to come and we are catching up with her soon to find out more, at our upcoming Tech Tastes Wine.
A step further in the room and I see Uber’s Harry Porter having a chat with Eventbrite’s founder Renaud Visage, both made the list too and for good reason. Eventbrite is going strong even as the event management software space continues to be nibbled away by new entrants every week. Uber continues its relentless expansion, tweaking delivery of services and training of drivers, improving outreach to disgruntled cabbies, and doing everything right to accommodate policy and regulators in London and the world.
I spoke with Porter about wine and Tech Tastes Wine and he proudly pulled out Vivino, saying it was the second best app he had in his iPhone. After Uber, of course. We chatted with Ruth Barnett of Second Home fame and more, one of the earliest movers and shakers in the ecosystem.
We digged in the Second Home expansion on sight, finding the right MD to launch in Lisbon in May, architects, and how Portugal seemed the natural fit, with a vibrant ecosystem and a more welcoming cost-of-living for startups at seed and pre-seed levels.
Somewhere I have a very dark, flashless, picture of Uber’s Harry Porter having a chat with Twitter’s Bruce Daisley. Maybe I will rescue it. Hang on.
I had a great chat with Robert Small, founder and CEO of Miniclip. Miniclip is a game juggernaut now translated in 17 languages. Rob also made the list. He started Miniclip on his college dorm 15 years ago with £40,000 and the app has now more than a half billion downloads. Tencent recently acquired a majority stake in the company. We spoke about the Chinese market, the cultural contrasts, and the sheer scale of things in urban centers in China.
In spite of economic contraction news and the gloom and doom we see reported in the media these days we agreed that there is no lack of appetite in entrepreneurs who look at the long run stretch to tackle going to market in China. In particular when one remembers that China’s current middle class is equivalent to the size of the entire US population.
I reminisced about e-gov startups with Michael Nahoum from YouGov.com and told him that I had left Bloomberg TV to join the darling of Wall Street in 2000, govWorks.com – the coolest startup in the e-gov sector then (we made Forbes Best of the Web for content).
Had a moment of nostalgia thinking about how good using the Bloomberg terminal was for writing quickly and accurately news stories with Laurie Benson, who launched her business consultancy in London in 2013 after she left her role as EMEA Commercial Director for Bloomberg Businessweek and she knew exactly what I meant.
Gabriel Gambetta, head of marketing for Improbable.io and I chatted with Ben Goldsmith of Balderton Capital. Gabriel is from Uruguay, a region that is known for its superb wines. So, I steer the conversation to wine and pique Ben’s curiosity telling him all about Climate Change.
Those who know me well know that I take any opportunity to pontificate on global warming and wine. I tell Ben how the UK wine industry, which is poised for expansion and brilliance in the international markets, is already making strides in the most discerning palates in the rarified wine world.
I then chatted with Jim Edwards, the founding editor of Business Insider UK, fellow Columbia University alumni, who was a Knight-Bagehot Fellow at Columbia Business School and who’s reporting has influenced US court of law and cited in court proceedings. Now that is influence, in my book.
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Kieran O’Neill of Thread. They raised £5.5 million last August from UK investors, including Balderton Capital. A quick glance to the sitting area and I see the lovely Sarah Wood of Unruly, whose video adtech startup was acquired by NewsCorp. And when I called a night, waving goodbye to Charles Cartland, of totaljobs.com, one of the evening’s sponsors, I bumped into AOL’s crowd and John Nolan. Happy peppy people in dashing blue colours and full of joie de vivre. All looking forward to be at Mobile World in Barcelona on Monday.
The event organisers’ got everything spot on: a stellar crowd, deliciously fresh Spring rolls and sparklings which they served in true “champagne” glasses, instead of flutes that do not let you appreciate the aromas. They served the sparklings on the round shaped ones. You know, those Art Nouveau Leonardo de Caprio Great Gatsby ones. The ones my grandmother used to have hidden away and pull out only on very very special occasions. They are called coupe. Flutes do not really allow you to sniff the aromas, although a tulip might. But the coupe‘s shape is where it is at for serious sparkling wine tasting.
Eunicorns or not, we celebrate.