The London Startup Scene: An American’s Perspective

By Bethany Hill

A few weeks ago, I took a train from London to York to indulge my inner medieval nerd. I’d lived for three years in New York before finally visiting its quaint namesake. One of the common themes throughout the weekend was that the city had such an abundance of history, it didn’t actually need to be discovered. Our pubs and ghost walks and B&Bs were above medieval manors and Viking compounds and Roman garrisons, but the archaeological attitude towards digging was nonchalance.

Who knows what’s under this field. Literally.

Having written my thesis on medieval English history, it was baffling to me that researchers would simply decline to excavate this treasure trove of primary evidence. Their view: these millennia of objects weren’t going anywhere, what was the rush? Instead, there was value in the knowledge that entire societies were built over ruins and relics, which literally support a cosmopolitan city today.

At a time when another ages-old city is undergoing a technology startup boom, it is precisely this approach that makes London so different from New York. Both cities incubate thriving tech communities, one bolstered by bagels and Dunkin, the other by digestive biscuits and Costa. Yet London presents a larger context to the boom of gadgets and apps: unlike the eager capitalism exemplified by New York and currently propelling San Francisco, London’s been here. (Not to mention, Karl’s got nothing on London fog.)

And what makes these two cities’ tech industries similar, compared to the atmosphere of Silicon Valley SaaSies, is that New York and London have both seamlessly integrated startups into the plethora of other fields that call these metropolises home: banking, fashion, advertising, the arts. These industries thrive because of their diversity, and these cities thrive because of their internationalization.

Where in the world can you walk from SoHo to Little Italy to Chinatown in a few blocks? There are two correct answers.

Time Out London, the week after Brexit (click on image to read).

Time Out London, the week after Brexit (click to read).

What London lends to its residents is a sense of sangfroid, of composure under pressure. New York fast is New York fast. There’s nothing like it. “I couldn’t live in New York, it’s too busy,” is a common refrain I hear from out-of-town friends. London is certainly busy, but it’s a meticulous sort of busy: the loud tick of a clock’s second hand instead of the scream of an alarm. When Brexit happened, there was disbelief and outrage and anger, but not violence or hate. Instead, Time Out London said, “thank you for making YOUR city your home.”

Along with this, Londoners possess the sort of rituals that help us keep calm and carry on. Why doesn’t New York have an evening paper? (My immediate gut response: “Well, I’d be too busy to read it.”) But now, reading the Evening Standard on the way home — and then parking myself at the kitchen table to finish it — has become a daily habit. During what has been one of the most stressful news months of recent memory, physically holding a prudent summary of the day’s events provides a way to process and reflect on our world.

What else is quintessentially London? Even after many trips to the UK, and a semester here in college, little cultural quirks continue to surprise me. For example:

  • Drinking outside in public is OK, but uncommon.
  • Apparently gym buddies are much more of a thing here.
  • Phones and data are much more competitively priced than in the US. A decent UK plan costs a fraction of its American equivalent.
  • It’s difficult to shake the paranoia that I am tipping incorrectly. As someone who’s worked in the service industry (thank you, Tripps Steakhouse!) I’m sensitive to stiffing someone, but don’t want to embarrass with a grossly disproportionate tip.
  • I never knew what “American food” was before coming here, but there’s a whole case of it at the supermarket.

America: giving the world cheese and chorizo macaroni, chicken burritos and Chilli Philly Steak Bake since 1776.

In the UK, I was prepared for my favorite Netflix shows not to work, for the bacon to be thick-cut and for the salmon to be much more affordable. But what’s surprised me is how much these cities have in common. New York tech is rushing ahead, but London moves with alacrity despite the weight of her history. In other words, New York may set the pace of the non-Valley tech grind, but London will match this pace with a steady stride. No matter what happens in the coming months, London will remain a crucial access point between European and American tech markets.

As we enter into a more uncertain time of this city’s history, I encourage entrepreneurs and startups not to take the wealth of international resources they have for granted. Be mindful of what we’ve created, but focus on the people and backgrounds that continue to make this city a progressive place to live and work. Digging up the past can wait. It’s time to keep moving forward.

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The London Startup Scene: An American’s Perspective
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5 things we learned at TechCrunch Disrupt London

Clarity PR was at TechCrunch Disrupt London 2015 to take a look at the startups, scale-ups and established tech companies on display. While nothing like the same scale at Web Summit, TechCrunch Disrupt proved to be an equally invaluable experience, full of interesting characters from the press and investment community, as well as the world of football.

Here are our five top takeaways from TechCrunch Disrupt:

Blockchain is still doing our heads in
“How many people understand what blockchain is?” TechCrunch Disrupt MC Jordan Crook asked attendees. A few hands went up. “How many really understand it?” she asked. Fewer hands were raised. Once the panel consisting of Steve Waterhouse, partner at Pantera Capital, Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum and Blockstream’s CEO Austin Hill took to the stage, chairman Jon Biggs asked the audience the same question again: “How many people here understand what blockchain is?”. By now, already utterly confused, most of the audience kept their hands down. And that’s when it got even more impenetrable – as TechCrunch writer Natasha Lomas says, “this is level 10,000 on the nerd scale”. Biggs’ analogy of a dead goldfish hardly helped to clear up matters.

However, what is clear is that blockchain has a lot of potential for making all sorts of transactions more transparent, traceable and trustable. And that those who are quick to build applications for this technology have the potential to become major tech players of the future.

