29 May


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The high-tech entrepreneur

Posted by on 29 May 2013

It’s Entrepreneurship Week on Bdaily. David Gildeh, director of Cloud Services at Alfresco and fomer founder and CEO of cloud collaboration start-up SambaStream here comments on a culture of entrepreneurship in the high-tech industry, and how the UK compares to Silicon Valley.

In my eyes, the entrepreneur is a change agent, taking an idea about something they want to happen or how the world could be, and making it happen.

As someone in the hi-tech space, I tend to focus on the high-growth technology entrepreneurs, the ones that build large technology companies that change the world, however there is a large number entrepreneurs around the world who do the same in their own sectors.

I've seen a range of different entrepreneurs, but it’s my belief that the successful ones are "pragmatic visionaries" whose position can be shown by this adoption chart.

Essentially many entrepreneurs are viewed as 'visionary', with a strong vision and drive to make the future happen. The trouble is 'visionaries' tend to lack the pragmatism and focus to turn their vision into a reality. I've worked with a lot of creatives that fall into this category, who generate great ideas, but fail to stay focused or take the necessary pragmatic steps to turn their ideas into reality. 

At the next step on the scale, a pragmatist alone may have the skills and focus to get things done, but lack the idea or vision to attract employees/customers and set a direction for the company. 

Generally you see visionaries, either replaced with a more pragmatic CEO when the company starts to grow, or a visionary surrounded by and supported by pragmatists who can execute their vision.

However, the very best entrepreneurs, the ones that hold the position of CEO as the company grows, are the "pragmatic visionaries", they have a vision, but also the pragmatism to stay focused and take the necessary steps to create a successful business and stay grounded.

I'm in the enterprise software space, but I've always had an interest in the latest technology and gadgets. The problem is the enterprise is usually the last place to adopt new technology due to long buying cycles and bureaucracy, so users in enterprises tend to use better technology outside the office than inside it.

However we're going through a seismic shift in the enterprise technology industry, spearheaded by cloud and mobile, which is driving 'consumerisation' of the enterprise. The new breed of enterprise technology companies are now having to adopt the skills and best practices of consumer companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook, to help them compete in this new world.

The way enterprises provision technology is shifting, the decision makers are moving away from IT to ‘Line of Business’, which means our industry needs to care about things like usability and is capable of building 'cool' apps that look as great as any consumer app, but are focused on helping people do great work in their organisations.

Overall, the pace of innovation is accelerating in all industries as 'software eats the world', leading to a new breed of faster, more agile companies, not just in technology, but all industries. For entrepreneurs they have never had a greater opportunity than now to disrupt their industries and create great new companies of tomorrow.

In Europe, the UK, and London in particular, is the best place for entrepreneurs. We have the lowest bureaucracy for starting a new company and tax/investment rules are entrepreneur friendly. I know a lot of Europeans who have moved to London to launch a start-up because their home countries are too restrictive. 

However compared to Silicon Valley, we're still quite far behind in terms of having a suitable ecosystem to support start-ups. I know a lot of London entrepreneurs who struggled to make it in London so have moved over to the US and found success in Silicon Valley.

The good news is, we're probably only one or two cities behind the Valley, the others probably being New York and/or Chicago or Austin, so outside of the US we are probably one of the best places in the world to begin a new start-up company.

I've been part of the London start-up scene since 2008, when I began my start-up SambaStream, and I can definitely say the UK start-up scene has matured a lot since I started. There's a much better ecosystem of hubs and support networks for entrepreneurs, a lot more investors, and also a lot more successful companies which other entrepreneurs can learn from and potentially get mentorship from.

I'd say overall we're well equipped, but there's still a long way to go until we match the success and ecosystem of Silicon Valley.

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