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Why the road to global growth runs through London

Why the road to global growth runs through London 3

Why the road to global growth runs through London 4By Andrew Boni, CEO & Co-Founder of Iterable

When Silicon Valley casts its eyes abroad, one destination stands out amongst the rest: London. For years, London has risen up in the ranks of emerging tech hubs, on par with New York and Berlin. Despite economic and political hurdles, London has continued its upward momentum, and now sits at the top of the food chain as the biggest start-up ecosystem in Europe.

While the fantastical headlines surrounding London’s tech boom are incredibly attractive for tech talent and VCs, the true draw of the reason lies beneath the surface. What causes investors, engineers, and designers to stay? Why do Fortune 500 companies set their European base in the city?

Location, Location, Location

It would be impossible to pinpoint a single reason behind Silicon Valley’s acceleration as a hotbed of innovation and high-value companies. But what made the region especially unique in its early days, and what continues to drive its success, is its location: Silicon Valley sits at the intersection of academia, the private sector, and government. These three sectors provide a steady stream of capable engineers, marketers, researchers, a vibrant capital community, and business experience. Not to mention that launching a business under California law (with non-compete agreements void in the state) is quite easy in comparison to other locales.

This is the same structure that exists in London, which is renowned for its rich ecosystems of universities, businesses, and politics. Academia provides a strong talent pipeline, businesses provide experience (and capital infrastructure), and politics has the power of the purse, allowing for a stream of funding to couch failures and super-charge startup successes. There is also undeniable stability to the UK economy, backed up by its world-leading financial and services sector – both of which are important foundations in the growth of a start-up.

Where London diverges from Silicon Valley is what sets it apart and ahead (in some ways) of the Bay Area: diversity. London isn’t a one-industry or a one-culture town. London sits in proximity to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and America, ensuring that it has one of the most ethnically diverse populations on the planet. As Markita Jack, Iterable’s Head of DE&I shares, “Different perspectives lead to better innovation and create more relevant and creative products and a more interesting world.“ When you’re walking around London, no conversation is the same. The city is a hub of arts, fashion, food, design, and capital. This creative environment gives the world of technology and unique, colorful perspective that allows innovators to look beyond the boundaries that exist in the Bay.

The London Mindset

During the pandemic, brands and businesses learned very quickly that the status quo would not cut it for employees or consumers. Companies that hoped to survive in lockdown needed to learn (very quickly) that connection was valued much higher than conversion. We now live in a world where the cold, interpersonal, and corporate voice is considered tone-deaf.

As CEO of a customer activation platform like Iterable, I understand that customers want to work with, and employees want to work for, businesses that bring them joy. The most successful organizations have made commitments and investments in their people internally, which translates to increased productivity and quality of work externally.

As a founder, I know that our focus on values, purpose, mission, and culture, is a major reason for our success. This alignment is what made London the next natural step in our plan for global expansion. Silicon Valley unicorns and centaurs know that success is never a surety. But by emulating London’s balance-first business model before moving across the pond, your chances exponentially increase.

The Value of Connection

In our globalised, digital-first economy, organisations have the flexibility to rapidly operate at scale around the world. Things have always moved quickly, but the pace at which decisions are made today is incredibly fast.

But just because it can move quickly, doesn’t mean it needs to. And in many cases, it shouldn’t. Relationships and research must precede every business decision. This is the path Iterable took when expanding our London office in 2019. Our initial rationale for expansion was that being in the same time zone would allow us to better support our clients based in the region. We moved with care and consideration, hosting events (like Activate London) and dinners to demonstrate that our investment was about the interpersonal as well as the execution.

If you’re a business looking to expand in the region, or a VC looking to invest, I’d recommend building connections before taking a plunge. Look no further than London Tech Week to kick-start these connections.

Only the beginning

The last few months have seen understandable anxiety cloud the global market outlook. Whether it is the war in Ukraine or the lingering effect of COVID-19, there is talk of muted confidence and even of recession.

Amidst this all, it is important to not lose sight of the green shoots of growth. Technology remains the lifeblood coursing through the global economy. Customers are actively seeking out more cutting edge, digital solutions. They want brands that can connect with them in new and innovative ways, treating them as individuals – not as a number on a spreadsheet.

If you were looking for proof of the strong prospects for growth in technology, you need to look no further than conference season, which has firmly kicked into gear right across the world this month. After the isolation and darkness of the pandemic, to see these wonderful events roar back to life is – in my mind – the ultimate evidence of the vitality of the tech economy. From Las Vegas to London, Valencia to Brussels, landmark conferences have allowed us all to focus on human connection and enjoy a wonderful free-flow exchange of ideas and perspectives. Our own conference, Activate Summit, took place this week in London – Iterable’s first in-person conference since the pandemic began.

Reflecting on all this growth, I remain convinced that future business success rests on hubs of innovation, tied together by a vision of a better world – forged by technology. And that world spins around Silicon Valley and London.

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