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Economic news – Embassy 47

Tech start-ups are engine of UK economy, says Google boss

Google may have come under fire recently for legal tax dodging, but a trip by economic attachés to their Campus in London’s Tech City in Shoreditch revealed that the internet giant is doing its bit to stimulate the UK economy.

More than 50 trade attachés attended a talk by Ezequiel Vidra, the head of Google’s Campus London, which is fast becoming the beating heart of Tech City, sucking in entrepreneurs and pumping out profit-making start-ups.

Set up by Google and partners a year ago, it is a not-for-profit enterprise aimed at creating a strong tech start-up ecosystem in London.

“The Google founder started in his garage; Campus is just a better garage for the next generation of Google entrepreneurs,” said Vidra.

The ‘garage’ is in fact a seven-story building equipped with high-speed internet access, office facilities and free event space. Entrepreneurs can brainstorm in the cafe using free wifi or they can upgrade and rent a desk in the co-working space for bargain basement prices.

Campus hosts around 800 events a year where start-ups can pitch their ideas to investors in ‘pitch battles’ or apply to join accelerator programmes to give them access to seed capital, put them in touch with other investors and offer mentoring from specialists.

In the space of a year, more than 60,000 entrepreneurs have visited Campus, and the number of tech start-ups in Tech City has grown from 250 three years ago to 1500 today. Start-ups from 25 different nations have used Campus as a launching pad for their business ideas.

Vidra encouraged trade missions to organise their own delegations of tech start-ups to come to London and pitch for investment on the Campus stage. “You organise the event, you plug in and we will help promote it.” 

London was chosen as the site for Google’s first-ever campus because of the density of its tech networks, in close proximity to investors in the City and top-class universities generating bright computer science grads.

The high-growth tech industry has got the backing of the UK government, which has introduced a tech-friendly regulatory framework and entrepreneurship visas for start-ups from outside the EU.

“Now that the City has lost some of its lustre, it is Tech City that is attracting talent and creating wealth,” said Vidra.

Beyond the UK, Google has launched a Global Entrepreneur Programme, operating in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Australia.

Denying accusations that Google’s real agenda is to headhunt whizz kids or steal their ideas, Vidra said the scheme’s aim is to improve the internet. “Ultimately that is good for Google,” he added.

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