I was interested in this thread “Top 100 people lost to the valley” on Mike Butchers blog;
To which I added my usual two penneth (or more!)…
I’m sure there are plenty of U.S. people having made the switch to the U.K; but those working for large corporates (which sorry everyone, but Google, Excite and Yahoo are or were!) dont count as entrepreneurs in the sense we’re talking here. Moving out to the U.S. to get your start up funded or having peer support and enthusiasm which is often left wanting here, is different to being sent over here as part of a business and later deciding to stay. How many tech/net companies have chosen to move from SV to London to startup? I’d venture that the number is close to zero. Yes of course we (and Europe) can produce great businesses -and some have rightly been mentioned here- but do we have any one area in the U.K. (or Europe for that matter) that has the focus of innovation, enthusiasm, support ecosystem and WILLINGNESS TO INVEST that is present in SV? I think the answer has to be an emphatic no.
I am here in Silicon Fen, here in Cambridge; but its a joke really. Yes there are numerous hi-tech or Bio-tech firms here, yes it is a centre of excellence, yes, Library House, Bango and ARM are based here – but is this a culture of entrepreneurs? No. Is there funding available? Some. Is there funding for the next big consumer-orientated-mobile-or-internet-brand (I’m thinking the beasts like Google, FlickR et al) – The answer is no. Big successes in this sector are thin on the ground. Innovation is indeed a plenty; but most U.K. VCs are simply not willing to stump up the amount of money needed to push a startup from zero to light speed within a few months or a year or two. You simply cannot build a YouTube without money behind you – However good your technology is or your underpaid out-of-uni staff are.
I remember back in 2002 my company worked on a Digital Asset Management system for video and searching (its still live – www.britishpathe.com) and I suggested it could be used for user generated content, but the parent company at the time just “didnt get it”. Now, it might well have turned out to be early to market, because of broadbands limit reach at that time; but it is a recurring theme that investors here dont seem to have the same vision as their U.S. counterparts. In addition our cultural in general here in the U.K. frowns on failure and those who have failed.
This cultural difference IS true; I have spent time in NYC (although less on the West coast in honesty) and the difference you can taste in the air. Many people over here just “dont get it” until they see it big and succesful. If you’d explained YouTube to a Brit company or VC very early on, they just wouldnt believe it. I’m having the same problem with Mobile Social Networking and LBS services today – I’ve been saying the same thing for nearly 2 years and the market is finally moving in the direction I’ve described yet many people still “dont’ get it”. There will be a MySpace on mobile -and probably better!- and it will only be a matter of time; this is as obvious as falling off a log. But when it arrives and yet again its from a U.S. backed or U.S. based AND backed startup, yet again the conversation will be had as to why we cant do the same in the U.K. ….OK, my rant over.