Aussies adding to London’s global startup scene

An article that I wrote for Tech City Insider that was published this morning.

Increasing numbers of Australian entrepreneurs are now calling Tech City home, with about 50 now run by Australians. It was unsurprising that Australian governor general Quentin Bryce wanted to visit this month. James Swanston, an Aussie running London green business Carbon Voyage, reports.

From brand new companies such as Talented Heads and The Fetch, through to more established names such as SkimlinksLovefilm and Hailo, and other parts of the ecosystem such as the London AcceleratorTechhub and 3Beards, Aussies are involved throughout the startup ecosystem. Even a member of the Tech City Investment Organisation has an Australian passport.

Australian Governor General Quentin Bryce at an afternoon tea at the London Accelerator with Aussies in Tech City including Shib Matthew (Yuno Juno), Sean Kirkegaard (Zoopa Heroes), Chris Skitch (Didgeroo) and Pru Ashby (TCIO).

Australian Governor General Quentin Bryce at an afternoon tea at the London Accelerator with Aussies in Tech City including Shib Matthew (Yuno Juno), Sean Kirkegaard (Zoopa Heroes), Chris Skitch (Didgeroo) and Pru Ashby (TCIO).

While all have their own individual stories about why they moved to London, there are a few common themes, particularly greater market opportunities and better access to capital than what is available back home. The great melting pot of cultures, ideas and adventure that you get in London is of course a great draw card also.

Bryce Keane, who founded marketing agency Albion Drive was inspired to base himself in London due to the boundless opportunities to make things happen here given that “everyone is from somewhere, which means everyone comes here to achieve something.” Not only did this allow him to fully immerse himself in the tech scheme, but then inspired him to be one of the co-founders of 3beards, which is all about building the community here.

As the first female to hold the role of governor general, Quentin Bryce was particularly keen to meet young female tech entrepreneurs in Tech City. One who had literally just arrived a few weeks before was Pip Jamieson from The Loop, who have created a platform that is not only easy for creative professionals to promote themselves on, but equally as easy for businesses to search and hire top creative talent.

Abnormally for an Australian entrepreneur in London, Jamieson was able to secure $2 million (about £1.3 million) in funding before moving to London. A key reason for her moving was seeing that the cultural barriers to entry were low and that “over the last decade the UK creative sector has grown twice as fast as the rest of the economy and has been identified as a key sector in driving economic recovery in the region.”

In common with many immigrant entrepreneurs, Australians see London as a great place to come together as a community and gain access to better funding and mentors compared to back home; rather than feeling rather alone in the startup world, being an entrepreneur in a startup community allows you to have a support network to help and advice from people that have gone through exactly the same ups and downs of startup life.

One of the most well-known Aussie founders here, Alicia Navarro of Skimlinks says she “left Australia to become an entrepreneur as – at the time – there was limited access to startup venture capital and no startup community. London had all of this, and was much easier for me to move to than the US.” A new entrepreneur to London, Natalie Waterworth from Talented Heads had a similar view when she recently moved over as she sees “no shortage of opportunities to start scalable businesses; the energy and enthusiasm in London’s digital community is captivating and all-encompassing.” For Australians also, the shared culture and similar business rules has made life easy for entrepreneurs such as Noel Duncan from Sisu Wellness to reduce some of the legal hassles of moving here.

Yet obtaining capital in Australia is seen as the key problem for many Australian entrepreneurs and actually many angel investors. Richard Celm, who runs the London Accelerator, agrees agrees saying that the investment community is far more mature than that back in Australia.

And Bill Morrow, who runs Angels Den, the biggest Angel network in the UK, says many Aussie entrepreneurs come to the UK and their Asian offices to access more efficient capital markets. He says they have dozens of Aussie angel investors using them to source deals simply because they can’t find suitable deals back home.

A mashup of corporate social opportunities and charities

I was recently in the House of Lords with Lord Andrew Mawson and a representative of the Australian Government discussing approaches to ‘social enterprise’ and the need to stop cultures of dependancy and entitlement. We spoke about the concept of corporate social opportunities where the line between traditional CSR activities of big businesses, social enterprises and charitable activities is blurring.

It was therefore interesting to reflect upon this discussion after spending some time this weekend watching Dan Pallotta’s TED presentation about how the way society views charities as being completely wrong, particularly how we confuse morality (why charities exist) with frugality (the widely held views about why charities should not spend much money on their overheads).

