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Founder from the Valley: Why I love London

Brynne Herbert, CEO & Founder, MOVE Guides

Brynne Herbert is a former elite gymnast, investment banker, turned startup founder in London.

Originally from the States, she’s uniquely placed to comment on the growing tech scene here.

In her first column, she reflects on the highs (Waitrose preprepared vegetables) and the lows (finding a flat), and explains why she believes London is one of the best hubs in the world to launch a startup.

Nearly everyone I speak to in the London startup scene discusses how to make this city more like Silicon Valley.

This city won the jackpot

The truth is that London is different to suburban California, and always will be. It’s connected, international and cosmopolitan, a melting pot of cultures and companies that won the jackpot in the geographic lottery.

That’s why London is the best city from which to build a global startup. Before founding my company here, I worked in investment banking and real private equity, and lived in the US, Hong Kong, Singapore and India.

I have business experience in eleven countries, speak four languages and did my MBA at London Business School, perhaps the world’s most global business school. Despite an American passport, extended family in Silicon Valley and my experience working in numerous cities, I decided to start MOVE Guides in London.

London as the world’s cross-border hub

Silicon Valley will always be a hotbed of technological innovation and the United States will always be a large first-market opportunity for American startups. London, however, should increasingly be seen as the location of choice for the world’s global startups – those companies that from their outset serve a global customer base and a cross-border market.

 

MOVE Guides is a startup like this. We offer consumers a one-stop-shop to plan an end-to-end international move and we offer businesses a cloud-based relocation portal that dramatically improves their data handling, cost structure and employees’ experiences moving abroad. In the six months since closing our £400,000 seed round from angel investors Kevin Eyres (ex-LinkedIn MD Europe), Sherry Coutu (SV2UK, Care.com, LinkedIn), Tom Hulme (IDEO), Sean Park (Anthemis Group) and Dale Murray (Omega Logic), among others, we have customers from more than 125 countries and sites live for the US and the UK. Our corporate customers operate across geographies and our end-users form part of a growing group of globally mobile business professionals. In short, MOVE Guides is the perfect business to be based in a city like London.

London has three things that make it a great global startup hub – its time zone, connectivity, and international outlook. From London, you can make calls to Asia in the morning and phone California in the afternoon. Save for those in Australia, you can fly to any major world city – from Johannesburg to Ho Chi Minh to Seattle – directly.

San Francisco still cut off from far away continents

Compare this with the fact that you still cannot take a direct flight from San Francisco to either Sao Paulo or Singapore, two of the world’s most important emerging market hubs. From San Francisco, it takes nearly twelve hours to reach another continent – whereas from London, you can reach the Middle East, US East Coast and all of Europe in half that time. In global startup terms, this convenience and connectivity is critical.

But the largest advantage that London offers global startups is its international perspective. Arguably one of the world’s most global cities, a London base offers these startups the opportunity to hire talent, serve customers, and work with investors from diverse backgrounds, cultures and countries.

These people bring with them knowledge, networks and perspectives that enhance all elements of a startup team. It’s easier to get things translated, easier to hire your first employees in Asia, and easier to figure out the difference between how Brazilians and Brits view customer service support, for example.

As MOVE Guides looks toward a Series A round and an increasingly global consumer and enterprise customer base in 2013, I cannot think of a better city for our base than London. London will never be Silicon Valley but, likewise, Silicon Valley will never be London. We should celebrate this, and cultivate Tech City as the world’s best home for global startups.

My top three pieces of advice for founders moving here

  1. Set up your bank account before you arrive
  2. Be more proactive here, people are happy to help, but you need to ask for it
  3. Get excited – this is a great place to set up a global business

Brynne Herbert is the Founder and CEO of MOVE Guides.

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