Tech City and Silicon Valley are closer than you think

Last autumn, in what the tech press called a “rare example of a UK firm buying out a US rival”, my company SkyDox acquired US-based Workshare.

We promptly adopted Workshare’s brand name and decided to move our headquarters from San Francisco to the heart of Tech City.

Tech City is often regarded as playing second fiddle to the innovative, startup scene that is Silicon Valley.

On the surface it can be easy to see why, but to me Tech City offers great opportunities and is home to many disruptive companies; Silicon Valley just seems to have had all the good press.

For me setting up in London was a no-brainer for Workshare, and I’ll explain why.

A beating heart of innovation

Having worked for several international startups I can honestly say that the tech industry today is the best it’s ever been; that’s reflected in the growth of Tech City.

Ten or so years ago there was no Silicon Roundabout, no hub of innovation such as you find in and around Spitalfields today, and much of the talent I hired was located in and around Silicon Valley.

Now the area in and around Old Street is a beating heart of innovation, made up of collaborative working spaces, an abundance of creative agencies, and bustling coffee shops full of talented individuals working in tech startups.

Today Tech City offers a real diversity of people from all backgrounds and cultures – if you take Workshare as an example, we have over 30 nationalities.

This makes for a great melting pot of innovative and creative thinking, and helps to challenge traditional ideas.

Time to target most markets

Being in the UK allows us to service a range of markets whether it’s Asia, America, Europe or the Middle East.

Our time zone overlaps with most of the largest commercial markets, letting startups service new markets as they grow from a central location.

London also adds the additional benefit of acting as a central hub for many vertical markets.

I believe most of the major international businesses – oil and gas, finance, banking, consulting, creative media or healthcare and pharmaceuticals – are headquartered in London.

For startups that can help save a lot of travel time and resources.

Celebrating success

The UK sees modesty as a virtue, and for this reason it often seems that most of the Innovation is coming from Silicon Valley.

However this has changed over the last five years with Tech City now incubating a large number of startups and going on to establishing them as successful businesses.

The proof is in the pudding though, and in this case it’s the success of companies such as the social gaming company Mind Candy, online taxi booking app Hailo, and of course our own secure file sharing and collaboration company, Workshare.

In fact, according to Tech City’s chief executive Joanna Shields, the tech sector is 8.3 percent of the UK’s GDP, and it’s growing at 11 percent per year, the highest of any G20 country. We should celebrate this more; it’s an amazing achievement.

Neck and neck

After working in both the US and the UK, I don’t think there are necessarily more talented individuals in either location. There is evidently some amazing talent coming out of the Valley, but some of the greatest entrepreneurs I’ve met are right here in Tech City.

Aside from skills, there is also access to funding, making it the epicentre for creative and disruptive startups. There’s certainly a lot we can learn from the Valley, but we shouldn’t get tied down by physical locations.

The most important thing is that we leverage the great ecosystem that has evolved around Tech City in conjunction with the established Valley.

Only then will we reap the benefits of our diverse and shared expertise to bring to market truly ground-breaking ideas.

Image Credit: Kevin Krejci / Flickr