Russ Shaw, founder of the Tech London Advocates (TLA) trade body, has only just stepped off a plane from Japan and is currently gearing up for the marathon that is London Tech Week.
As a founding partner of the five-day tech extravaganza, which is going to be celebrating its sixth year this year, he will be on the ground speaking and visiting as many events as possible.
“Last year I did 27 events,” he laughs as we speak on the phone, a week before it all kicks off. “But after the 27th, I got this amazing perspective of what’s going on in London tech and what’s going on in the global tech ecosystem.”
Here’s an insider’s guide to London Tech Week and what’s changed in the city’s tech scene over the past 12 months.
The events to attend at LTW
Shaw’s top tip for getting the most out of LTW? “Wear comfortable shoes. I’m pretty ruthless with my time frames. I tell people, I’m coming, I can’t stay for very long.”
On the Monday alone, Shaw will be at at least five events including the opening launch event at the Olympic Park in the morning, speaking on stage at CogX, the AI conference that takes place over three days, the launch event for the FinTech Alliance, announced earlier this year by the Chancellor and the Lord Mayor of London, and the LTW charity dinner in honour of Founders for Schools at the Tower of London in the evening.
The other must-attend events include the TLA Health Tech Innovators conference on Tuesday. In its third year, the conference offers insights into the health tech space and why London is becoming such a hub for the genre.
Bloomberg is holding a new conference called Sooner Than You Think, which TLA is a partner for. As well, there is a proptech (property tech) event on Thursday which is sure to facilitate some interesting discussions. According to Beauhurst, nearly £200 million was invested in UK proptech companies in 2018.
A global vision in London
Though the focus is on London, and the amazing companies and initiatives coming out of the city, London Tech Week can’t help but have a global outlook.
On Thursday, there’s a Latin American tech day, an Asia Pacific delegation is in town for an Asian tech event on Friday and the TLA Africa group will also be promoting the links between Africa and London tech throughout the week.
What are the trends coming out of Africa tech? Shaw says there’s a lot going on in terms of fintech, as well as interesting apps in the farm and health tech spaces.
“There is a strong legacy of connections into Nairobi, into Lagos, into Johannesburg. And they’re looking at London as an important hub because of the funding that’s here, the fintech examples that are here,” says Shaw.
How London tech is dealing with Brexit
The last six months have been tough for London tech, Shaw says, as a result of issues like Brexit and the uncertainty it has caused in the sector. According to a report by TLA, 87 per cent of tech firms believe Brexit has tarnished London’s global reputation and 39 per cent report it is harder to access funding.
This has particularly affected early stage start-ups, as they are seen as the riskiest. But it is affecting companies of all shapes in sizes when it comes to staff, as EU nationals are leaving the UK to go to their native markets as a result of the uncertainty.
Once the Brexit question is sorted out, however, Shaw hopes there will be an explosion of interest in the scene.
“If we go down a softer Brexit route, I actually think once we get clarity on it, there will be a mini boom across many sectors of the economy because there’s such pent up demand out there,” he says. “If we have a no deal Brexit, I don’t know what to predict.”
The future of London tech
Despite concerns over Brexit, Shaw believes there is a lot to be optimistic about in the city’s tech scene.
“The good news is the fundamentals of the tech sector here are strong. We’re building great companies, we have so many tech unicorns to be proud of. And being in Tokyo last week, they were saying we look at London tech and what you guys are doing with great admiration.”
TLA, the trade body founded by Shaw, is going from strength-to-strength. It now has over 7,500 members, with a total of 14 working groups, and 14 sibling networks through the Global Tech Advocates platform.
The group launched a campaign last November called Road to One Million which aims to achieve one million digital and tech jobs in London by 2023. “We have to do a much better job of really making sure we bring a lot of great talent into the sector,” he says.
The sector is also looking to the developments of new technologies like 5G and what will come next. In particular, Shaw thinks 5G will be transformational for deep tech and will breed new companies in the sector.
“Machine learning, artificial intelligence, the crunching of huge amounts of data will happen much faster with 5G. That’s where I think you’re going to see an acceleration of companies coming to the forefront in terms of their products and services because you’ll be able to do it so much faster.”
For more info about London Tech Week, visit Londontechweek.com
Subscribe to Women Tech Charge, a new podcast from the Evening Standard.
From fashion to finance, technology is revolutionising our lives. Meet the extraordinary women who are leading the charge.