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#LDNTechWeek: The year of the scale up

Today marks the beginning of London Technology Week, a weeklong celebration of the capital’s tech sector and, given its extraordinary success, there’s a lot to celebrate.

London’s tech sector has come a long way in the past five years, which is no surprise given London’s impressive mix of investors, talent, creativity and drive.

Since the launch of the Tech City Initiative by David Cameron, London is now the most important tech hub in Europe. According to research by London & Partners, in 2015 alone, London’s tech sector is forecasted to boost Europe’s economy by £18bn and it shows no sign of slowing down.

What’s more is that over the next decade it will continue to outgrow London and the wider UK economy. London is at the epicentre the UK’s rapid production of ‘unicorns’ – technology startups that have reached a value of at least £1bn. Research conducted by GP Bullhound reveals that London now has 17 of Europe’s 40 billion-dollar tech companies, with eight new additions over the past 12 months.

Since 2014, this rapid increase in ‘unicorns’ has been fuelled by the surge in investment the leading tech startups have attracted. Over the last decade London has drawn in more investment than Paris, Dublin, Amsterdan and Munich combined. With companies such as ASOS, TransferWise, Zoopla and Shazam leading London’s UK tech force, it is no surprise that investors from all over the globe want to actively contribute to these triumphs.

International investors see London as a brilliant incubator of tech innovation and this surge of investment has fed London’s job market. Figures produced by Oxford Economics indicate that since the launch of the Tech City programme in 2010, the digital sector has grown by 46%. The capital’s digital sector now employs 200,000 people, 17% more than five years ago.

London Technology Week offers London a global platform to celebrate all of these outstanding achievements.

If 2014 is anything to go by, we are in for a real treat this week. Last year there were over 200 events at 125 venues. The week was an international success, with over 40,000 people attending from 40 different countries. With over 40% of events attended by international guests, London Technology Week became an international social media sensation, reaching 28 million people on twitter.

With a killer combination of thrilling discussion, captivating events and inspirational speakers, 2015 will be bigger and better than ever before.

London & Partners started things with a bang. Today at the official launch, I joined a series of panel discussions, alongside the founders of some of the capital’s most successful tech startups, including Blippar, Funding Circle and Just Eat. We explored the challenges and opportunities facing London’s most successful tech agencies and concluded that the debate no longer asked if London can produce a billion-dollar tech company. The question now is: how do we transform and sustain London’s multiple tech success stories into multi-billion companies?

Although London’s tech sector completely deserves to relish in its accomplishments, as a community we need to look to the future.  As the founder of a company whose fundamental purpose is to foster connections across the capital, I see the London tech sector’s future accomplishments lying in our ability to support each other. Our efforts must be focused on boosting connectivity across the capital and providing the next generation of tech stars with the essential skills.

London Technology Week will act as a springboard for the critical conversation needed to ensure the survival of this invaluable industry for coming years. And I can’t wait to see it unfold over the next seven days.

Russ Shaw is founder of Tech London Advocates