Surely I can’t be the only one who has noticed it? FieldHouse turned 10 in April – a huge achievement that I am super proud of and one that reflects the brilliance of our amazing team and network of friends. What I wasn’t really expecting is that, everywhere I turn, it seems that organisations in our UK’s tech and venture ecosystem are turning 10 too!
There’s Tech City (now Tech Nation), Wayra, Level 39, ACF Investors (formerly the Angel CoFund), the British Business Bank, Tech London Advocates, the Great British Entrepreneur Awards – even SEIS, the tax break that has encouraged so many investors to take their first steps into the wonderful world of backing early-stage tech businesses. All have recently celebrated – or will soon celebrate – a decade of existence. This is no coincidence.
The FieldHouse story is an example of what is possible in a well-functioning ecosystem. I had been working in fast-growth tech and venture capital for several years before launching FieldHouse. It was exciting, but I don’t think I really understood that we were just at the incubation stage back in 2007/2008. It all felt so new – and it was the same everywhere you looked.
It was an exhilarating time. After the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, things were really beginning to happen in London: VCs were no longer just an “American thing”, but were starting to take shape here and build portfolios of promising homegrown companies; Library House (which, for those not around at the time, was a forerunner to Crunchbase) was leading the way by monitoring fast-growth businesses and their investments; even “The Apprentice” had started offering what was in effect a VC investment for a start-up idea, rather than a job working for Lord Sugar.
In the public consciousness, “tech” was morphing from being a pure hardware play – Blackberry, Nokia and the rest – to being about innovation and problem solving. This, of course, had always been the case for those working in the industry, but it was an important moment as the true power of the underlying technology (code, in other words) tipped into the mainstream. Across London and beyond, a new wave of fabulous companies were starting out, backed, for the first time, by investors based in the same city as them. And yet, neither the general public nor the Government viewed our ecosystem as a real thing… yet.
That started to change with the Coalition Government of 2010-2015. Ministers travelled to Silicon Valley and returned with a determination to create a world-beating ecosystem in London. While that direction from the top helped, it was the entrepreneurs and the risk taker – not the politicians – who really made it happen. Over the next five years we saw the creation of Silicon Roundabout, Tech City (later Tech Nation), Here East, Level 39 and any number of incubators and co-working spaces. Out of them came many of the unicorns we rightly celebrate today.
FieldHouse was part of that new wave and I am proud that we still sit in the middle of the ecosystem, building new relationships all the time and staying in touch with old friends. Today, we have an expanding team of 25 people from a diverse range of backgrounds. Our client base is growing all the time, reflecting the UK’s ever-evolving tech ecosystem.
Jeremy Hunt’s pledge in the Autumn Statement to make the UK the “world’s next Silicon Valley” was music to the ears of those involved in Britain’s thriving technology community. It is a laudable ambition, but as everyone working in UK tech knows, the foundations that can turn it into a reality were laid many years ago.
Looking back to that formative period a decade ago, it shows what is possible with clarity of thought and a common purpose. With an eye on the turbulent economy and difficult political situation we face today – and with our shared goal of replicating, or even surpassing, Silicon Valley – there has to be a lesson in that.
*A version of this article also appears in Startups Magazine.