London Calling - Why there Are More Selfie Sticks than Umbrellas?

in Business by Damian on October 13th, 2015

5 Years Later - London is not the same

I was there 5 years ago. Close to the famous Big Ben. It was raining like hell. I bought an umbrella. This time it was different. Big Ben was in the same place, the small souvenir shop nearby as well, but there weren’t any umbrellas available! Instead, I just found selfie sticks (BTW: I already know that selfie stick might be replaced by something called Podo). Second weird thing was weather - sunny and warm. Weird times in UK right now.

We came to London to explore. Startups, middle sized companies, agencies - to meet and greet people. We were curious what do they think about Poland and what are the opportunities for cooperation between Brits and Poles (in startups/IT sector). I discovered a few interesting things.

London Startup Scene - a few conclusions

Together with Piotr we had a chance to visit a couple of interesting places. We were in London Campus where eight startups were presenting their ideas. It was a great meeting. Many interesting people. The audience could vote for pitches in a real time. There was something missing though. I talked to one of the folks sitting next to me and he told me that in London there are many wannabe entrepreneurs and you need to be quite selective to find real entrepreneurs.

We also had a chance to present our concept of failure based on Just Proto during the Tech Startups and New Ideas Night. Being on the stage gives you the power to inspire people, lead them in a proper direction and share a piece of experience with them. After my presentation I had a chance to speak to a couple of people. Here is what I heard from them:

 

  • 30% of Brits don’t know where Poland is (mostly the young generation who have never been there).
  • Many young entrepreneurs want to build startups, but they are not real entrepreneurs. They do it, because it’s a trend.
  • It’s hard to find co-founders for many CEOs (there is a huge lack of CTOs)
  • Life in Britain is quite expensive and London itselfs is more demanding than for example Berlin (I met a guy who lived in both cities and he said that Berlin is much better for creating startups).
  • Many immigrants go to London, because the city gives them a huge opportunity to be a part of an intense entrepreneurship ecosystem.
  • You can get your TAX back, if your startup fails and you will go to a regular 9 to 5 job (an interesting concept - it really decreases your risk as a young entrepreneur)
  • Moreover there are hundreds of accelerators waiting for some new, fresh ideas and folks with a strong motivation to build something global.
  • In rush hours it’s hard to get into the tube. You also need to go outside of the tunnels from time to time to see what’s above the surface.
  • There are hundreds of events running every month (you can find them on Meetup.com) and you need to be very selective, but if you find your niche, then it’s quite easy to get some feedback for your startup.

 

In general, it is hard to get involved in this stage without being there. From my perspective, you need to visit London from time to time or set up a business there. Obviously you also need to be very proactive, chat with people, ask them questions and try to help them as much as you can. You should also follow groups on Facebook: London Startups and London Startups Events.

And keep smiling :) People in London are friendly and willing to help.

There is more happening in London than just business

Except meetings, coffees and meetups we had the pleasure to visit Google Office a couple of times. Thanks to my friends we could join interesting discussions and we could have a lot of fun exploring the place. My friend George prepared us an interesting coffee in the Coffee Lab, called “The Nipple Coffee”. Have a look at the picture and guess where does the name come from ;)

It would be a great loss if we didn’t have British Breakfast. So we ate it. It was delicious. There is so much interesting food in London, thousands of different marketplaces. You can try something new almost every day.

Piotr had a chance to taste local bagels. We were on the marketplace under the bridge. It was colorful and very loud. The heart of London at 1 PM. Lovely!

People matter - how to meet and greet strangers and spend great time together

We also randomly met a nice Italian couple - Maurizio and Graziella. They run their own interactive agency and travel from place to place - they are digital nomads. I really loved their story and the way of living!

The funny thing about London is that you can meet people by accident. We were in the hotel and Piotr was sitting on Twitter. He received a suggestion of a new contact. Marco - experienced UX Designer. We decided to catch up with him. One e-mail and 10 minutes later we had a meeting scheduled two hours later. Marco was an extremely positive and open-minded person. He told us the story of his adventure in London and described the Startup he created - Roger, ann app for networking.

London is multicultural. It’s easy to meet completely different people. People with interesting stories, who travel around the world and cooperate with people from all over the world. We were lucky enough to share our thoughts and get inspired by others.

My lessons from London - this is the beginning of something bigger

On the last day in London we had a long discussion with Piotr. Before we arrived here we made assumptions about things (people, cooperation in London, startups and so on) and part of this was a mistake. The good thing is that exploring the city, asking people questions and being active during meetups showed us what to improve next time.

We will come to London again. Very soon. We will be smarter, more focused and we will help people who want to cooperate with folks like us. Our goal was to evangelise Polish development teams and build a bridge between London and Gdynia. We also want to meet people open for discussions and cooperation. Of course, grabbing a coffee with a stranger is a good thing as well. So far, so good. We believe that we are on the right track. It might be beneficial for both sides, but it requires creativity, visibility and building trust.

It won’t be easy. There are many obstacles or stereotypes we need to break, but you build relationship first, then finally gain a partner and you can work together on a project.

I won’t be sharing all my conclusions after the trip, but if you want to hear more about this adventure, just get in touch with me.

And what are your experiences with London and Startups? I would love to hear your opinion in the comments below.


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