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!

Betas and videos

Well, I’ve had a big few weeks so apologies for not blogging for a while.

We’re now two months into our beta with Carbon Voyage. It has been interesting, and we are learning a lot, which I guess is one of the important parts of launching a new service. We have a very iterative process that we use with building our technology and propositions. I guess from my perspective that this is very similar to something taught in the military called the Boyd Cycle (also known as the OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act). This was originally constructed by looking at aerial dogfights in Korea between MiGs and the USA Air Force. Fundamentally (from my perspective), it is about being very proactive in dealing with what the competitive landscape looks like and what customer feedback is. Our ability to iterate quickly will be a a key contributor to our success as a business.

I’ve also started doing some videos for the business. I was interviewed by Hugh Mason from Pembridge LLP for a video that is being compiled that talks about the Gateway to Investment Program. This week, Dan Ilett from Greenbang and I have started a weekly video talking about what it’s like to run a startup at the moment which you can see below. Dan hase just launched a new company called Clean Analysis, which researches cleantech companies, technologies, legislation and services and how they fit into a vision of sustainable practices in 2020.  

  [qik]http://qik.com/video/1480307[/qik]

And finally, it’s been lovely to see that amazing story of Susan Boyle and the previous one of Paul Potts, both of whom have the most amazing voices.

Official Carbon Voyage Blog

I’ve now started up an official Carbon Voyage Blog which will have all of the press releases as well as some more informal bits and pieces about what the company is doing. Also, we’ve now set up groups on LinkedIn and Facebook so feel free to join!!!

We’re now a week into our beta launch and fortunately there have been no major problems with bookings thus far, and more importantly we’ve had some really good feedback about the website and ideas about the service which is something that you can only start getting once people are using the service.

Other than that, EYP launched in Dublin last week and following that, we have some terrific momentum going there. The team that is running with things there is absolutely fantastic, and we have an exciting next event coming up in April. Following our launch in Dublin, we are planning additional launches in three more European cities before the middle of the year – so lots of work to do!

And finally, if anyone is in London next Wednesday night, come along to our next EYP event.

Carbon Voyage launches!!!

Finally, after quite a lot of work in the last two years or so, Carbon Voyage finally launched. Our friends at Greenbang assisted in covering the event. The strapline of the business is ‘getting you from a to b without costing the earth.’ What we are doing is providing a car-booking service that helps people to cut the cost and carbon footprint of using private car hire.

If anyone is keen to trial the beta service should contact: info@carbonvoyage.com

WeWantToSee

November 17-21 is Global Entrepreneurship Week which is aiming to foster enterprise and innovation all around the world. European Young Professionals is hosting a big event in London as part of this. If you interested in coming, you can register here. Our speakers include:

Shed SimoveShed Simove Sheridan ‘Shed’ Simove, otherwise known as the Ideas Man, is a modern day entrepreneurial genius. He’s a TV Producer (Big Brother, Big Breakfast, Space Cadets), a Bestselling Author (‘Ideas Man’, ‘Presents Money Can’t Buy’), a Product Designer (‘Cock A Doodle Pad’, ‘Control-A-Man’ & ‘Control-A-Woman’ Remote Controls, ‘The Designer Beaver’, ‘The Gaydar’), a successful corporate speaker and an award-winning stand-up comedian among other achievements…

Check his recent Channel 4 Three Minute Wonder piece here.

Sháá Wasmund

Shaa

Sháá Wasmund, best known for being the whiz kid who helped build the Dyson brand and being a leading internet entrepreneur, has many accolades to her credit including being named one of Management Today’s 35 women under 35, and one of Britain’s “Young Guns” – the brightest young business stars of 2007.  Sháá has advised many businesses, from the government to social networking phenomenon Bebo. Sháá is an intrinsic part of the new wave of UK Entrepreneurs combining real entrepreneurial drive and experience with a genuine desire to encourage and inspire others. Shaa’s latest venture, Smarta.com is an online business platform supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs.

This is a flagship event for Speednetwork the Globe, part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, which was founded by Make Your Mark and the Kauffman Foundation, the world’s largest foundation dedicated to entrepreneurship. During the week, 17-23 November 2008, young professionals from around the world will be involved in thousands of events and activities celebrating enterprise.

In the lead up to this event, we thought it would be a great idea to establish a website where we could get people from all around the world to upload a quick video where they tell everyone what they would like to see – whether it be related to climate change, innovation, equality – or even making sure a sports team wins a competition. So check out WeWantToSee!

It would be great if you could take part in this and tell loads of people to participate as well. The site has just gone live, so there is not a massive amount of content just far.

Thanks in advance!

Umm … a few random things

So I finally did my first ever radio interview today, although it won’t go on air for about three weeks. It was to promote GoLow and an event that is being run by EYP. The radio station is Passion for the Planet and they will be one of our media partners for our October EYP event, which is focused on environmental issues. We will be fortunate to have Dan Ilett from Greenbang as a moderator for our panel discussion which is shaping up to have some really interesting participants.

I think EYP is starting to mature in terms of some of the events that we are doing. Our next event is at the Kensington Roof Gardens, owned by Sir Richard Branson, and is almost fully subcribed after a few days of bookings being open. Our October event is looking really cool, and in November we are planning to do a massive speed networking in London in partnership with Make Your Mark for Global Enterprise Week. And we have some goodies lined up for next year.

A gluton for punishment, I have set up a more formal business GoLow blog – so now I really can’t be too slack with posting.

And finally, I really liked reading about the recently completed operation in Afghanistan where several thousand soldiers got involved in delivering a turbine to a key power station. Providing basic services to locals in such conditions can be quite a challenge but is so unbelievably valuable.