In 2014, I was in London to speak at a panel convened by E2Exchange, a forum for UK entrepreneurs. The event focused on what the UK needed to create a “Silicon Britain”—a robust technology industry that could provide lasting economic value for the entire country. One of the requirements that I noted was better support for the wealth of entrepreneurs that exist in the UK.
There’s no shortage of great ideas, invention and reinvention coming out of Britain. London and Silicon Valley both attract some of the best and the brightest entrepreneurs from around the world. After all, the companies with the best people win. Continued investment in its entrepreneurial ecosystem will only continue to promote a Silicon Britain.
One of the factors that I believe leads to exponential entrepreneurial success in Silicon Valley is the mentality of the entrepreneurs. People who work and thrive in the Valley know that it’s a meritocracy where the best ideas are rewarded. Entrepreneurs push limits, take risks, and pick themselves up quickly in the face of failure. Along the way, new leaders, navigating the difficulties of their earliest ventures, are mentored by veteran leaders, who actively look to pass on knowledge to the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Earlier in my career, I was mentored by John Chambers, then the CEO of Cisco Systems. The expectation was that I would take what I learned from him and pass it on to the next entrepreneur. This sentiment is echoed and acted upon by most leaders in the Valley. That sense of close-knit community and open-source knowledge is our “secret sauce.” It’s the characteristic that sets the Valley apart from every other tech hub in the world. This supportive environment is not restricted to mentoring, either, as fledgling companies have unrivaled opportunities to find investors who are ready and willing to back excellent ideas.
Fortunately, the UK has all the right people and tools in place. High tech clusters like Tech City in London, Silicon Fen in Cambridge, and Silicon Beach in Bournemouth all demonstrate that the country is not lacking in talent or energy. Events like those sponsored by E2Exchange and Tech Week show promise for establishing connections among the UK’s entrepreneurs. But these individuals and their businesses need more support to flourish, from both a mentoring standpoint as well as a financial one. Experienced leaders in Silicon Valley take less experienced leaders under their wings. Investors in the United States eagerly offered $60 billion in funding to startups in 2015 alone. The inclusive and educational nature of the community combined with a steady flow of financial backing is one of the primary reasons that Silicon Valley is home to many of the world’s most successful companies.
If the UK is willing to invest in pro-business initiatives and to embrace risk as a positive and necessary element of entrepreneurship, it may be able to retain more of its native talent, attract international attention, and create a thriving tech sector that will benefit the entire nation.