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CEO of Tech City Joanna Shields says that the "woolly" objectives of London's (in)famous Tech City predated her, but she isn't giving much more clarity on what the government initiative should achieve. Challenged on the vagueness of the organisation's remit at an event on Friday, the former Facebook VP distanced herself from …

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Anonymous Coward

Barrier to Entry

In the old days, 20 years ago, "Developers, developers, developers" was probably all you needed. But these days the biggest barrier-to-entry for start-ups is misuse of IP laws by established players to stifle competition.

It's a shame that the technology industry is being slowed-down and resources sucked out by the legal profession (check out the cost of lawyers vs. "developers"); we definitely need IP laws to protect genuine invention, but software patents?

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::yawns::

Misappropriation of government funds comes to mind ...

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FAIL

Back in the day (the late 80s AFAICR - the days are hazy now) the incentives were tax breaks for first-round VC funding and loan guarantees to banks for "risky" start-ups. It worked, mostly.

Now, it's about giving hipsters free money to chatter about marketing and "creative" shit - not technology.

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Coat

"TURING is such a visual magazine that it can't be viewed without welding goggles"

Yes but -- The partys! The hobnobbing! The glossy business/lifestyle mag articles! The Intellectual Property glow!

Feels like a hedge fund superstar!

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Coat

The Big List

So where's the big list of Tech City (or Silli Roundabout, or even Hoxditch) startups? Because part of this game is promotion, isn't it? And are there any moderate success stories?

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P_0

Re: The Big List

One success is Mind Candy - creators of Moshi Monsters, which I think is a Pokemon type cute monster game. I think it's profitable.

And then there's Last.fm, which I think is based in the SR.

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"Developers, developers, developers"

Surely it should be "Customers, customers, customers"? Because once the teat of government funding runs dry, that's what they'll be needing.

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Mushroom

Re: "Developers, developers, developers"

Don't be silly Chris, by the time the government funding runs dry, they'll have prepared enough marketing material and bought enough bubbly to secure the next round of VC funding. And when that starts to run dry, why they'll sell themselves to some big, established tech firm that's trying to lose its stodgy old-tech image, so the founders get a successful 'exit' and everyone goes away happy.

I mean apart from anyone who was expecting any useful, sustainable or profitable business from the arrangement.

Meanwhile the Cambridge area is spawning the actual high-tech innovation, and the M3 corridor continues to produce most of the software and services that actually get deployed and used.

But they're not cool so f*ck them.

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P_0

Re: "Developers, developers, developers"

Meanwhile the Cambridge area is spawning the actual high-tech innovation, and the M3 corridor continues to produce most of the software and services that actually get deployed and used.

Not to mention the engineering clusters in the Midlands which make Derby the biggest exporter per capita in the entire UK. Could really use some grant money up in the Midlands to start tech companies to complement the engineering companies.

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Pint

Re: "Developers, developers, developers"

"Not to mention the engineering clusters in the Midlands which make Derby the biggest exporter per capita in the entire UK."

[edited]

Misread your post first time round there, as saying there was a big tech-cluster in Derby, now I see you mean there's a big engineering cluster and it could do with some complementary tech investment. Couldn't agree more. There are loads of places round the country that could benefit from this investment far better than London, which already has massive investment in tech in the form of the city (whether you agree with its aims or not).

I'm also sure there are more areas round the country than the ones I mentioned that are producing both new stuff and hard-working day-to-day useful software, in case I've offended anyone by missing them off :)

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Re: "Developers, developers, developers"

It's a while since I've braved the seedy underpasses through Silicon Roundabout, so I have no first-hand knowledge of how things work there, but round here we have a history of short-term business "initiatives". All that did was encourage a raft of companies that depended more or less entirely on EU/RDA/etc funds and would hop from one sector to another to follow the money. When government was flinging around money to get businesses online, they'd turn into web businesses; as the money dried up they'd lay off their web developers and move into something else - for a while there were slews of mostly-empty colo spaces with some kind of grant input or another that gradually folded and died.

The problem with this kind of funding is that it encourages companies that see the government as a customer - and an obliging customer that requires very little in return for its money - and discourages investment, risk and, most of all, the understanding of actual demand.

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P_0

Re: "Developers, developers, developers"

Yeah, they could have picked from a whole host of locations that could do with the money, and could possibly do more with the money.

For one, Birmingham, would be a great choice. It is located centrally. It has a burgeoning finance sector, a manufacturing sector, 3 universities (of varying quality), a relatively new science park etc.

Edinburgh would also make a good choice, as would Oxbridge, due to university presence and highly skilled workforce and first dibs on graduates. I'm sure there are some remnants of Silicon Glen that could be built up.

I would also argue York or Leeds would be good places to try to build a tech hub.

That's if a government funded tech hub is even needed.

As I no longer live in the UK, for the time being, I don't really care that much, but it is a little annoying seeing London getting "everything".

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The way that it actually works...

In reality you have an idea, work as a contractor for three or six months to raise some money, then eek out the money for as long as possible while working on your own project, before taking on another contract to raise further funds. While you're contracting someone else is liable to have a similar idea / better execution, it really sucks.

A better idea for the UK gov't than Tech City would be to copy a successful sheme from Chile, http://www.startupchile.org In their own words: "Start-Up Chile is a program of the Chilean Government to attract world-class early stage entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Chile."

The scheme works by offering $40K to start ups that are willing to move to Chile for six months. That is not a loan, there is no transfer of equity, its a grant. In teturn you have to agree to share the knowledge, take on some local interns and train them up.

Smashrun.com is a good example of a site that benefitted from the Chilean scheme. Similar in some ways to Strava, its for runners and more concerned with how often you run rather than Personal Bests and local KOM's.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The way that it actually works...

In reality you have an idea, work as a contractor for three or six months to raise some money, then eek out the money for as long as possible while working on your own project, before taking on another contract to raise further funds. While you're contracting someone else is liable to have a similar idea / better execution, it really sucks.

Or, until very recently, you get a work-from-home job at Yahoo and spend your time working on your own project while using your lavish Yahoo salary to fund yourself until Yahoo finds a CEO with a brain and have to come into the office, or you strike it rich - whichever comes first.

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Re: The way that it actually works...

Or get a job as a programmer and outsource your job to China so you can work on your own project

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The way that it actually works...

No need to do any actual work or take risks. once you have an idea, simply patent it and wait under the bridge.

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