StartupCampLondon: The next step in building a regional startup community

We held the first StartupCampLondon last Thursday at the Convergence Centre and drew a packed room—literally standing room only. Going in, nobody knew exactly what to expect, but the evening exceeded all expectations among the event instigators (TechAlliance, UnLondon, Sensidea, and The Research Park) and provided an impressive showcase of the London-area startup tech scene, both to the local crowd and to our out-of-region guests from Toronto and Waterloo.

It gave us a great base to grow from, and that's exactly what we're going to do—with two or three StartupCamps a year and regular informal get-togethers for startups to be offered every month (anyone in the London area who has a tech startup or is thinking about creating one can be part of these get-togethers—just send me an e-mail to gary.will@techalliance.ca to make sure you’re invited).

The goal we had for StartupCampLondon was to take the next step in building a connected tech startup community in London and the surrounding area. A thriving startup community is a vital outlet for the creativity and innovation within a region and is a key component of a vibrant community in general. It’s also crucial for our future economic prosperity. We know that growing a successful tech community all starts with local startups. It wasn’t long ago that regions looked to entrepreneurs in other places to be successful and then tried to persuade them to open an office or plant in their area. That still goes on, and there are people who are very effective in those roles, but the lesson we learned over and over again in Waterloo is that you build a tech community on the backs of your homegrown companies. That’s the foundation that needs to be built.

Building a tech startup community isn’t something that can be created overnight, but it can happen fairly quickly. Even in Waterloo, as recently as early 2004 there was nearly nothing being offered to startups in that region and no startup community. Over the next five years, I had the opportunity to be part of nearly every initiative for startups in Waterloo and saw the changes there first-hand.

Since I’ve come to the London area, some people have told me that the local culture might not be as start-up friendly. And historically that may be true, but from what I’ve seen, there's an entire generation who don't much know or care about the region’s risk-averse conservative traditions. They’re just excited about being part of the startup community—both locally and globally (StartupCamp Bratislava ran two days after our London event).

Those are the next-generation of startup founders and they’re the people whose talent, innovation and enthusiasm are going to drive London’s growth as a tech centre and generate its future economic success. StartupCampLondon was the next step in building that startup community, and we’re going to keep going down that path in the months and years ahead.

Thanks to Peter Evans (Twitter:@techmarketer) for kicking off StartupCampLondon with a terrific presentation, as well as the nine presenters who braved the (very friendly and supportive) crowd—I think everyone left with some useful feedback. The pizza, nachos, and pasta from the folks at The Windermere Manor was also a definite highlight!

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