Guest Post: Ed Hardy of Young Founders

Young Founders is a completely free, not-for-profit, two-week summer bootcamp to inspire 16-18 year olds to consider entrepreneurship

We recently spoke to co-founder Ed Hardy to find out: why the programme has been set up; what the overarching goal is; and how they expect to achieve it.
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So, why are we taking two weeks out of our lives to run this? Frankly, it’s because we believe there are very few things more rewarding than building a startup. Startups are the craftsmen of today, creating beautiful products that people want to engage with. However, it’s tricky…very tricky. Myself and my co-founder founded our first business aged 16 and the two years that have followed have taught us an incredible amount.

We’ve failed at a lot, run into complications with HMRC and struggled with EU regulation but for every bump we’ve relished the experience – including the challenges. Few things can be more satisfying than seeing something you have created being enjoyed by thousands of people. We want to ensure that our cohort have access to the knowledge, skills and inspiration that our incredible set of mentors and speakers will provide over the two weeks. This combination, we hope, will give them the confidence to go on and found or join a startup.

The three core components to this are providing:

  • Inspiring talks & mentors: Leading industry Executives providing insight and expertise include: Andrew Fisher (Shazam), Eileen Burbidge (Passion Capital), Frank Meehan (Summly/Siri/Spotify), James Bromley (SwiftKey) and Matt Miller (ustwo – creators of Monument Valley). Founders participating also include those from outside of the tech sector to offer a broad range of experience
  • Critical skills. A range of seminars will focus on lean startup theory, IP, accounting, prototyping and pitching. These are provided from key industry practitioners including KPMG, Index Ventures & DN Capital
  • A vibrant workspace. Kindly provided by Central Working, in the heart of the East London tech scene filled with likeminded individuals in which to share and pool ideas

Crucially, there is no cost to the cohort and in an extra attempt to attract as diverse a gathering as possible, transport bursaries will be offered to exceptional candidates. Addressing issues such as gender imbalance are critical for us and we hope this will ensure that this attitude follows our cohort up into their careers.

The majority of jobs that our generation will go into over the course of their career don’t exist now. As a result, it’s important that as a generation we are at the forefront of creating these jobs of the future and we believe that startups have a critical role in achieving this.

Young Founders marks the start of a greater ambition to ensure that the current entrepreneurship movement in the UK is more than just a phase and becomes a critical part of the curriculum for British students going forward. No students should feel that starting their own business is a secondary career option and no student should feel they don’t have the support they need to get going.

Want to join us in helping to achieve this? We’d love you to hear from you – drop me an email on

2015 Startup Ecosystem Report

World’s largest startup database Crunchbase and data analysis tool Compass (formerly Startup Genome) have partnered to rank global startup ecosystems

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The collaborative project from two world leaders in data collection, provision and analysis has been launched in order to bring about a comprehensive ranking report of the world’s best startup ecosystems.

Startups across the globe can access the SE2015 survey and provide information and data which will enable the two partners to measure the ‘health’ of the respective ecosystem. Following their input, they can benchmark their individual results with peers in order to inform decision making going forward.

Three years ago, SE2012 had an astronomical response: downloaded over 100,000 times, referenced by the Obama administration, Chancellor Merkel, Israel’s UN Ambassador and the Mayors of Los Angeles and Boston.

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In addition, the report has been studied by hundreds of universities, consulting firms and startup accelerators and referenced in thousands of press articles worldwide. In all, the results were viewed by an estimated 10 million people.

Both Crunchbase and Compass agree that the last report is now likely to be very dated, as tech ecosystems right across the world have grown and developed substantially in the last three years. Let’s make the voice of Tech Nation heard across the globe.

Participate in the survey here.

Tech Nation Cluster Profile: Oxford

Following the recent launch of Tech Nation, we are running a series of profile pieces on each of the digital clusters featured in the report.


Oxford has witnessed incredible digital success in recent years with Natural Motion Games, Dark Blue Labs and Vision Factory acquired by Zynga and Google respectively. World-leading academic institutions in the area provide tech startups with exceptional talent and there are now nearly 22,000 people in digital employment in the area and 79% report good access to social networks.

Established digital sectors which are established in the Oxford cluster are Big Data and Cyber Security, although in recent years there has been an increasing presence of EdTech and HealthTech companies. Instrumental to the rise in the level of technical variation are the support organisations which have sprung up in the city, such as Digital Health Oxford and Digital Oxford.


