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14 VCs discuss COVID-19 and London’s future as a tech hub

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The UK has created 63 tech unicorns in the past decade (according to Dealroom), and it almost goes without saying that the vast majority of those companies were based out of London, the country’s largest tech hub.

Famously, London’s DeepMind, an AI startup, was acquired by Google in 2014 for $500 million, but it has resolutely refused to move to Silicon Valley; founder Demis Hassabis says the city’s diversity of talent meant the powerhouse needed to stay put.

London has produced fintech upstarts like Revolut, Monzo and Starling and attracted early Skype team members who went on to create TransferWise. In 2019, London’s startups received $9.7 billion in venture capital funding, more than Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and Madrid combined.

Furthermore, last year Pitchbook found that up to $4.4 billion worth of deals had involved at least one U.S.-based investor, with London receiving over $12.5 billion from American investors in the previous five years – almost twice as much as Berlin (on $6.5 billion of investment from U.S. VC firms).

Brexit uncertainty may impact startups’ ability to recruit and sale, and the UK government’s points-based system for immigration is unlikely to satisfy the industry’s voracious appetite for talent. But London is a tech supertanker that other European cities are unlikely to be able to match any time soon, Brexit or no Brexit.

But in the era of COVID-19, will major hubs like London still be able to attract future tech unicorns, and will these be in the same sectors as before? Will geography be replaced by mere time zones?

We surveyed many of London’s top VCs to get their insights. Here’s who we heard from:

  • Ruth Foxe-Blader, partner, Anthemis Capital
  • Yana Abramova, partner, Pretiosum Capital
  • Leila Zegna, co-founding partner, Kindred Capital
  • Rob Moffat, partner, Balderton Capital
  • Nic Brisbourne, managing partner, Forward Partners
  • Sean Seton-Rogers, general partner, PROfounders Capital
  • Simon Murdoch, managing partner, Episode 1 Ventures
  • Nenad Marovac, founder and managing partner, DN Capital
  • Andrei Brasoveanu, partner, Accel Partners
  • Jan Lynn-Matern, founder and partner, Emerge Education
  • Rob Kniaz, founding partner, Hoxton Ventures
  • Harry Briggs, partner, OMERS Ventures
  • Hussein Kanji, partner, Hoxton Ventures
  • Eileen Burbidge, partner, Passion Capital

Ruth Foxe-Blader, Anthemis Capital

How much is local investing even a focus for you now? If you are investing remotely in general now, are you filtering for local founders?

Neither our investment thesis, nor our geographic focus has changed: we are a global investor, focused on the U.S., UK and Europe. We are filtering, even more, for the best founders, as geography feels less important in lockdown.

From that, what do you expect to happen to the startup climate in London longer term, with the shift to more remote work (post COVID-19), possibly from more remote areas. Will London stay a tech hub or will the ecosystem become more dispersed across the country?

As a global financial hub with substantial infrastructure (including capital) designed to support emerging technology, London will remain a critical node in the fintech ecosystem.

Long-term, do you expect to be more or less locally focused, especially in light of COVID-19 or in other ways?

We’re anticipating a pretty substantial change to working norms, at least over the near term (6-12 months). The long-term impact is likely to level the playing field for great founders operating outside of established tech hubs. Remote assessment of companies, while challenging, has the potential to create more equitable investment practices.

From that, what do you expect to happen to the startup climate in London longer term, with the shift to more remote work (post COVID-19), possibly from more remote areas. Will London stay a tech hub or will the ecosystem become more dispersed across the country?

As a global financial hub with substantial infrastructure (including capital) designed to support emerging technology, London will remain a critical node in the fintech ecosystem.

Will there be tech hubs post-COVID-19? What is a tech hub now, by your definition?

To the extent that culture, regulation and capital play a large role in favoring certain types of economic activity, I expect existing tech hubs to remain important bastions of innovation. That said, I think we will see the rise of complementary tech hubs, as well as teams “in the middle of nowhere” emboldened to start great companies.

Are there particular industry sectors that you expect to do uniquely well or poorly, locally?

Given the proximity to the City and the heritage in financial technology innovation, the London tech ecosystem will continue to produce great fintech and insurtech companies.

