And so, Silicon Valley slurps Tech City’s brightest minds

There are two stories up today about Silicon Valley technology firms buying Tech City start-ups. Cloudera has bought Myrrix, a machine learning start-up forged in Google Campus, while Facebook has acquired Monoidics, a software analysis company based near Old Street.

This is great news for the founders, of course, and huge validation for Tech City as a centre for technological excellence. These aren't trivial companies – both Myrrix and Monoidics are at the cutting edge of information technology research.

But I can't help thinking of what one Tech City veteran, if such a thing exists, told me when I researching enterprise start-ups in the region last year. 

Mike Rowlands is CEO of LShift, a software development agency best known for inventing RabbitMQ, an open source message queuing protocol that was acquired by VMware. He is not convinced of the benefits of the government's apperent stategy of luring Silicon Valley's finest to the Old Street region.

“If the Tech City proposal is to encourage big businesses like Cisco and Google to move here, all it’s going to do is cannibalise the talent that is available to us," he said.

In other words, there is practically no chance for the UK to build its own Facebook – an avowed ambition of the Tech City project – if the actual Facebook buys its best minds.

Now, many people will feel that all is fair in love and business. Certainly no-one would begrudge the founders themselves for taking the opportunity to join a world-beating company.

And no-one could seriously suggest we take any measures to discourage the Silicon Valley giants from investing and hiring in Tech City.

Furthermore, both Myrrix's Sean Owens and Monoidics's engineering team will remain here in London, doubtless contributing to the community that is clearly attracting some of the best tech thinkers from the UK and beyond.

But I'm still not sure how to feel about these two deals. Do they showcase the technology talent available in Tech City, or do they mean it is not the UK economy that will benefit?

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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