¡Bong! Effendi, entrepreneurs! The Bongster is back from Texas! Every year, the brightest talent in Shoreditch's vibrant tech scene swaps the workspaces and mentor-ins of N1 and E2 for the sweet smelling grass of Austin, Texas, for SXSWi. And so did I.
As the founder of ¡Bong! Ventures, I am the enabler behind some of the best-known startups the London tech scene has produced: household names like Catflapp, the social network for pets. In the past, I was a partner of Woodstock Capital - but please note those losses have been exaggerated and do NOT believe the figures bandied about by envious dead-tree media. Since then my legal team has reached a successful confidential agreement with the financial authorities.
Today, I'm my own man again, a venture Svengali with his own go-to-market investment platform and talent incubator. And if you don't know what those words mean, you are probably the kind of guy who doesn't get to choose his own job title. Well, get up to speed, amigos, or we might have to move you into the Google Circle for very slow children. Hell-o!
This year's trip sent a powerful message to the world: we Britons finally have a government that Gets It. And by "it" I mean a truly post-industrial, post-profit digital economy.
So last Friday at 2pm - these early starts kill me! - you'll have found the Bongster downing a half-dozen White Russians in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse to settle the nerves. Just me, and a handful of the most disruptive British startups in the social space. And backing from our facilitation teams from No 10, the FCO, the Cabinet Office, the Technology Strategy Board, TechCityUK, their own mentors at the inestimable UK Trade and Investment, NESTA, the British Council, and BiS [the Department of Business Skills and Innovation - ed].
So the entire lounge had been reserved for all 650 of us, with Wi-Fi thoughtfully provided so we wouldn't miss a single tweet or poke. Spirits were already pretty high as we got on board the specially chartered Virgin flight - or as Rohan christened it, the "Bong Bus". That's how we roll.
It's amazing - it's Flickr meets Green Shield Stamps
Now people ask me: "Steve, why do so many civil servants need to attend web conferences?"
But I tell them: "That's really an analogue-age question. For a start, we call them social stimulus enablers. But more importantly - with so much amazing entrepreneurship breaking out all over Shoreditch - a better question is 'How many is enough?'"
You know, we all agree that startups need help, but digital talent is special. It's like an orchid: it's beautiful, it's fragile, and it needs careful watering. I think every Shoreditch startup should have its own "govern-mentor" to pick up the tab. And pay for the drinks. I'd say 1:3 is about the right comfort ratio for me. As long as two of those three are blondes.
Rest assured, cubicle dwellers from the industrial age, your money is being well spent - as you can see from the amazing choice of UK.gov-backed talent showcased at SXSWi. Take Shopcade for example. Shopcade uses the power of the crowd and the social web to get discounts for people taking part. What participating businesses lose on margin, they can make up in their social mojo. It's brilliant. It's Flickr meets Green Shield Stamps. In fact, I predict shopping vouchers might go viral very soon - we just don't know who it will be.