City Unrulyversity’s Final Farewell – What’s Next For Tech City?

City Unrulyversity – a free weekly ‘pop-up University’ hosted by Unruly and City University – held its last-ever session at the London HQ this week.

It’s been an incredible 4 years since City Unrulyversity was first set up. During which time, Unruly has welcomed over 4,826 attendees from all walks of life to its London HQ in Shoreditch, listening to 147 speakers present at 104 separate sessions.

Established back in January 2013, it’s many events have focused on a range of topics, from key advice for entrepreneurs and early stage start-ups, to broader subjects like diversity and London’s ever-evolving tech scene.

Over the years, City Unrulyversity has been praised for giving the UK start-up community a strong blend of academic theory and practical advice – with sessions co-hosted by both academic speakers and entrepreneurs.

The topic for the term’s final session, held on Wednesday, was, ‘What’s Next – The Future of Tech City’, and focused on the changing dynamics of the Tech City area, its impact over the years and what the future might hold for entrepreneurs and tech businesses in London.

The forward-facing panel was made up of: Scott Button, Unruly co-founder, Roberta Lucca, Bossa Studios co-founder, Alex Mitchell, Chair of the IoD 99, Cristiana Camisoti, co-founder of Silicon Milkroundabout, and Parveen Dhanda, Head of the Future Fifty programme. As always, the panel was hosted by Caroline Wiertz – Marketing Professor at Cass Business School and co-founder of City Unrulyversity.

So what’s changed?

The panel kicked off by describing how much had changed for them in the past 4 years. Among the case studies about what it’s been like growing their own businesses, Cristiana Camisoti spoke at length about the changing attitudes towards entrepreneurship she’d witnessed in Tech City since establishing Silicon Milkroundabout.

She spoke about how, when the organisation set out, the recession was in full swing and convincing young talent to work for a scrappy start-up, rather than a big bank or corporation, was a big challenge for many businesses. She also spoke about the shift in focus towards scale-ups over time, highlighting the fact that “all of the entrepreneurs who started companies 6 or 7 years have scaled up and built businesses, meaning there is a new wave of mentors available”.

She also spoke about the formative days of Tech City as an organisation, and reminisced about roundtables at No. 10 with Joanna Shields.

Brexit and what lies ahead

After looking back, the panel turned its attention to what the future holds for entrepreneurs and tech companies in London and across the UK, particularly following Brexit. On the topic of Brexit, the consensus among the panel was that while things look bleak right now, we will have to ‘wait and see’ to understand the full ramifications.

Speaking about the Government’s involvement with the Tech City UK programme, Future Fifty Head Parveen Dhanda said that one of the biggest hurdles was re-educating the new Conservative cabinet, and “making sure that tech is a major concern of theirs”.

All the panel members identified a lack of talent as the biggest problem facing UK tech right now, and suggested that stricter regulation on EU workers would only exacerbate this issue.

Final tips

Before closing, the panel took questions from the audience on a range of topics. Speaking on how to retain talent and maintain a positive culture, Alex Mitchell touted the importance of ‘blue sky days’ – a paid vacation day once a month where team members are free to do as they please, as long as it’s not work.

Roberta Lucca, co-founder of Video Game development studio Bossa Studios, also spoke about the importance of keeping development teams on their toes. In order to keep developers and creative people inspired, she said, “you must constantly provide them with big challenges and problems to solve.”