The student community is also a core driving force behind the innovation which is taking place and Oxford Entrepreneurs, a student society based in Saïd Business School, claims to be the largest student entrepreneur society in the world. Also housed in the department was Venturefest‘s 2014 innovation conference, to be housed there again this year, bringing together high tech businesses from across the UK.

In addition to world-leading universities, local academic centres of excellence include three science parks, the University of Oxford’s e-Research Centre, the long established Computer Science Department, and the Isis Innovation software incubator.


Dave Fletcher, Chair of Digital Oxford, commented: “There are lots of startups across all sectors in Oxford, and an increasingly vibrant community – though it is not always easy to see from the outside.”

Three local companies were featured in the report:

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To find out more information about the Oxford digital cluster, download the Tech Nation reportview it online or visit our core project partner DueDil’s Online Interactive Guide.


Tech Nation Cluster Profile: Inner London

Following the recent launch of Tech Nation, we are running a series of profile pieces on each of the digital clusters featured in the report.


The home of Tech City, Silicon Roundabout and thousands of flourishing tech companies, London is the digital heartbeat of Europe. There was over $1.4billion in venture capital investment into London tech over the course of 2014, double the figure for 2013. Since the Tech City initiative was launched in 2010, digital giants have come to the capital in the form of Amazon and Google. In addition to this, giants have been born in the shape of Shazam, Transferwise and Farfetch – all recently valued at $1billion.

Across the 12 boroughs included in the Inner London cluster there are 251,590 people in digital employment and according to Oxford Economics, over the next ten years there are expected to be 46,000 more digital jobs in London. London also boasts a huge range of digital companies with leaders in FinTech and Big Data as well as a range of fantastic Internet of Things startups. This range is getting ever broader with a 92% growth in new digital companies incorporated between 2010-13.

Originally based around East London’s Old Street roundabout, London’s tech scene has blown up and there are now hubs spread right across the city including Canary Wharf, the Knowledge Quarter (King’s Cross), White City (Imperial West), the Olympic Park, Somerset House, Kentish Town, Tech City Croydon, Soho, Chiswick Park ‘Media Village’, among others.

Within the ecosystems which have been formed, a wide range of support is now available from more than 36 business accelerators such as MassChallengeUK, Seedcamp, Wayra, Microsoft Ventures, Techstars and our own programme Future Fifty. As well as all of the support systems available to tech companies in the capital, there is over 70 co-working spaces which allow small tech startup companies to rent appropriate spaces at affordable prices, such as the space we work out of: Runway East (pictured below).

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Another example of co-working in the London tech community is Central Working, who have four spaces across London. CEO James Layfield believes collaborative office space has been vital to the growth of London tech: “The property market for businesses assumes that you know how big you’re going to be next year – that’s not realistic for fast growing companies, and it’s why co-working spaces are so important.”

The rapid evolution of the Inner London tech scene is reflected in today’s figures, published by London & Partners. $682 million has been invested into digital companies in the capital in the last three months alone, indicating yet another record year. Tech City UK CEO Gerard Grech commented: “2015 looks set for the record books as the UK solidifies it’s rightful position as a global tech leader. It’s been a great year for London tech companies with the likes of WorldRemit, JustPark, TransferWise and Shazam smashing through their funding targets. The increase in venture capital investment into London in the first quarter of 2015 comes as no surprise. With 44,000 working in the fintech space alone, record levels of investment in 2014 and more than a quarter of million people employed in digital businesses across inner London, the capital is the engine of Tech Nation.”

Three local companies were featured in the report:

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To find out more information about Inner London’s digital cluster, download the Tech Nation reportview it online or visit our core project partner DueDil’s Online Interactive Guide.


Three Ways That Tech Could Disrupt the General Election

From crowd­sourcing ideas to quizzes that match your views to the parties, technology could play a key role in deciding the outcome of this year’s election. So what’s on the market this year and how could it disrupt the ‘Election of a Generation’?


1. VAA’s

­ Voter Advice Applications or VAA’s are basically quizzes that take points from party manifestos and present them to voters. Voters then agree or disagree with these points and are shown their ‘top matches’. Examples include Vote for Policies and Vote Match.

– They are tried and tested, having been in used in places like Germany from the mid 90’s and are viewed as the entry point for politics and in some countries over 50% of the electorate rely on a VAA to make a choice on who to vote for.
-­ It makes the policy points of each of the parties far easier to understand, saving the voter time and effort.

