Imperial College has joined the elite list of universities participating in ‘Silicon Valley comes to the UK’ (SVC2UK), an annual event that brings successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to inspire students across the UK. Silicon Valley comes to Imperial (SVC2I), hosted by Imperial Entrepreneurs and the Department of Computing in collaboration with MIT Enterprise Forum, brought a range of speakers to our doorstep. They were welcomed by an audience of over 120, and a waiting-list of over 150.
The first of the keynote speakers was the highly experienced Angad Paul, co-founder and major shareholder of several companies, and currently CEO of the $1.5 billion Caparo Group. Soft-spoken and with calm confidence, he talked about the challenges of running his large business and shared the lessons that he had learned along the way.
Following him was the dynamic Rob Deeming of Gilt Groupe, an online shop offering luxury brands at discounted prices, which is based in the US but expanding into the UK. He spoke of his previous work, both entrepreneurial and otherwise, and taught the audience that joining a young startup is just as rewarding as starting your own, drawing on his own experiences helping Gilt Groupe grow from 30 employees to 900. He also entertained with fascinating statistics of rapid growth and critical points of website based businesses, outlining the importance of computing in solving these problems and offering these opportunities.
The session one panel discussion was moderated by George Berkowski, chairman of MIT Enterprise Forum UK, regularly involved in new ventures and startups. The panel consisted of the aforementioned keynote speakers, joined by Paul Joyce – founder of Geckoboard.com. Among many interesting discussions, they spoke of how they became entrepreneurs later in life and explained that going for it at a young age is not always the best scenario. Building experience first, even in investment banks as in Paul’s case, is important but so is keeping the entrepreneurial vision keen until the right time.
Following a short tea break, the next session began with Alastair Mitchell, founder and CEO of Huddle, a cloud-based enterprise collaboration tool. He spoke of the importance of beautiful design on top of functionality, even for something as basic as file sharing interfaces. Along with this, he talked about having strong negotiating skills and not doing any favours when sorting out a deal – even if it is with friends. He also had the name ‘Huddle’ trademarked and believed in the power of having a short catch names. It turned out to be a smart move as many companies, including Google, have tried to use the name.
Martin Varsavsky, entrepreneurial genius and currently Founder and CEO of Fon, a crowdsourced WiFi network, was the last keynote speaker of the night. His witty anecdotes and opinionated stories entertained one and all, and truly portrayed the passion of a genuine entrepreneur. He talked of his disgust when not being able to access WiFi when he felt he “deserved” it. Through this disgust he launched Fon. Being his own boss is his greatest motivator for being an entrepreneur, he explained, and said that there is no point in becoming an entrepreneur without relentless determination to solve a particular problem.
The final section of the event was a fabulous panel, with Alastair and Martin, joined by Imperial Joint Maths and Computing alumnus Omar Tayeb. He is CEO and founder of Blippar, the first in mobile advertising using augmented reality and image recognition. The fourth panelist was Reshma Sohoni, currently a Partner of famous incubator Seedcamp. This time the panel was moderated by Anthony Gell, a charismatic entrepreneur and currently Founder of LeadersIn.com, an online forum devoted to sharing the wisdom of world leaders. His questions were creative and led to many active discussions, one of which being the lessons that Steve Jobs will leave behind.
‘Silicon Valley comes to Imperial’ was one of the university stops on the larger ‘Silicon Valley comes to the UK’ tour, which originated in Oxford before moving to Cambridge and beyond. All the universities held their respective SVC2 events on Friday.
The organizers of these events and several other lucky students were invited to join other budding entrepreneurs to ‘Silicon Valley comes to Tech City’, held at Ravensbourne College. Hosted by Reid Hoffman, CEO and founder of professional social network LinkedIn, and Sherry Coutu, former CEO and angel investor, it was a day filled with several panels of the best speakers discussing the most pressing topics of entrepreneurship and innovation.
This was then followed by ‘Silicon Valley comes to the Science Museum’, an invitation only dinner for hand-picked students across the Oxbridge and London universities, who were given the opportunity to sit among and converse with these great entrepreneurial minds, and in doing so gain valuable contacts.
Silicon Valley comes to the UK has brought some of the most intelligent and creative people in the world to Imperial, and as a result we have reached a new entrepreneurial height. The message of entrepreneurship is a strong one in Imperial and, with continuous support for these events, is sure to grow.
Remember! If you are interested in entrepreneurship, starting your own company, the technology sector, or just want to listen to some very inspiring speakers, come to the talks organized by Imperial Entrepreneurs! Sign up for the mailing list at: