The 12 Things I Learned During London Technology Week

The second iteration of London Technology Week – a program of over 200 bespoke events, is said to have attracted +40,000 attendees from across all areas of the tech spectrum. Aimed to cement the city of London’s leadership position as Europe’s digital hub, industry heavyweights like Google, Amazon and IBM made some major announcements, sharing the limelight with a handful of fintech superstars and success stories like Second Home. Others also notably present included Bloomberg and Accenture, sponsoring debates that covered everything from how to build sustainable ‘smart’ cities, to using big data and machine learning to herald technological change.

As Tech Week begins to unwind, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on all the fantastic content, debate, insights and people who made this a bumper week of events, workshops and networking. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Over the last decade more international tech investment projects have come to London than Paris, Dublin, Madrid, Amsterdam and Munich combined
  2. London is the capital of Europe’s tech scene, with 1,009 startups emerging between 2005-2014. Paris comes in second with 281
  3. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says London is better for tech than Silicon Valley, but is handicapped by a lack of tech communities
  4. The number of UK ‘unicorn’ tech companies (hoopla, Just Eat, ASOS to name a few) that are valued over $1B = 17
  5. The current total valuation of these 17 unicorn companies = $40B
  6. Approximately 1.46 million people in the UK are employed in companies operating in the digital space
  7. London’s tech industry alone employs over 200,000 people, and is forecasted to generate £18B for the economy this year
  8. London-based tech firms will provide an extra 46,000 jobs by 2024, cementing the capital’s status as a ‘digital powerhouse’
  9. A survey of over 1,600 experts, leaders and investors in the industry found that 23% of tech firms have no women in senior positions
  10. And only 17% of people working in the technology industry in the UK are women
  11. There are huge skill gaps in London for tech hires, and only a small percentage of students are choosing technology-specific degree programs
  12. The top 5 most searched-for tech skills by employers on online job boards are: Java, SAP, PHP, .Net and Salesforce

So while it’s been a great week to be a technophile, as a marketer, it was also an opportunity to get to know the emerging players driving the tech innovation bus. It’s often the unknown start-ups who have the most impressive stories that need telling, and I found the most interesting events this week, were the ones more niche in flavor. They went beyond just being a showcase for London to flex her digital credentials, instead sharing tangible examples and insights into the challenges they’ve had to overcome as a nascent business. I couldn’t think of a better setting to get acquainted with the promising tech giants of the future, and walked away with a keen sense of how applying the right marketing skills can be critical to achieving transformational outcomes.

The UK now has the fastest growing digital economy in the G20 measured by percentage of GDP – greater than China, Germany and even the U.S. It’s clear from the stats above that there’s no shortage of opportunities in tech, so what does this all translate to for Marketers? If anything, it emphasizes the need to focus on sharpening our technology skills, not least because it makes us a much more attractive bunch to those seeking talent for the burgeoning start-up sector. The very nature of their business – bootstrapped companies, often with a niche proposition that’s predominantly sold online, who have little budget, presence or resources, means that it will take a certain type of resilient personality to thrive under these circumstances. Companies in this space almost certainly want to hire digital-native marketers; those who can apply creative thinking to how they navigate marketing challenges, and who are comfortable wearing multiple hats in an operating environment that is highly technology-driven.

As Google demonstrated, the start-up scene isn’t just the domain for the young and carefree, but it will absolutely require someone who’s not afraid to be hands-on, hungry for it, and who has a genuine aptitude to live and breath tech in order to make a difference. Of course there’s never a guarantee of success, or that billion dollar IPO, but the potential of what could be is surely enough to bring out the more adventurous among you. Go forth and prosper.

This article was originally published 20 June, 2015 on the Business2Community website.

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