No tech please – we’re British

As investors cool towards US technology giants they could find it worthwhile to take a look at the UK’s more specialist technology sectors
Financial Times - Entrepreneurship

Tech groups transform how finance is done in China

Technology companies are collecting money from their customers and placing it in money market funds that can command high rates because of the volume
Financial Times - Entrepreneurship

For the last few years, many leaders in the Massachusetts innovation community have been arguing that non-compete agreements should be eliminated.

Article after article has been written in support of putting this policy forward to increase the dynamism of our ecosystem and send a message to the broader innovation community that Massachusetts is a great place to start and develop your career. Many studies have shown that non-compete agreements reduce R&D investment and stifle innovation. MIT Professor Matt Marx conducted a seminal study in Michigan that showed the enforcement of non-competes caused a sharp drop in mobility for inventors, thereby slowing innovation and economic dynamism. Professor Mark Garmaise of UCLA published a study which had similar findings and, further, assessed the state by state use of non-competes, concluding that Massachusetts had one of the strictest in the nation (see chart below from Highland’s Paul Maeder, putting states on a 0-9 enforceability index scale).

non compete

Today, Governor Deval Patrick is officially proposing to change all that by putting forward legislation that will eliminate non-competes outright.  If passed, this has the potential to eliminate a huge barrier to the free flow of talent to the best opportunities, thereby creating a more dynamic entrepreneurial environment in the state.

I give tremendous credit to Spark Capital’s Bijan Sabet, who first raised this issue seven years ago.  Many legislators and leaders got behind the effort, but no one has been able to galivinize enough support to convince the governor to lead here.  Greg Bialecki and Jennifer Lawrence have made that happen, and the tech community will be forever grateful if the legislature will embrace this effort, even if in the face of big-company opposition.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo has been a champion for the innovation economy for years, kicked off by his (somewhat cheeky) open letter to Mark Zuckerburg to urge him to open a Facebook office in Massachusetts.

Let’s hope he’s willing to support legislation that makes it easier for the next Mark Zuckerburg to leave his or her job to start the next Facebook — without the fear of old-school shackles and reprisals.

This story originally appeared on Jeff Bussgang.

VentureBeat » Entrepreneur
Jeff Bussgang

Station 12 Is Raising $250M To Fund European Media Tech Startups’ Growth Rounds

creamfields Add a new VC to the ranks in Europe: Station 12 is raising £150 million ($ 250 million), which it plans to invest in Series A and B rounds in the future Netflixes and Maker Studios of the world -- in other words, startups in Europe that straddle the media, entertainment and technology verticals. Average initial investments will be around £10 million. Read More
TechCrunch » Social
Ingrid Lunden

HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ is the ‘Office Space’ we need for today’s tech world (review)

Above: HBO's Silicon Valley cast from left to right: Kumail Nanjiani as Dinesh; T.J. Miller as Ehrlich; Thomas Middleditch as Richard; Zach Woods as Jared; and Martin Starr as Gilfoyle

No one is more perfectly suited to lampoon the startup scene than Mike Judge.

The creator of classic comedies like Office Space, Idiocracy, and, yes, Beavis and Butt-Head, Judge also spent several months working for a Palo Alto, Calif., technology company in 1987 (before he, presumably, ran away screaming). Judge gets tech, he gets geeks, and most important, he gets the strange culture that’s so specific to the technology world.

All of that is evident from the very first scene in HBO’s Silicon Valley, which premieres Sunday night. Kid Rock is playing at a company’s launch party, and nobody cares. An overly excited entrepreneur loudly proclaims his love for esoteric and unsexy enterprise technology onstage. And Google chairman Eric Schmidt is there for some reason.

The series centers on Richard (Thomas Middleditch), an awkward, lowly programmer working at Hooli, a Google-esque tech company where employees ride Segways and hold bike meetings. Like many engineers, he also has a side project: an app that helps musicians and record labels figure out when someone is stealing their work. It’s the sort of niche and unmarketable startup idea we get pitched every day here at VentureBeat — but with one big difference.

It seems that amid developing his app, Richard also stumbled upon an ultraefficient method of file compression. (Judge consulted a Stanford compression expert on the technology, so the reveal doesn’t feel entirely like make-believe.) Like so many in the tech world, Richard is initially oblivious to the value of his own work. It takes a couple of tech-bro jerks to see the potential in his compression scheme.

The potential of Richard’s technology sparks an immediate bidding war among two tech titans: his boss, Peter Gregory, who wants to buy his company outright for $ 10 million (let’s call it the Zuckerberg approach); and Gavin Belson, who offers a $ 200,000 seed investment.

