In what seems like five hours since we landed, I write from Silicon Valley on day five of WebMission 09.
Twenty UK and Irish companies are spending time here, under glorious blue skies, to find out what makes this part of the world tick, to have a series of hopefully useful meetings and to spend quality time with each other.
On that final point, we have had some exceptional experiences. From a San Francisco penthouse brunch (courtesy of Susan MacTavish Best) to this evening’s DrinkTank hosted by Michael and Xochi Birch (founders of Bebo) we’ve had the chance to meet literally hundreds of local business people. Each event we’ve taken part in has had a co-host inviting local guests and so there has barely been a moment where it has been ‘just us’.
One exception to that is here at Oracle’s global HQ, where several of the CEO’s have been meeting with a series of top execs, including Oracle’s head of M+A, to discuss the practicalities of working together. Other site visits have included Google and Microsoft and yesterday, the companies pitched to seven venture capitalists whose verdict (to me afterwards) was that the pitches and individuals were “seriously impressive”.
It will come as no surprise to hear that WebMission relies on the support of sponsors to take place. My fellow organisers, Polecat (James Lawn and Bron Kunhardt) have been superstars, at a time when so many potential supporters have said ‘sorry not this year’. That’s why we’re so grateful to Orrick, UKTI (UK Trade and Investment), G2I, the Technology Strategy Board and Oracle for their financial support. I know you’re not supposed to single people out, however I would like to share with you the fact that Orrick’s Chris Grew was the first and to this day most fantastic supporter of what we’re trying to do. From plotting the agenda over a London coffee to helping to host a ‘meet the experts’ session, without early supporters like Chris, things like WebMission just wouldn’t happen at all. Final thanks must go to the team at UKTI here in San Francisco, especially Helen Moore and Jaclyn Mason who have supported us right from the beginning.
Others have been writing about our exploits, from Techcrunch Europe’s Mike Butcher, to the Guardian’s Paul Carr. Even members of WebMission have been blogging. Check out Fresh Network’s Charlie Osmond’s thoughts here. Shadow Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk, another early supporter and someone who has joined us for much of this trip, has been writing about our activities over here. Our agenda, if you’re interested, is here.
A personal highlight was the Plug and Play Tech Center. It offers space, support, access to finance and community for over two hundred technology companies. Founder, Saeed Amidi is an inspiration and the format ought to be studied and, I hope, partnered back in the UK as soon as possible. Check it out – it’s amazing.
The positivity and ambition of the United States never ceases to inspire me. The good news for Britain and Ireland is that this spirit is matched by the twenty companies I have spent the week with. A small number are considering moving to the US. Others are plotting hiring teams over here. If we can use the relationships developed during this week to help US companies to connect with the UK, to increase the success of the participating companies and to help share anything we have learned and anyone we have encountered with our colleagues back home, WebMission 09 will have been a success.
If you are in the slightest bit keen to be involved in future WebMission activities, in London or beyond, I’d love to talk with you.