London - Tech City of the Future

This Monday Boris Johnson opened the inaugural London Technology Week, with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a host of influential figures from the technology world at his side. The week is designed to celebrate the success of the technology industry in London – but also to highlight the opportunities it presents for the future. We at Onfido definitely agree that there has never been a more exciting time to get involved in the technology sector here in the UK. We’re constantly expanding and improving ourselves and our product, and meeting driven and innovative people in the London tech scene.

There is absolutely no doubt that the tech sector has already taken off in London and the Southeast. Today, there are 382,000 technology workers in London, an increase of 11% since 2009, and 744,000 in the Southeast as a whole. This job market, according to a report by South Mountain Economics, is growing faster than that of California. London has almost as many big data workers as New York, and only 15,000 fewer tech workers than Silicon Valley in total. In certain sectors, such as financial technology, London is the world leader. Comparing ourselves to Silicon Valley is not now futile or ridiculous – it gives us a mark to try to hit and surpass.

The projections for the future are just as promising. The Mayor’s office announced findings made by Oxford Economics that projected that the London tech sector will add £12Bn and 46,000 jobs to the London economy. This kind of high-tech, high-skill revolution in the economy is exactly what is needed to remedy the negative effects of the economic downturn: London’s tech sector has led the way in the London job market by producing jobs at twice the rate of other industries, and accounts for 30% of all of London’s job gains since 2009.

The Boston Consulting Group outlined 5 key factors for the success of London as a tech city, all of which we identify with. They are:

• A strong talent pipeline
• A vibrant tech community
• Local capital throughout the journey
• Robust and flexible infrastructure
• Coordinated City-government support

We are proud of the team of well-educated and capable people we have built at Onfido. These individuals are evidence of the strong talent pipeline there is in the UK, as well as the willingness of many young, high-skill workers to prefer jobs in the dynamic and more free-form technology sector over more traditional jobs in finance, consulting and accountancy, where many of our team have previous experience. We certainly feel part of a vibrant community – the alma mater of our company as well as its founders was Oxford University. Isis Innovation, a subsidiary of Oxford and one of many technology transfer companies helping innovators realize their ambitions in the UK, played a major role in the early days of Onfido. And we are hardly starved for company in London, where 15,000 tech start-ups are born every year, many of them in the incubators of London’s tech city – Facebook’s developer garage, Google’s campus. Needless to say, we have also enjoyed strong relationships with investors – London is the spiritual home of world finance and there is an abundance of unique opportunities and events for growing businesses, from trade shows to pitching events, or from angel investors to venture capital funds and investment banks.

There is, however, always more room to grow and improve. As Mr. Bloomberg said himself on Monday, London cannot afford to lag behind the world – literally or metaphorically – in the development of its infrastructure. The former New York Mayor himself is responsible for improving the quality and reach of high-speed broadband and fibre-optic cable in New York to foster the growing technology market there. In an interview with the Evening Standard he highlighted the need for the kind of complex co-operation between the state, employers and infrastructure developers needed to spur economic growth.

Onfido and its employees could not be prouder to be at the forefront of Britain’s new economy. It is a privilege and an opportunity. As Mr. Bloomberg said: ‘Tech companies not only create jobs and revenue, they also help other industries stay competitive in the 21st century economy.’ That exemplifies what we are doing at Onfido. Not only are we revolutionizing the background-checking and identity verification industry in the UK, but also our checking technology is also helping to protect companies from fraud and misrepresentation in an economic age where these threats are only looming larger. We’re not just looking to grow – we’re hoping to bring you all with us!

But while we work on that, we stand behind the fundamental message of this London Technology Week: continued success – not only for us, but for the tech industry as a whole – depends on never being complacent.

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Rob was Head of Research at Onfido. Having left a lasting imprint through his work during the early days at Onfido, he's now gone off to solve the world's other problems in the US.
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