By Steve McCaskill
Wikipedia founder and London resident Jimmy Wales says the capital's cultural assets are a huge benefit in attempts to establish a tech hub in the city, but believes more of a community must be established if it is ever to rival Silicon Valley.
"I meet people around London and they ask 'when do you go back to San Francisco?' assuming I'm here for a few days, but I live in London," he said at the launch of Tech.London, a new online community resource and news site for London's tech scene.
"There's always this bit of British self-deprecation about 'oh well, things are so great in Silicon Valley'. But I can tell you, things aren't that great in Silicon Valley. London has all these incredible advantages of a tech scene, but it's also a place people want to live. Nobody wants to live in Silicon Valley – it's dreadful out there.
Silicon Valley Isn't All That
London is this incredible cultural city, it's at the crossroads of the world. In the U.S., you have San Francisco for tech, Los Angeles for movies and Washington for politics. In London, you have all these things. It's a great place to do business."
Wales says London's tech scene is "incredibly important" to the city and the United Kingdom as a whole and must be fostered if the country is to remain on the world stage as it transitions to a knowledge based economy. He hopes the launch of Tech.London will go some way to address this.
"Obviously we have a tech community in London, but it's a bit disparate," he said. "Here, too often, entrepreneurs feel very alone and are unsure what will happen if it doesn't work out. Having a fantastic, vibrant community, it makes it easier, safer for people to do a startup.
"We can become closer to that cultural Silicon Valley where if you do a startup and it doesn't work out, you can get a fantastic job at Google or Facebook or somewhere."
Research published to coincide with London Technology Week suggests the city's tech industry will contribute £18bn to the U.K.'s GDP this year, with 200,000 people employed in the sector in the capital.