Investors don’t want to hear about your exit plan
Index Ventures’ Danny and Neil Rimer chatted with Ingrid Lundgren on the opening morning of the event and one point that really stood out was that they were very wary of startup founders who weren’t looking to build a company that would eventually IPO. “We never invest in companies that see M&A or sale as their goal.”

Nearly every investor that took to the stage was asked the usual questions about London’s place in the tech world (and it seems to be the universal opinion that it is now the undisputed home of fintech, with fashion and music startups also proving to be interesting) and why Europe hasn’t yet built a company the size of Google or Facebook. “You can build multi-billion dollar companies anywhere in the world,” said Thomas Korte of AngelPad. However, the Rimer brothers were a little more specific – there was little likelihood of Europe building a hardware giant, they said. It’s more likely to be a software or services company from Europe that hits the big time.

Football management can teach us a lot about business
Sir Alex Ferguson, who has evidently calmed down a lot now he’s retired, talked on stage about his managerial career and the kind of qualities that successful leaders in all areas of life need. Effectively, it all boils down to approaching things in a rational way – although leaders need passion (like Gary Neville, who evidently wakes up every day like “he is beginning a new quest”) they need to remain true to themselves, be consistent, and be loyal to their staff. The biggest danger leaders face is the “disease” of complacency, he said – certainly something he could never be accused of himself.

Keep droning on
There was a lot of talk about drones at TechCrunch Disrupt. Clarity client Fleye was showing off its personal flying robot, which is the same size and weight as a football (or soccer ball, if you are that way inclined). It’s designed to be incredibly safe – all the rotors are covered, and it’s also very easy to use. Meanwhile, on the main stage, the CEOs of Sky Futures, Verifly and Airware talked about the challenges and opportunities that they face. Regulation is the most pressing issue that needs to be resolved – as the panel’s host pointed out, in the US guns don’t have to be registered, but drones will have to be. While there are many exciting applications for drones – such as monitoring oil pipelines and data centres – it seems that it is regulation rather than technological advances that will dictate when these things will actually happen.

Be professional
One thing we really picked up on was how many startups exhibiting at the event hadn’t got their stands set up ready for when the doors opened. It looks really bad – especially as many press and investors take the opportunity to walk around the floor during the quieter moments. If you want to come across as professional and organised, and make the most of the opportunity you have at an event like this, you need to be set up and ready to demo at all times. The more eye-catching your setup is, the more people you have at your stand, the more interesting you are to people walking past. Not turning up until 10.30 or abandoning your stand for hours during the day will also be noticed – and it won’t go down well.

 

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5 things we learned at TechCrunch Disrupt London
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Team Clarity, Assemble!

Here at Clarity we love an excuse for a great social event, and last weekend we were lucky enough to take a weekend trip to Berlin to network and spend some quality time with our global counterparts.

The weekend was jam-packed: meeting clients, new team members, new faces in the startup scene at the TechStars networking event in a thumping underground venue – in true Berliner party style!

The Berlin contingent were excellent hosts and hooked us up with the best venues so we got a real flavour of the city – sampling some real Bavarian food, and a considerable amount of German beer on our boat party!

After two super busy days, we had a bit of spare time to learn about Berlin’s culture too. Walking everywhere with a guidebook (and Bethany’s excellent narrating skills) meant we could soak up the city and learn along the way about Berlin’s history. We managed to cram a lot of hotspots into an afternoon, including the stunning Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie.

The trip served as an invigorating reminder of why we do what we do, and how lucky we are to work with some of the most exciting startups across the globe. The weekend was also a great opportunity to meet our newest team members, Marie, Paul and Anthony who bring a wealth of experience and ideas to Clarity and will be dotted across the globe in London, Berlin and New York respectively.

It also gave us the chance to reflect and think about what’s next; with inspiring presentations in Berlin’s Rainmaking Loft from Bryce on the agency’s phenomenally fast growth, Sara on the future of our identity, Sami on our rebrand and Clarity’s short but eventful journey so far, with a brainstorming session at the end on what’s to come.

Rest assured there are more exciting things in the pipeline for Team Clarity… Prost!

@RobynEmilyD

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Team Clarity, Assemble!
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5 Tips for Making The Most Of Your Internship

I remember my first experience as an intern. It was for an investment bank when I was 16 years old – young, ambitious but utterly clueless as to what actually happened in the working world, let alone the “exotic credit division”. One thing that I did appreciate was the experience of being in the apotheosis of a challenging, vibrant and noisy working environment, especially when so young. It gave me a feel of what the real world was like, and made me begin to think about my future in a serious way.

I have gone from a grungy teenager paradoxically dressed in a suit and thrust into the finance world, to an indie mophead working at a music magazine, to a clean shaven ‘Harvey Spector’ wannabe in a law firm, to finally a PR professional. During all of these internships (and identity crises), I have learned how to ensure the internship process is as valuable and productive as possible – and not the stereotypical experience of tea making and photocopying.  

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5 Tips for Making The Most Of Your Internship
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5 Reasons Your Startup Needs PR

Getting your startup off the ground and running can be challenging. A large part of developing a business plan is thinking strategically about the ways you want your business to grow from an early stage startup to a fully established enterprise. Doing your homework is critical to understanding how to amplify your brand and prepare for market entry.

Alas, you hit ‘Enter’ on your Google search: “Does my startup need PR?”  Over 11 million results are now at your disposal – and you thought deciding on dinner was going to be difficult.  The Internet is crowded with various opinions and conflicting ideas, each providing their own merit and judgment for why a startup will or will not benefit from PR.

Here are five reasons in favor of having PR as a core strategy for your startup:

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5 Reasons Your Startup Needs PR