Global tech ecosystem: what can companies learn from each other?
Janet Coyle, Director of Silicon Valley Comes to the UK, discusses the global tech ecosystem and how the UK and US can learn from each other.
According to a recent report published by the British Business Bank, returns from UK venture capital funds are almost identical to those in the US. The report compares firms in both regions for over the past 17 years and sheds doubt on the popular belief that US funds consistently outperform those in the UK. Historically the relationship between the US and the UK has been positioned as 'big brother and baby brother’ but actually they have been on par for some time now in many ways; such as access to growth capital, infrastructure, world-class universities and talent.
Collaboration is the lifeblood of both Silicon Valley and the UK, two of the world’s leading tech powerhouses that continue to be celebrated for the strength of their innovation. Having spent some time in Silicon Valley – and of course in London – working with successful startups and scaleups, I have witnessed first hand what both these regions have to offer. And it isn’t just me.
Raina Kumra CEO of Juggernaut LLC believes the two ecosystems are complementary but also have much to learn from one another in terms of realising the incredible value and potential of the people within them.
Whilst the healthy competition between the US and the UK has been a catalyst for driving growth and investment, there is also a lot to be gained from harnessing the synergies between both hubs. Through cross-border collaboration, London and Silicon Valley will continue to pave the way for developing new ideas and innovations by creating environments that give the brightest minds access to those vital ingredients for growth.
Access to investment and capital
Over the past ten years, Silicon Valley has dominated the startup investment landscape, receiving over $110bn worth of venture capital and private equity funding according to data released by intelligence platform, Quid. London is also showing strong growth, attracting $34.2bn in growth capital, more than three times the amount of total funding received by other tech hubs such as Paris, Berlin and Tel Aviv.
But as the British Business Bank report has shown, London is a tech industry heavyweight in its own right. Home to 36 out of the 60 UK unicorn startups, the Capital represents more than a fifth of all unicorns in Europe at a total valuation of $132bn. The most recent companies to join London’s unicorn club include Monzo and Revolut. London’s increasing share of investment signals how fast it is becoming the go-to destination for start ups alongside Silicon Valley.
Even in spite of the ongoing political turbulence, Silicon Valley investors are growing increasingly interested in UK businesses and have displayed plenty of appetite for the cutting-edge technological innovations being developed across the pond. The 'Golden Triangle' between Oxford, Cambridge and London is now home to many pioneering and innovative start-ups and a rich source of tech talent.
The growing presence of Silicon Valley investors in London and vice versa should be welcomed as a means to keeping the doors and opportunities open for globally ambitious companies. In the long term, the strong links between these regions will undoubtedly continue to create a pipeline of capital and knowledge which will enable ambitious founders to fulfil their vision and scale their companies.
Access to talent and skills
Technology has created more opportunities, with job roles that simply didn’t exist decades ago now ubiquitous in the modern workplace. Both Silicon Valley and the UK have become hotbeds for developing the technology talent to fill these roles. Technology and innovation are a driving force behind London’s future growth, with employment in the city’s digital technology sector predicted to increase by almost a fifth over the next decade.
In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, talent is a fundamental building block for every startup to maintain its competitive edge. Both Silicon Valley and London have always kept their doors open to the wealth of talent the global tech ecosystem has to offer. By welcoming people from different nations, both hubs are in turn able to offer a wider pool of diverse and specialised talent which startup founders can capitalize on.
Both destinations are known for championing and nurturing exceptional talent from the ground up, giving plenty of resources and space for fresh ideas to grow. Strong ties with world-class university institutions and the entrepreneurial ecosystem will continue to provide the tech industry with top talent and intellectual property. In 2018, the total number of patents stemming from both London and Silicon Valley across Fintech, AI, MedTech, Cybersecurity, Gaming, Smart Cities and AdTech surpassed 700, compared with just under 200 applications five years prior (2013).
However, with a globally-recognised skills gap making the hunt to attract and retain top talent ever harder, there remains plenty of room on both sides of the pond to facilitate introductions and connections, and encourage mentorship to inspire the next generation of innovators.
Access to global and domestic networks
London is second only to Silicon Valley for inbound global connections. A quarter of entrepreneurs across the world report having a significant relationship with two or more entrepreneurs in London, compared to a third for Silicon Valley. As an industry we must continue to draw on both ecosystems’ core strengths and build stronger links that will benefit the wider entrepreneurial community, from business leaders to innovators, founders and investors.
Both regions have become the birthplace of some of the world’s most pioneering companies, but the ecosystem also need to make sure the future is even brighter.
As companies continue to push boundaries in technology which shape our world and society, Silicon Valley and the UK have the power to steer its growth in a sustainable way. More businesses are being led by a mission to make sure their social and environmental impacts actually benefit the world in which they operate. Investors are also beginning to wake up to the fact that there is a fine balancing act between portfolio companies doing well (commercially) while doing good.
Right now, the UK and Silicon Valley are experiencing unprecedented growth, which also comes with unprecedented influence and responsibility. Positioned as the world’s innovation leaders, both titans must ensure future generations of tech innovators and entrepreneurs are able to make their monumental marks on the world.
For more information on business topics in the United States, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief USA.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.