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– ­Simplification -­ Can the vast complexities of politics be simplified into a series of sentences that the voter then votes on Tinder style (considering the very real impact of a vote)?
– They don’t include everyone.­ No advice application has ever listed all candidates/parties standing in an election. This is a problem when voters have the right to information on all those who are after their vote.
-­ Too academic­ – almost all VAA’s are written by academics primarily for academic research and analysis. The language is often dry, boring and uninspiring.


Crowdsourcing platforms ‘obtain (information or input into a particular task or project) by enlisting the services of a number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet.’

Crowdsourcing is already widely used across the internet with the most well known example being Wikipedia. However could the democratisation of the creation of information lead to crowdsourced manifestos whereby party members and voters decide what a candidate should stand for? The Green Party of England and Wales is already known to let its members decide what policies the party should run for in an election, but could this become the norm?

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Groups like the Democracy Club – staffed by volunteers – think so and are trying to bring together information on every candidate in the General election 2015. Describing themselves as “a group of volunteers that aims to increase the quantity, quality and accessibility of information on election candidates” they believe that the internet will change the way the voter views and interacts with the election.

3. Video content

​YouTube, Vimeo and Vine are all MASSIVE when it comes to engaging vast audiences with video content. It makes sense then that its easier and more effective to show someone a 30 second video than making them read a 4 page document. Reaching over 32.1 million adults each week in the UK alone, YouTube is considered the king of video content.

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With national parties taking to the platform to share their message it seems only the candidates are left not realising the true potential power of online video media. David Cameron, PM, creates a video message every week or so in attempt to engage with voters but even he is an anomaly. In the age of 24 hr media, politics is often viewed as ‘noisy’ and ‘confusing’ to the voter so perhaps a short 90 second video explaining to voters exactly what it is the candidate stands for could go a long way.

This is a guest post from Charlie Martin, founding partner of Gusto Marketing and TickBox.

The Importance of Funding

The Importance of Funding – Guest Post From Nezahat Gultelkin – Future Fifty Advisory Panel

The UK’s technology scene is at a very vibrant stage. Having worked in the technology sector for 15 years, including eight years of formation in Silicon Valley, it is terrific to see technology becoming increasingly fashionable across the UK – attracting talent, investment and proactive government support and delivering serial entrepreneurs and global category leader companies.

Year to date, four UK based leading technology companies (all belonging to our Future Fifty family!) have raised substantial growth equity, of which two have a publicly stated valuation of $1bn! World Remit ($100m), Transferwise ($58m) Farfetch ($86m @~$1bn), and Shazam ($30m @~$1bn). According to my analysis, in 2014 there were 10 tech IPOs in the UK raising £1.7bn proceeds and representing £5.3bn market value at the time of IPO.

Ecosystems take time to build. Silicon Valley has been forming over the last 50 years, starting with the establishment of semiconductor and hardware giants including Intel, Fairchild Semiconductor (noted as the first VC backed company) HP etc… Today, the stretch from Mountainview to San Francisco houses primarily software and Internet based companies, capitalising on all the resources Silicon Valley has to offer. Stanford and Berkeley have played a profound role in producing talent, driving entrepreneurial spirit, forging close cooperation with the private sector – professors advising senior management of leading tech companies, senior execs teaching classes (my Entrepreneurial Finance class was taught by a partner from a top VC firm). Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KBCP) and Sequoia, both preeminent Sand Hill Road VCs, were founded in 1972, leading the emergence of independent VC firms.

1978 was a key year for the US VC industry as the US Labor Department relaxed some Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) restrictions on holding certain risky assets under the “prudent man rule,” therefore allowing corporate pension funds to invest in venture capital. This has led to a profound boost to the VC industry, funding tech companies to start, scale up and build world-class businesses. KPCP filed to raise $1.2bn for its fund XVI last year, and Sequoia raised $553 million for its fund XIV in 2013. According to NVCA, US VC investments reached $48bn in 2014, up 60% from 2013, where Silicon Valley represented 50% and total investment in software was $20bn.

According to analysis by London & Partners, a total of $2.1bn of VC investment was made into UK tech companies in 2014, twice the amount in 2013, of which $1.4bn was invested in London based companies. This is a testament to the growing importance of the tech sector and the attraction of capital to fund its growth. However, we continue to hear from entrepreneurs that UK/European VCs don’t have sufficient risk appetite to invest in tech. I believe we are at a good place for seed to Series A funding due to government policy and the emergence of significant angel investors and early stage funds.

