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Why MBA Entrepreneurs See London As Europe's Answer To Silicon Valley

MBAs and entrepreneurs flock to London's "Tech City" for the opportunity to network and secure finance cheaply. MBA graduates and start-up founders are turning the city into Europe's Silicon Valley.

Sat Feb 22 2014

BusinessBecause
London has become Europe’s answer to Silicon Valley. Tech entrepreneurs are fighting for start-up survival in what is being billed as “Tech City”; an area of East London that has become home to hundreds of small and medium sized companies, as well as big-name players including Facebook, Google and Twitter.

As entrepreneurship becomes an increasingly popular option for today’s business graduate, shunning traditional MBA jobs in an environment with like-minded individuals is, for some, the way to go. Today, there are nearly 1,500 digital companies in the area alone – a remarkable increase since 2010, when there were approximately 200.

And MBA student see the potential too. Bernhard Niesner, an IE Business School MBA graduate and CEO & Co-founder of London-based start-up Busuu, says there is nowhere better for start-ups in Europe.
 
“It’s the best ecosystem at least in Europe and maybe the world for a start-up like ours. There is a big talent pool and a lot of people with similar experience in what we are trying to do,” he told BusinessBecause.

The number of technology companies in London increased 76 per cent from 2009 – 2012, while the tech sector as a whole in London grew by almost 17 per cent, according to figures published in the Tech City Third Anniversary Report.

Job opportunities during the same period grew by more than 16 per cent – there are now 582,000 people employed in London’s tech sector. In a world where MBA students are seeking to enter start-ups in record numbers, these figures are encouraging.

“There is incredible momentum in the UK tech and digital sector. The Government has created a policy landscape that’s transformed the UK’s start-up scene,” says Joanna Shields, incoming CEO of Tech City UK, an initiative backed by Britain’s political elite which supports start-ups and fosters investment in the area.   

Gordon Innes, CEO of London & Partners, the official promotional organisation for the city, says London is one of the world’s “great cities” for start-ups. "London provides huge opportunities for smart technology firms who are keen to pursue innovative business strategies,” he says.

Leading business schools have set-up camp there. Imperial College Business School recently held a series of debates examining the UK’s strategy for the skills, knowledge and infrastructure for the future digital economy in Tech City.

Professor David Gann, Vice President (Development and Innovation) at Imperial College London, says that the UK can lead the next generation of digital services. “Through our world-class universities, top businesses and digital start-ups, we can generate better opportunities in cities and create growth in the job market,” he says.

Closer ties to big businesses have never been more important for MBA students, and the same goes for technology companies, big and small, says Dr Sionade Robinson, Associate Dean of MBA Programmes at Cass Business School. “Being located in the City of London puts us at the hub of the most important city for global business in Europe. Our location has helped us create a network of corporate relationships that we provide Cass MBA students with,” she says.

Cass, part of City University London, also have an incubator for its tech-minded MBA students, The Hangout. Parveen Dhanda, who helps run the day-to-day operations, says that there are currently around 10 MBA students using the service.

“We provide an opportunity for students that have decided on a business idea to work in an environment with similar start-ups. At the end of their MBA program they will have developed more relationships and have a better idea of how they want to take their ideas forward,” she says.

Nicolai Schumann, a Cass MBA graduate and SME founder who used the schools’ London incubator, says that “it’s all about collaboration” when it comes to launching a company.

Bennie Johnston, Head of API's at Just Eat Technology which is based in Tech City, agrees. “A lot of the time the businesses we do collaborate with have been near us – it makes that sort of thing easier. It’s a lovely place to meet like-minded individuals,” he says.

One of the main reasons start-ups come to London is to find top talent. Steve Pateman, Head of UK banking at Santander, said last week that there needs to be significant cultural change to ensure firms have access to the brightest graduates.

London TechMeetUps, a branch of the TechMeetUps organisation which seeks to help develop technology start-ups in the world’s major cities, held a jobs fair this week to help address the problem. Dozens of start-up entrepreneurs, most of them based in Tech City, pitched to the audience of job seekers.

Bernhard from Busuu says that finding the right talent is the biggest challenge their company has faced. They want to expand from about 35 to 50 employees, and hired some MBA graduates last year. “We moved the company last year from Madrid to London, and to find top talent, it’s much easier being in London. It was definitely the right decision for us to come here,” he says.

Jon Page, Sales Director of Tech City start-up Athena, says it is tough finding the right employees. “This is where people want to work. I can comfortably say, out of our team of six guys, if we weren’t here [in London] we wouldn’t have at least 3 of us. Half the team would not be here,” he told BusinessBecause.

Bennie from Just Eat Technology agrees. They are hoping to hire about 25 people by the end of 2014. “It’s a growing company and we’re struggling to find good people in the market,” he says.

But it is not just hiring potential that brings MBAs and tech entrepreneurs to Europe’s Silicon Valley. Finance is a key consideration for start-ups, and office rents in London are set to reach an historic high by 2018, as record levels of investment in infrastructure and demand from tenants and overseas investors grows.