The way Richard confronts that choice likely isn’t far off from what many entrepreneurs go through today. Do you go for the quick paycheck? Or do you take the small investment and continue to build your own thing?

Part of the show’s genius, like Judge’s Idiocracy, is that it hits a bit too close to home. If you’re even tangentially connected to the tech world, you’ll know the type of people represented onscreen. Bigwig CEO Belson, played by Matt Ross, is hell-bent on abolishing higher education, which brings to mind investor Peter Thiel’s own anti-college campaign. And Richard is the sort of geek that prefers Steve Wozniak to Steve Jobs — because, of course, Jobs didn’t code.

The tech culture references are spot-on and genuinely hilarious, but they’ll also make you feel a bit dirty afterward when you realize the show is probably making fun of you. (Perhaps that’s why I’m hearing about so many in the tech scene who seem to be actively avoiding the show.)

This doesn’t mean that Silicon Valley is only made for geeks. It has plenty of easily accessible humor, ranging from the very low-brow to ingenious wordplay. It also helps that the show has a strong supporting cast, including Martin Starr of Freaks and Geeks fame as a Satanist with “theist tendencies” and Kumail Nanjiani, who had a string of great segments on Portlandia and other shows.

While Office Space was a condemnation of ’90s-era office culture, where workers were trapped in tiny cubicles and worked on projects of indiscernible value, Silicon Valley casts a light on the modern cult of the entrepreneur. Richard starts off as a cog in Hooli’s vast corporate machine, but he ends up becoming “the man” as CEO of his own startup.

One scene in Silicon Valley‘s second episode is a direct reversal of Office Space‘s infamous “What do you do?” scene. Instead of having his job threatened by menacing consultants, Richard is forced to ask all of his friends what exactly they do for his company. And for his closest friend, that leads to heartbreak.

Silicon Valley is genuinely hilarious, but it’s also got plenty of heart to it. The show is more interested in how people exist within the sometimes absurd tech world, rather than just showing off its excess (which is mostly used for laughs). How do friendships withstand a sudden influx of money and power? And what kind of a leader would you be if you had the chance to run your own company? This isn’t just Entourage in Palo Alto.

The show also reflects one of the real Silicon Valley’s pervasive issues: a stark gender imbalance. I saw only had two major female characters in the two episodes I watched — one an assistant to Belson, and the other a stripper (who uses Square to get paid for her services). This is something that may be fixed later in the season, but it’s a shame Judge didn’t see it as an immediate problem to address early on.

Ultimately, Silicon Valley is exactly what the tech world needs right now. It holds up a mirror that shows both the best and worst of the tech, and in doing so it forces us to confront issues that may be hard to see when you’re embedded in the Silicon Valley bubble.

The geeks are in charge now, but the business game is still the same.

VentureBeat » Entrepreneur
Devindra Hardawar

Why Tech Takes April Fools’ Day So Seriously


Tech journalists hate April Fools' Day. Not because we don't like a good joke — heck, who doesn't? — but because we're basically recycling PR stunts on behalf of the companies we cover.

Just keeping track of Google on April 1 is a full-time occupation. By my count, the company had 14 pranks this year. (Does that mean there will be 15 next year?) But Google's hardly alone. Microsoft, Twitter, LinkedIn, Nokia, Samsung, Kickstarter, Roku and Tumblr, just to name a few, have tried their hands at goofs this April Fools'

For Google, the tomfoolery dates back to 2000, when it introduced MentalPlex, a feature that let you summon a search by staring at a GIF. The company also introduced goofy error messages (sample: "Error 006: Query is unclear. Try again after removing hat, glasses and shoes.") Read more...

More about Marketing, April Fools Day, and Business
Todd Wasserman

London’s patchwork of tech success

Innovative entrepreneurs benefit from easy transport links and the proximity of major companies that are keen to use their services
Financial Times - Entrepreneurship

Capital ideas: London’s new Tech Cities

Clerkenwell, King’s Cross, Tottenham Court Road, Southwark, Croydon and Notting Hill are some of the neighbourhoods that give start-ups a home
Financial Times - Entrepreneurship

London’s tech start-up competition flops

Contest launched in a blaze of publicity last May is quietly shut down after organisers fail to find any suitable candidates among 1,047 applicants
Financial Times - Entrepreneurship

Want More Privacy In Your App? Wickr Resells Its Encryption, Self-Destructing Tech To Other Apps

Wickr, one of the wave of messaging apps built on the idea of private, encrypted and self-destructing data, has vowed never to make money off its users -- with its app remaining free, and user data never getting sold on or accessed by others. But it is starting the process of making money regardless. Read More
TechCrunch » Social
Ingrid Lunden