The UK government has been unique in its efforts to support new business creation by establishing EIS and SEIS (introduced in 2012) schemes to help entrepreneurs raise seed funding to turn their ideas into a business, raising money from angel investors. Total amounts invested through these schemes almost doubled to £1bn in 2013 from £545m in 2012. According to analysis by the Financial Times, 25 new VC firms have been established in London since 2010 collectively raising $2bn. We have more early stage funds and corporate VCs investing from seed to Series A in the UK compared to five years ago. Examples of these new early stage funds include Mosaic Ventures ($140m), Google Ventures ($100m), and Hoxton Ventures ($40m).

The funding gap in the UK is at the Series B level. Companies looking to raise Series B generally have their product/solution proven with increasing adoption– in the case of B2B companies, few key reference customers generating few million in revenues. It is a very critical stage for a tech company’s life, defining “transition to scale up stage” – land grab, growing the customer footprint significantly, and expanding the team, all happening at a fast pace. In Q1’2014 the average size of Series B funding in the US was $15m (£10m), 20% y-o-y and this upward trend continues. It is a much more competitive market where a war chest is important to get ahead.

It is a stage where, I would argue, founders should also discriminate against money – bringing on board the right institutional investor(s) is crucial for these companies to attract key hires, build a proper infrastructure for future expansion, open up channels for partners and customers etc. In the UK, we have a shortage of VCs with substantial funds under management focusing on the Series B level – Index Ventures, and Atlantic Bridge Capital are to name a couple. We need to look deeper into the Series B challenge. These investments are bigger cheques; hence require VCs to have larger funds under management to make such commitments.

Traditional LPs, e.g. Pension Funds and Insurance firms in the UK, classify VC as a risky asset class and thus tend to invest in Private Equity instead. Due to a much longer and proven track record of success and relaxing of ERISA rules over 35 years ago, US based VCs have larger funds under management, hence, are able to write much bigger cheques, taking higher risks – it is a portfolio game. Therefore, it is no surprise that a number of Series B and later rounds of UK’s leading tech companies are led by US based VCs.

In the end, money follows success! We need more and bigger success stories to drive the recycling of intellectual and financial capital back into UK’s thriving tech ecosystem. Successful realizations of the VC funds will deliver attractive and sustainable returns to LPs, which in turn will invest more into VCs that are the key source of capital for tech companies. And British media, please cheer the success and the magnitude of our ambition.

SUCCESSFUL TECH COMPANIES ARE CRITICAL TO THE FUTURE OF THE UK. So here is to creating many more multi billion tech businesses competing on the global stage – for our economy, for our future!

Let me know your thoughts on the role financing plays in the future of UK tech companies!


Nezahat Gultekin is a former technology investment banker. Now an independent advisor to tech firms, Nezahat is a member of the Future Fifty Advisory Panel.

Gerard Grech Spoke to Virgin on London Becoming Europe’s Tech Capital

Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK and a man right at the heart of the UK’s start-up scene, recently sat down with us to discuss how London became Europe’s tech capital. As well as his biggest tech trends for the next five years and how best to address the UK’s looming digital skills gap…

What is it that makes London such a great place to start a tech business and what advantages do you think London can offer over other cities supportive of tech such as San Francisco?

London is Europe’s tech capital. A record-breaking £1.4bn was invested in 2014 – twice the amount in 2013 and 20 times the rate of investment from five years ago. With the capital’s strong heritage in creative industries and professional services and some of the world’s leading universities, London technology businesses can also benefit from access to a skilled tech talent pool. Heavy hitters like TransferWise, Busuu, World Remit and our co-working friends Grabble are demonstrative of the revolution, disrupting traditional industries and growing rapidly.

London’s central location means it is an ideal place to do business across continents, making it an attractive destination for digital businesses with global ambitions. With 36 tech accelerators and over 70 co-working spaces, London based tech businesses can also take advantage of collaborative networks and support organisations.

While much of London’s early tech growth was centred on the East London area, we are now seeing the rise of other tech hubs across the city including FinTech in Canary Wharf, the Knowledge Quarter in Kings Cross, White City, Olympic Park and Tech City Croydon. London is rapidly emerging as the epicentre of global innovation in digital.

What are some of the challenges London is facing to further establish its stature as a global leader for supporting tech founders and what needs to be done to overcome them?