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EventGeek relaunches as Circa to help marketers embrace virtual events

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EventGeek was a Y Combinator-backed startup that offered tools to help large enterprises manage the logistics of their events. So with the COVID-19 pandemic essentially eliminating large-scale conferences, at least in-person, it’s not exactly surprising that the company had to reinvent itself.

Today, EventGeek relaunched as Circa, with a new focus on virtual events. founder and CEO Alex Patriquin said that Circa is reusing some pieces of EventGeek’s existing technology, but he estimated that 80% of the platform is new.

While the relaunch was only just became official, the startup says its software has already been used to adapt 40,000 in-person events into virtual conferences and webinars.

The immediate challenge, Patriquin said, is simply figuring out how to throw a virtual event — something that Circa offers a playbook for. But the startup’s goals go beyond virtual event logistics.

“Our new focus is really more at the senior marketing stakeholder level, helping them have a unified view of the customer,” Patriquin said.

He explained that “events have always been kind of disconnected from the marketing stack,” so the shift to virtual presents an opportunity to treat event participation as part of the larger customer journey, and to include events in the broader customer record. To that end, Circa integrates with sales and marketing systems like Salesforce and Marketo, as well as with video conferencing platforms like Zoom and On24.

Circa screenshot

Image Credits: Circa

“We don’t actually deliver [the conference] experience,” Patriquin said. “We put it into that context of the customer journey.”

Liz Kokoska, senior director of demand generation for North America at Circa customer Okta, made a similar point.

“Prior to Circa, we had to manage our physical and virtual events in separate systems, even though we thought of them as parts of the same marketing channel,” Kokoska said in a statement. “With Circa, we now have a single view of all our events in one place — this is helpful in planning and company-wide visibility on marketing activity. Being able to seamlessly adapt to the new world of virtual and hybrid events has given our team a significant advantage.”

And as Patriquin looks ahead to a world where large conferences are possible again, he predicted that there’s still “a really big opportunity for the events industry and for Circa.”

“As the in-person events start to come back, there’s going to be a phase where health and safety going to be paramount,” he continued. “During that health and safety phase, it’s going to be the age of hybrid events — where everything is virtual right now, hybrid will provide the opportunity to bring key [virtual] learnings into the back into the in-person world, to have a lot more data and intelligence and really be able to personalize an attendee’s experience.”

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0% interacción humana; MUY abre restaurante sin contacto en Colombia

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Contxto – La colombiana MUY está dando el siguiente paso para llevar tecnología a la industria de alimentos y bebidas. El miércoles pasado, la startup anunció el lanzamiento de su primer restaurante sin contacto en Bogotá. El local está en pruebas piloto en Colombia, sin embargo, MUY afirma que hasta ahora, la respuesta de los […]
The post 0% interacción humana; MUY abre restaurante sin contacto en Colombia appeared first on Contxto.

Don’t worry, we speak : English (Inglés), too!

Contxto – La colombiana MUY está dando el siguiente paso para llevar tecnología a la industria de alimentos y bebidas.

El miércoles pasado, la startup anunció el lanzamiento de su primer restaurante sin contacto en Bogotá.

El local está en pruebas piloto en Colombia, sin embargo, MUY afirma que hasta ahora, la respuesta de los usuarios excedió sus expectativas. Si los resultados son lo suficientemente favorables, reajustarán más locales bajo este modelo automatizado.

Un proyecto así no es barato. Pero la startup había levantado US$15 millones en una serie B liderada por ALLVP el año pasado y probablemente esos fondos ayudaron.

Actualmente la foodtech opera en México y Colombia, pero espera llevar a cabo pruebas piloto en Brasil.

muy opens contactless restaurant in colombia
MUY abre restaurante sin contacto en Colombia.

MUY y la nueva experiencia sin contacto

Según José Calderón, CEO y cofundador en MUY, es la primera vez que se lanza una tienda con cero interacción humana en América Latina. 

Los clientes solo hacen su pedido y pagan en una pantalla de autoservicio. Por el momento su sistema acepta efectivo, así como tarjetas de débito y crédito. Pero en el futuro, MUY espera implementar transacciones a través de códigos QR.

No cabe duda de que eso es indispensable para una experiencia verdaderamente sin contacto. 

