Enterproid is not exactly a Tech City native. The company has three offices: one in New York, one in Hong Kong and the other in Clerkenwell. It was founded in 2010 by three former employees of global investment bank Morgan Stanley.
The trio had worked in Morgan Stanley’s mobile engineering practice. For years, they had tried to persuade Microsoft and Research In Motion to give them what they wanted – a way of dividing a mobile phone’s operating system into personal and professional profiles.
“Then Android came along, and being open source it gave us the ability not to have to work with the network operators or the device manufacturers,” explains Alexander Trewby, co-founder, chief customer office and London boss.
“We could finally say: this is what we’re talking about.”
After a few years working elsewhere, the trio decided to commercialise the work they had done at Morgan Stanley. Enterproid and its flagship product Divide were born. The company’s global spread gives it a rare viewpoint on the pros and cons of the various technology hubs. “We do a lot of work in Silicon Valley and, well, the Valley is the Valley.” says Trewby.
“New York has kicked off as a start-up hub, because all those bankers have become micro venture capitalists, and they’ve got unemployed Wall Street programmers feeding start-ups with talent,” he says.
Enterproid’s engineering staff are based in Hong Kong. “At first we were worried about the language, the culture and the technical ability, but we were wrong on all counts,” he says. “It’s been one of the best decisions our company has made.”
So what is London’s role? At Enterproid, Trewby says, the London office acts as a bridge between the US and the Far East.
“It is very hard for people in the US to manage productive relationships with people in Asia – there’s a 12-hour time difference,” he explains.
London’s location could be its best selling point, he says. “In my personal opinion, the most interesting thing about the UK tech scene is its opportunity with China and the Far East.”
Another quirk of London is that many financial organisations have located their mobile development project leads there, Trewby says.
“Although I’m not sure why. It may have something to do with the dominance that Europe used to have in mobile – before the iPhone came out, the US had no idea what was going on. Also, mobile used to be seen as a side project, rather than a top-down initiative, so it suited being out in the London office, away from the bureaucracy.”
Culturally, Americans still have the edge when it comes to entrepreneurship, Trewby believes. “One of the challenges in London is that the understanding of business models and start-up finance is not well communicated,” he says. “Kids in America have credit cards thrust upon them, they have stock portfolios from an early age, and they have national holidays like Cyber Monday and Black Friday that are all about sales and marketing. And as ghastly as many people might find that, it’s really a crash course in economics and business models.”
Nevertheless, he says, the Tech City phenomenon has created a genuine buzz and the makings of a real community. “We’re an enterprise start-up, which means that we don’t really collaborate with the plethora of consumer start-ups around us, but it is still helpful to know that you are in an environment where people are doing the same kind of thing.”
Furthermore, the excitement is catching on among buyers. “Customers are much more willing to leave their offices and come to Tech City, because they are interested and excited about it.”
For organisations like banks, Trewby argues, working with a start-up is not only personally interesting, but also economically advantageous. “Banks, for example, can’t do the innovation themselves because they haven’t got the budget,” he says. “So they are outsourcing innovation, to a degree, by working with start-ups.”