The power of the internet and more recently social media. Francine Hardaway from Phoenix AZ and Half Moon Bay CA has been in London this week. A stalwart of the start up scene for many moons and seed angel investor. We had never met but have known each other since 1998 when I was based in San Jose CA and kept in distant touch through the blogs and now Tweetdeck/Twitter when I was back in Europe. So when she said she was landing…. well I will let her tell you herself as a little guest post below….
I may not have seen Big Ben or the London Bridge, but i have seen my type of London, the London of innovation rather than tradition, youth rather than age. Like startups everywhere, London entrepreneurs occupy interesting spaces in low rent neighborhoods. In London, it’s the Old City area on the not-so-posh East Side. That’s where the action seemed to be on my recent visit. and make no mistake, there is plenty of action. Since the end of the dotcom era in the US, the entrepreneurship bug has spread virally around the globe, and while venture capital is still concentrated in Silicon Valley, angel funding and bootstrapped companies are everywhere. In the last two years I feel like I have had a crash course in why America no longer has a lock on innovation.
Between @DamonOldcorn and Thomas Power, I have been treated like visiting royalty here in London. Or perhaps more like Dave McClure. Both Thomas, co-founder of ECademy and Damon, serial entrepreneur and founder of PhoneMe.com during the first tech bubble, introduced me to wonderful entrepreneurs and found me the best events to help me discover the London Tech scene. I started off at TechSet startup pitches, where I watched the kind of event I have seen in every country I visit: a group of startups explaining their companies. Rodolfo Rosini, the keynote speaker, a three-time Italian-born entrepreneur whose last company developed encryption for cell phones, was blindingly honest about the dangers of taking outside money, and also about how to attract it..”If investors have a committed fund you don’t need to be awesome. just better than the rest of their deal flow.”
The coolest part of that event wasn’t the pitches, but the sponsor, Pinsent Masons LLP. One of their attorneys has started BootLaw a free site with essential law for startups. Bootlaw also holds monthly events.
The next day, a dozen social media types and entrepreneurs convened by Thomas and by Abigail Harrison, a wonderfully well-connect London PR practitioner, regaled me with accomplishments (one woman has written “Business Model Generation” and one young entrepreneur has launched MinuteBox, monetizing the online consulting time of mentors like me) at a cool pub in Chiswick, the Duke of Sussex. That was a first for me: a three hour lunch, at which one of the attendees was my son-in-law Daniel Richard, who is in charge of sales at an Irish startup, Sonru.
At that lunch I also met one of the co-founders of LikeMinds, a city club for entrepreneurs located right off Trafalgar Square. Damon Oldcorn entertained me there and introduced me to the co-founders of Hirematch.me, who (you can’t make this stuff up) already had met with Daniel about an alliance. I have to admit that I detoured for a few hours and caught a matinee of “Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead” at the Haymarket before going on to the TechHub anniversary party back in the Old City part of town. Here I met the founders of Cravify (for finding, renting and sharing London flats) and Ubicabs (like San Francisco’s Uber). The co-founders of TechHub, which is an incubator and collaborative workspace for startups, are ElizabethVarley and Mike Butcher, who is also editor of TechCrunch Europe. They have done a spectacular job of aggregating the startup community if their party was any indication. It’s a great space with a great reputation.
Once again I remind American readers that we hold no lock on entrepreneurship, and that without constant attention to innovation on our own parts, we can be eclipsed easily by just about anywhere.