London Mayor Boris Johnson today unveiled his vision to turn London into the tech capital of the world, rivalling the city’s dominance in financial services and tourism.
The Mayor was joined by leading tech industry figures at the Techhub co-working space in Old Street, East London, to welcome new firms to the capital and discuss plans to encourage the continued growth of the tech sector.
City Hall boasted that London's Tech City has already become home to the biggest cluster of tech companies in Europe since the government-backed initiative was launched in 2010.
"There is nowhere to rival London for tech firms to thrive and grow," claimed Johnson, adding that the city has the required talent, investors, and entrepreneurial spirit. "We need to build on this impressive growth and champion London as the global leader for ambitious tech companies.”
The Mayor's office said the capital's success has inspired thousands of new technology companies and start-ups to call London their home, pointing to a recent YouGov survey of tech firms based in London, which revealed that 84 percent of them believe the outlook is bright for their sector.
The positive outlook is will have been influenced by the recent performance of certain companies in the capital. Between 2010 and 2013, more than 340 London-based tech companies reportedly attracted investment of almost £1.5 billion, and since the start of this year alone two firms have been sold for £1 billion; DeepMind, which was bought by Google, and Zynga buying Natural Motion.
While many of London's most successful technology companies have been concentrated around Old Street's "Silicon Roundabout", Johnson's speech today suggests that he wants tech firms to consider other parts of the city, beyond Shoreditch.
"Our tech offer now spans the capital in its entirety, from Tottenham to Croydon and from Wembley to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park," he said, just days after City Hall told Techworld that the Mayor's office isn't yet ready to invest the £50 million into regenerating Silicon Roundabout that was promised at the end of 2012.
Critics have previously argued that rising London rents are forcing start-ups out of London and to other major European cities, such as Berlin, where rents can be be three times lower.
Counteracting London's high rents, however, is the ability to attract local investors, with several large venture capital firms, such as Index Ventures, Balderton Capital, Accel Partners, located in the heart of the city. As a result, almost three-quarters of those surveyed by YouGov believed that being based in the capital helped them to attract the investment they needed.
Meanwhile, Pawel Chudzinski, a partner at Point Nine, a VC that is gradually investing €46 million in European tech firms, told Techworld in Berlin last month that he believes London is the best-funded city in Europe.
Johnson also announced the launch of a new London Tech Ambassadors Group which is made up of nine individuals, including: Kathryn Parsons, co-CEO Decoded, Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK and entrepreneur and investor Sherry Coutu. The aim of the group is to encourage more investment into London's tech sector from overseas and create more IT jobs.
The Mayor also revealed today that this year, from June 16 to June 20, the city will play host to the first ever ‘London Technology Week’ in a bid to highlight the sector in the same way that London's Fashion Week does. The week is comprised of 25 events across the capital and promises to “bring together over 1,000 influential tech advocates”.
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