CEO of Tech City Joanna Shields says that the "woolly" objectives of London's (in)famous Tech City predated her, but she isn't giving much more clarity on what the government initiative should achieve.
Challenged on the vagueness of the organisation's remit at an event on Friday, the former Facebook VP distanced herself from previous Tech City strategy, saying that it "predated" her.
Yes there will be targets, Shields said at the London Web Summit, but she wasn't giving any details about what they were. Shields is only 7 weeks into the role, having replaced Eric Van Der Kleij as the head of the government-funded investment body, just under two years after the role was created in April 2011. Tech City recently received £50m to rebuild its home on Old Street's Silicon Roundabout and turn itself into a hub of 200 startups, but the organisation's hazy objectives and liberal dispensation of public money has drawn some criticism.
Shields said that the digital economy - growing at 11 percent - was a big opportunity for Britain and trotted out the Government's current efforts to help it. She reiterated key initiatives: the Patent Box tax break, entrepreneur visas, and some recent work with the London Stock Exchange persuading it to open up on listing new tech companies.
Saying that Tech City was more of "a movement" than a particular place in London, Shields wants to have a "shared conversation" with tech clusters outside London - mentioning that she'd been in contact with nine.
The digital economy is a great opportunity looking to be exploited and Government investment drew other kinds of investment, said Shields, citing the new Google Campus as an example of the positive effect the Tech City initiative has had.
Entrepreneurs and VCs mulling over the success of the London startup scene in a panel later on at the Summit had more qualified praise for Tech City - saying that its main use had been as a marketing ploy, useful in attracting talent and money:
"It's great for morale," said Eileen Burbidge of Passion Capital. "It's great for people to see themselves on the news."
But panelists had some caveats about what had been achieved and what was needed. Eze Vidra from the Google Campus suggested that British start-ups still needed more knowledge about funding, marketing and law. Arnaud Betrand from start-up HouseTrip said simply what Tech City needs:
"Developers, developers, developers." ®