Tech Communities Come Together And Are Encouraged to Reach Out

In a week full of exits, it was heartening to see that the entrepreneurial tech community, both here in the UK and across the world, bucking the trend and joining forces – and importantly, being challenged to think outside the box when it comes to diversity.

Last week saw more than 30,000 gathering for London Technology Week and 1,200 entrepreneurs from 170 countries heading to Silicon Valley for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

In London, 300 intimate events took place across the city’s week-long festival to celebrate the capital’s position as a global powerhouse for tech. Amongst others, the UKTI was heavily involved, hosting sessions on why the UK is an ideal location for any tech business and workshops on export strategies.

It was good to see Tech City News running an event on the challenges of going from start-up to scale-up; a topic that’s very close to our hearts here at Catalyst. At this session, core topics around funding, legal considerations such as intellectual property and shareholding structures, company culture and marketing were discussed. On the all-important subject of funding, Adrian Rainey, partner at Taylor Wessing, said that care must be taken to find the right fit with your venture capital investor. “It is as much about you choosing the investor as it is about the investor choosing you,” Rainey said. Concluding the event, Mary Ellen Dugan, CMO at WP Engine, spoke about the importance of thinking carefully about branding at the outset. “Perception is reality… make sure [your company’s] perception is as strong as it possibly can be and be very confident” she said.

Of course these are subjects that all entrepreneurs entering Catalyst work hard on during their tenancy here and, challenging though these elements of building a business may be, it must be comforting to know that every new business leader has the same issues to face, wherever they choose to plant their company roots.

London Technology Week’s Director Kevin Pearce commented on the event’s diversity in an article for Conference News. He said that London Technology Week’s real strength was: “providing a powerful umbrella under which all can thrive without being tied to any one topic or niche.” He noted that the event was future focused, recognising the next wave of technologies that will redefine our world: “Issues such as the convergence and disruption of new sectors including science, fashion, education and healthcare. Research in IoT, smart homes, autonomous vehicles, advanced robotics and AI and how this will further advance our digital society, and the tech community itself challenging its own culture in talent, diversity and inclusivity.”

Over in Silicon Valley, diversity was also on the agenda. The presence of President Obama highlighted the significance of the annual high-level conference, with the White House team choosing to highlight access to opportunity and the importance of diversity in entrepreneurship. President Obama elevated innovation and entrepreneurship in the US engagement agenda with new commitments to promote entrepreneurship as a driver for economic growth, social inclusion and secure communities in the run up to the Summit.

The Associated Press reported White House spokesman Eric Schultz saying: “As you know, good ideas come from everywhere. However, access to capital and opportunity is not the same everywhere. That’s why our goal at this year’s summit is to connect the United States with new audiences and partners worldwide, especially focused on women, youth and minorities, to fulfill their potential.”

The White House is particularly trying to encourage women and minorities to become entrepreneurs. Just three percent of venture capital-backed startups are led by women, and only around one percent are led by African-Americans. Leading up to the conference, the White House announced a list of 30 tech companies that pledged to increase the diversity of their workforces, among them Airbnb, Intel and SAP.

So, with diversity, openness and engagement firmly on the tech agenda, it’s worth taking a moment to see how open-minded your start-up is – are you bogged down in detail or are you still thinking outside the box?

If you’re looking for inspiration and opportunities to come together here on the South Coast, remember that the University of Southampton Science Park offers a mix of formal and social events: check out its Engage programme at http://science-park.co.uk/events. And, if you haven’t done so already, register for Nucleus Expo 2016, set to take place here on Wednesday 21st September: it’s the South’s own celebration of all things tech, innovation and entrepreneurial and, although we may not have California sunshine, it’s set to be a hotbed of inspiration.