I’ve been fortunate to have some involvement with some great social enterprises, and there are a couple of charities that I massively rate. The one of most interest to me is the St Paul’s Way Transformation Project which explores a range of new business models by creating innovative partnerships – public sector, private sector, non-profits and so on; that being said, I’ve never really given traditional charities a great deal of thought until this video of Dan’s. I really value visibility around what charities are spending money on (and I am a trustee of a charity also) – and I particularly like how Kiva adds the operational costs on top of the underlying donation. But that doesn’t go far enough – we all need recognise that in the same way that successful, profitable businesses need to remunerate their teams sufficiently, invest in marketing etc, charities (or whatever the right term should be) must do the same – so thanks Dan for highlighting this very important issue!

Originally posted on Carbon Voyage's Blog:

Late last year, we were asked by Derek Browne from Entrepreneurs In Action to help out with an event focused on raising awareness of sustainability and enterprise among students at Sevenoaks School – two things we are very passionate about. The intention was to create a day where students could hear from people involved in sustainability, hopefully be inspired, and then come up with their own business ideas and pitch them to other people (all in the space of a couple of hours). With the help of the Energy Managers Association, we were able to get a couple of awesome speakers – Sonja Graham, Creative Development Manager from the Global Action Plan and Jaz Rabadia, the UK energy manager for Sainsburys. We were joined by James Cornwell, the Quality and Environmental Director of Fourfront Group; not only is James an expert in sustainability, but he…

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Originally posted on Carbon Voyage's Blog:

As much as I love the buzz about Tech City, the fact remains that London has had a long established tradition of enterprise, and for a long time, many great technology and science advances came out of East London, although it has not been plain sailing. With that in mind, I went along to a musical depiction of East London which was part of the Water City Festival via an invitation from Lord Andrew Mawson, chairman of the festival and one of the UK’s leading social entrepreneurs; Andrew and I are working on a number of really cool things to connect up schools and enterprises at the moment, so again, this was very much part of connecting up the dots.

Paintings by Frank Creber for the Water City Festival (borrowed from his website)

Paintings by Frank Creber for the Water City Festival (borrowed from his website)

In the same way that much of the Roman Empire’s success owed a great deal to…

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Why maths is cool (and very relevant in creating sustainable cities)

One of the team sent me a video from TED in which Kevin Slavin talks about the importance of algorithms in everyday life. Here it is!

 

An interesting aspect of our business is around the reality is that it is very inefficient industry – there is fragmented and disparate demand and supply, vehicles are empty, there are relatively low asset utilisation rates and pricing can be quite all over the place.We did quite a lot of work around urban freight which helped us to highlightsome of these disconnects – the graph below is part of a study that we did into understanding the baseline impact of freight deliveries to multi-tenancy commercial properties in London (you will need to click on the picture to see the detail). Ultimately what it shows is that each day there are hundreds of journeys to deliver a single item or set of items to one company – all via a single, very congested road in London. A more collaborative approach would allow different businesses to get delivery journeys shared quite easily, thus reduce cost, congestion and carbon. While many people may not care too much about carbon, these heavily congested situations will be very problematic during the Olympics in a few short months.

 

To address this, we use maths to find ways to create some logic in this whole situation, and in doing so, start to find a way of ordering a range of very random ‘events’. In many respects, this start with coming up with certain hypothesis that allow us to consider the situation in which a user might be in and then try and construct a mathematical way of capturing that and solving the pain point. While I am not going to really discuss the core of what we do, I thought this graph below might be interesting which was done for me by an awesome intern doing Mathematics at Berkeley. In this example, we were trying to look at a standardised per mile pricing structure so we used a polynomial equation to come up with a potential answer.

X-axis is distance in miles; Y-axis is pricing

Prince Andrew visits the office

Yesterday, HRH The Duke of York visited the Accelerator where we are based to find out more about what is happening in the Silicon Roundabout and also what was happening with enterprise opportunities for school and university leavers. It was a tremendous honour for him to come along, particularly after the event last year at Buckingham Palace hosted by Prince Andrew that I attended, and again it is another example of the work that the Royal Family does in encouraging business and enterprise in the United Kingdom. I think he was particularly pleased to see a few army officers involved in the crazy world of start ups!