London’s West End has just overtaken Hong Kong as the world’s most expensive place to rent offices – with a 14 per cent rise in the cost of taking on a West End lease reported last year.

Knight Frank, the property consultancy, said earlier this month that rents in the City and the West End could reach £75 a sq ft and £120 a sq ft respectively by 2018. The revival in demand for office space is blamed largely on technology and media firms with large deals signed by Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Ogilvy & Mather and News UK.

“Small-scale start-ups have loads of opportunity for shared office space. But once you do begin to grow, it’s cheaper to be in the City than going to an office in the West End,” says Bennie from Just Eat Technology.

Michael Ter-Berg , CEO of Thomson Screening, said that East London is a “hub” for tech start-ups like his, which generates opportunity, networking and access to finance.

Successful graduates with the ambition to do something themselves are attracted to Tech City – and that will only grow stronger, he says.

“It’s important to have access to networks and angels. It’s proving to make successful companies and there are sure to be a lot more. We see that happening here like it did in Silicon Valley.” 

Student Reviews

Bayes Business School

Student

Verified

31/10/2023

On Campus

Best Journalism school in Europe

When I first stepped onto the campus of City, University of London, I knew I was in for a ride - and not just on the Tube! With its vibrant energy and an impressive repertoire of programs, City U became my home away from home. The Journalism program was kind of a big deal. Rumour was that we were the best in Europe! The lecturers were not just experts in their field; they’re practically journalistic royalty. They were invested, passionate, and had a knack for turning the most flat press release into a riveting news story. With their guidance, I’ve learned to navigate the chaotic world of media like a pro. The campus was a melting pot of every culture, being that we had such a diverse international crowd. Being in the heart of London, I had the world at my fingertips - there was always a new corner to explore, a hidden gem of a cafe to discover, or a street performer! City, University of London wasn't just a university; it was a chapter in my life story that I’ll never forget.

Lydia

Verified

23/02/2023

On Campus

Learning environment

The teacher-learner ration is manageable, giving each learner a chance to gain personal attention. It is also easier following up on the progress of a student, as the numbers per class is not large. the conducive environment for learning includes clean classes, standard desks, world class instructional facilities and the opportunity to engage lecturers even after their sessions. The team spirit at City is above board, with learners getting chance to learn both from instructors and colleagues. This is the university of choice; the place to be.

Nathaniel

Verified

24/01/2023

On Campus

Classes

I liked that each class had a manageable number of learners, making the professor-learner ratio favor knowledge acquisition. I also liked that study schedules were manageable, and not overwhelming. The focus on talents and gifts even within the learning environment makes it possible for learners to achieve the best of their potential, and this has worked to the advantage of those that have schooled at City, University of London

Muhammad

Verified

24/01/2023

On Campus

Classes

The diversity at City University facilitates interactions and is a direction toward the unity of the world. The classes are well built to match the number and needs of all students regardless of the elements of diversity that set people apart. The use of technology in delivery makes learning even more interesting and achievable. At City University there is no distinction pegged on the issues that make people unique.

Dorah

Verified

23/01/2023

On Campus

professors

The team of lecturers at the Uiversity are well experienced. Their level of insight and the methodologies of delivery works for the interes of the leaeners. My learning experience was largely boosted by the level of knowledge of the professors at the institution, and their passion to transfer the same to learners. I appreciate every class I attended because of the level of insight I was able to gather

Nora

Verified

17/12/2022

On Campus

The best university I’ve been to

The campus and the people I've met have made it a wonderful experience. I was reared in a small town with a graduating class of only 88 individuals, so moving to City University was a huge adjustment for me. My dorm has more residents than my whole high school combined! I enjoy the atmosphere here, and everyone is so friendly. Outstanding academic options and a stunning campus. Really great from beginning to end. The educators genuinely love what they do, and the students are ready to learn. On or around college, there is always something to do with friends, and the social scene is particularly warm.

Antonia

Verified

21/11/2022

On Campus

Bayes Business School

As a student at City university attending Bayes Business School I would totally recommend choosing this university as the experience is exceptional with great social networking opportunities . Professors are significantly helpful, delivering with excellence and professionalism. Everyone is happy to help and make you feel welcomed in such an esteem university as City, offering exceptional development and guidance through out the course.

Muhammad

Verified

15/11/2022

On Campus

Economics and Politics

Incredibly amazing university, the way they polish students and help them boost their morale and think intellectually is worthwhile. Many universities have international partnerships to allow exchanges between their students. The most obvious subjects for these opportunities would be those that involve languages, and the study of people and places.

Navya

Verified

11/11/2022

On Campus

Clinical biology

I really like it it’s perfect for me with not too many people and not too few either. All the modules are amazing. I love the toy bar. I love all the societies that I’ma part of. Especially the colour Bollywood society

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