Una vez que su comida está lista, la persona la recoge de un casillero inteligente dentro del establecimiento y a comer se ha dicho.

Si tienen preguntas o inquietudes, hay un timbre de ayuda para recibir asistencia del personal que trabaja en el restaurante. 

Balancear los sabores en un restaurante

El último proyecto de MUY suena eficiente si trabajas en una oficina y quieres comer algo rápido. También es un enfoque innovador para la reducción del riesgo de propagar el coronavirus. MUY asegura que sus pantallas de autoservicio se limpian constantemente. 

Han surgido otros enfoques para transformar a los restaurantes. Por ejemplo, a través de apps y sistemas que automáticamente comparten la contraseña del WiFi u ofrecen un menú digital.

¡Información exclusiva, data y análisis semanales sobre el ecosistema tecnológico de Latam directo a tu correo!

Pero este tipo de experiencia no es atractiva para todos los escenarios. 

Los chatbots y pantallas táctiles no proporcionan el cálido servicio que un ser humano sí, como ofrecer recomendaciones, hacer chistes, incluso una sonrisa sincera. Es decir, asumiendo que el personal fue capacitado adecuadamente para ofrecer un servicio de calidad.

De cualquier forma, las tareas correctivas pueden delegarse a la tecnología sin matar el momento.

Entonces al final, es como los platillos que prepara el restaurante: se trata de equilibrar los sabores entre la innovación y el contacto humano para una experiencia gastronómica placentera.

Artículos relacionados: ¡Tecnología y startups de Colombia! 

-ML

Traducido por Alejandra Rodríguez

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Extra Crunch Live: Join fintech legend Max Levchin for a live Q&A on August 6 at 4pm ET/1pm PT

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We’ve got a great Extra Crunch Live chat coming up on Thursday, August 4, that you won’t want to miss. The one and only Max Levchin, is Silicon Valley icon and entrepreneur extraordinaire, is joining us to talk all things tech and fintech. You might know him as the CEO of Affirm, one of the hottest finance startups around right now, but he’s actually been a significant figure in tech in the Valley — and globally — for decades, making his name back in the first dot-com boom, as one of the co-founders of a little startup that you might have heard of called PayPal. Join us this week as we talk about all the many ways that fintech has evolved, what Levchin thinks about the current state of play, and what he thinks is coming next. ear from the one and only Max Levchin .

The magic happens in our next installment of our Extra Crunch Live series, on Thursday, August 4.

Extra Crunch Live is open exclusively to Extra Crunch subscribers. If you’re not already an Extra Crunch member, you can join here.

The EC Live format is a unique one for us at TC. It’s an hour-long conversation, and that allows us to take a deep dive, covering not only some of the biggest issues in tech, building startups and investing today but getting to the heart of them. At the same time, it’s a lighter format that’s actually fun to watch.

Taking the talk out of the formal, hushed, darkened rooms where you usually sit to listen to people get interviewed, we’re Zooming it and keeping it a little more relaxed, and we’re peppering the conversation with questions from you, the audience, throughout. See past talks with Sequoia’s Roelof Botha and Homebrew’s Hunter Walk for a taste of how this works.  (See the whole schedule of Extra Crunch Live talks here.)

Max’s current company, Affirm, is trying to bring something new to the world of financing payments, inking deals with a wide plethora of e-commerce sites to give shoppers a way to make interest-free payments in installments, based on a schedule that works for them, and signing up for the service in no more steps than it takes to make an ordinary card payment.

But because this is fintech — behind the scenes the real story is much more complex. Of course. Building these services today and building them 20+ years ago gives Levchin some amazing perspective on the challenges and opportunities of working with data. And it also has given him some critical insights into what consumers want and need, versus what they’ll actually use — lessons definitely pertinent to other financial services and e-commerce entrepreneurs, but actually just as important for other categories, too.

The “modern world” is a moveable feast these days: who would have thought in, say, January that the market conditions we face today would have shifted so drastically? All the more reason to continue the conversation and create more context to make better choices for your own business.

Join Max and me this week. We’re looking forward to it.

Extra Crunch Live is open exclusively to Extra Crunch subscribers, and so if you want to watch, join here. You can find the full details of the call below the jump!

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