London Tech Week opinion 2: UK tech is more than just London
With London Tech Week held recently various tech sector executives have kindly offered to provide their opinions of this year’s London Tech week.
Here are the opinions already published:
London Tech Week opinion 1: Incorporating diversity in your company
And below is the latest from Manish Madhvani, co-founder at GP Bullhound. In this opinion piece Manish looks at the UK’s tech landscape outside of London as well
The UK’s tech sector is stronger than London alone – it’s time we recognised the role regional cities play in its growth story
By Manish Madhvani
London Tech Week, the ultimate celebration of London’s vibrant tech ecosystem was a showcase of our ‘dreamers and doers’ and an effective reminder of the pace at which UK tech businesses have grown.
The UK as a whole now boasts 27 billion-dollar companies, with a combined value of $80bn. The number of billion-dollar firms outnumbers those in Germany and Sweden by almost double, with five new UK companies joining this category in 2018. With European tech growing by 28% in the past year, compared to only 20% in the US, Europe’s tech ecosystem shows no sign of slowing down.
In fact, this is just the start of the snowball. As the emergence of London’s Monzo, Benevolent AI and Revolut as the UK’s newest billion-dollar companies proves, it doesn’t take long for the seeds of ambition to grow into ground-breaking unicorns.
But, as worthy of recognition as London’s tech pioneers are, we must not overlook the phenomenal contribution to these numbers made by tech businesses based outside the capital.
More than six cities outside of London – Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Edinburgh – have produced multiple billion-dollar ‘unicorns’, paving the way for new tech hubs and vibrant ecosystems. The growth of our artificial intelligence expertise, for example, is a nationwide story. AI hubs are accelerating across the UK, and driving the emergence of world-leading companies.
Manchester, has become the epicentre for e-commerce. From Boohoo and AO.com to The Hut Group and Onthebeach.com, a new cluster of Mancunian unicorns are making a phenomenal contribution to the UK’s tech sector. The enormous benefit of having successful companies as neighbours cannot be overstated. For aspiring entrepreneurs, having role models who can provide mentorship, make vital introductions and draw investor attention to the region, is a lifeline in the early days of growth.
To compete with Silicon Valley, we must ensure that schools and universities equip young people the skills to produce the next 27 billion-dollar firms. The introduction of coding as part of the curriculum is a good start. But we must also back our universities researching and teaching AI and machine learning, and strengthen relations between corporates and universities to ensure STEM careers are attractive options.
It’s also no coincidence that the birth of unicorns outside of London emerge in leading university cities, where students’ exceptional talent, determination and bright ideas can be applied to globally-disruptive companies. We must ensure universities are given the backing, from government and corporates, to direct the brightest and best to apply their talents to technology.
A robust education system is critical in attracting the attention of the public and the funders who will sponsor this growth. But we also need to ensure that the ambition of government and tech leaders, like those gathered at London Tech Week, is matched by tangible solutions to key challenges to motivate globally significant funding.
At GP Bullhound’s Northern Tech Awards earlier this year, I was bowled over by the strength, variety and velocity of the companies presenting – but they’re all too often overlooked. The UK’s future titans rely on tech hubs across the country flourishing, and ‘regions’ becoming a word associated with success, innovation, energy and passion, not deprivation and decline. Only then can we hope to lead a viable charge on US giants.