London’s tech sector has grown at an unprecedented rate. In fact, the recent findings of our Tech Nation report found that the Inner London cluster (covering 12 boroughs) has seen a 92 per cent increase in the number of new digital companies formed between 2010 and 2013. This has brought about a number of infrastructure challenges such as access to high-speed broadband and affordable property. At Tech City UK we are working closely with entrepreneurs and the London business community to ensure that their evolving needs are met.

For example, as the demand for high speed broadband increases, we are working closely with broadband service providers and policy makers to ensure that London’s businesses have greater access to fast connection speeds – the lifeblood of their growth potential. Just recently, we have seen positive progress with the recent news that Virgin Media and BT are making significant investments in London’s broadband infrastructure. The government’s Connection Vouchers scheme is another welcome initiative for digital businesses in London and across the UK
Access to talent was highlighted as a key issue for digital companies and so we worked closely with the Home Office to introduce the Tier 1 Exceptional Tech Talent Visa. This visa route allows individuals from outside the EU come and work at UK companies. We can endorse up to 200 applications.

What is your vision for Tech City UK?

Tech City UK has made great progress in helping to accelerate the growth of the UK’s digital businesses. We’ve seen exponential growth in from 200 to 3,000 businesses over a five-year period. Following the expansion of our organisation’s remit in 2014, we have delivered a number of nationwide programmes to support the growth of digital businesses at all stages of their development, in London and in cities across the UK.

The recent findings of our Tech Nation study revealed that tech clusters are thriving in cities across the UK with a staggering 74 per cent of digital businesses formed outside of London. While it is important that we continue to celebrate the strengths of our individual clusters, we can achieve more through encouraging greater collaboration and the sharing of best practices amongst regions.

Whilst we can see the geographical spread of innovation at the heart of the UK digital economy, London is the epicentre. It is the heart of the wider tech ecosystem, both a source of support and inspiration but crucially, also, a convenor of global expertise. I want to work with my team to continue to support this growth and to respond to the needs of the digital business community across the UK.

How best should the UK address the looming digital skills shortage of the future?

The rapid growth of the UK’s digital economy is creating an increasing need for digital workers. A recent study from Nesta found that Britain will need 745,000 additional workers with digital skills to continue growing the economy over the next four years.

In order to meet the large scale of this demand, it is important that we democratise access to digital skills. This is why at Tech City UK we launched the Digital Business Academy in November 2014 in partnership with UCL, Cambridge Judge Business School and Founders Centric, plus fast growth players like Unruly, Seedcamp and Twitter. Created with the help of some of the best minds in education, our online academy offers digital business skills to anyone – for free. But Digital Business Academy is more than a just free online learning platform, it’s an opportunities pipeline, linking participants to free co-working space, startup loan support and job placements through more than forty partners. With hundreds signing up weekly, we are currently seeking submissions for content partners for five new courses.

What do you think are some of the biggest tech trends that will shape the next 5-10 years? Can you please give some examples and briefly describe why you think they will be important?

1. Data analytics to make artificial intelligence a reality

Over the past few years we have seen the rapid development of digital technologies across big data. As machine-learning solutions become more advanced, 2015 has the potential to be a breakthrough year for predicative analytics and big data. We’re seeing global leadership in the UK in cities like Edinburgh, Bristol, Leeds and Cambridge.

By combining cognitive skills with analytical tools, we can now analyse large amounts of data in context and in real-time. From social data from the likes of DataSift to predictable keyboard functionalities from the likes of Future Fifty company SwiftKey, there are fundamental changes afoot in the way businesses are making strategic decisions and individuals are making consumer choices. With a strong expertise in big data and artificial intelligence, and the recent announcement of the establishment of the Alan Turing Institute, the UK has the potential to lead the way in this exciting field.

2. Rise of the Sharing Economy

The sharing economy is one of the most exciting markets to have emerged from the growth of Britain’s digital economy. From travel to pet ownership — it is reaching into many aspects of our lives. PwC has calculated that on a global basis, the sharing economy is set to rise to £230bn by 2025, from £9bn today.

In the sharing economy, networks become more dynamic than centralised systems. And reputation becomes a powerful new asset. But this doesn’t just have potential value in social currency; the sharing economy should also be seen as a huge opportunity for the UK economy. Companies like Airbnb and Liftshare are breaking the mould and I’m very excited to see what’s next.

Tech City UK and Virgin are passionate about supporting UK SMEs. Recently Richard Branson announced the launch of Pitch to Rich 2015, a competition giving away £1 million to three founders at the live final. If you are a British entrepreneur, don’t miss out on this chance to take your business to the next level.