22 Feb High tech in the U.K. Do the Brits forgo Web 2.0?
This week, I’m in the United Kingdom, getting a snapshot of the start-up scene here. I’ve come across some tremendously fascinating companies.
One company is undercutting the likes of Tivoli and HP by offering easily integrated and deployed system management tools for the SME market.
Another addresses the time-tested decision support market by rethinking the process of decision-making. Instead of yes-or-no decision trees, this company brings discipline to collaborative decision processes.
Another company takes an entirely new approach to the anti-spam market, giving ISPs the means to tackle abuse at the source.
A two-year-old start up has created a platform that translates any Web page into the spoken word.
There is the company taking an open-standards approach to home automation, making energy conservation and creature comforts affordable to the mass market.
Oh, and did I mention the biotech company that just might possibly have the cure for anything that ails you?
No Web 2.0
In meetings with a dozen pre-funded start ups, I learned about consumer products, accounting services, enterprise software, systems management tools, two-tier authenticated USB keys, software-as-service architectures, and life sciences breakthroughs.
And not one word about Web 2.0.
Certainly the Web 2.0 label and concept has made it across the pond, but the entrepreneurs at the Thames Valley Innovation Centre weren’t distracted by AJAX front ends or premium business models. Their products were thoroughly modern and clearly market-need driven. Still, they were steeped in a tradition of licensed software, even when offered as a managed service.
This got me thinking about the geographic heritage of certain technology types. While London entrepreneurs are building their share of consumer Web services, start ups outside the city seem more focused on enterprise applications, IT management, and fundamental technologies.
As one English entrepreneur observed, “We’re a lot more like Boston start ups than Silicon Valley start ups . . . except in Boston they’re a lot more marketing focused.”
Indeed, British entrepreneurs know their products and businesses, but don’t ask for an elevator (uh, lift?) pitch unless you’re heading to the top of a really tall building.
You’ll hear all about the technology, a bit about the customer pain, and half a life story of the company to be sure. You won’t hear buzzwords or shorthand used to puff up market position or inflate valuations. Just dull facts of products meeting real user needs.
While this takes some patience and perseverance to get to the crux of the British entrepreneur’s business pitch, more often than not it’s worth the effort. The companies I’ve met these last few days have been solid, backable ventures. Most have taken much of the engineering risk out of their plans and many have first revenues.
They are a modest lot, relying on customer testimonials and the product, itself, to support their value proposition. There’s no hyperbole and less dependence on market fad to grab attention and raise first capital. These U.K. entrepreneurs demonstrate a remarkable humility not often seen in Silicon Valley’s start-up culture.
And that’s tremendously refreshing.
Recent articles by Chris Shipley
• Chris Shipley: Age of empowered individuals: People power behind robust computing
• More enterprise software predictions for 2007
• Chris Shipley: Reader predictions would make 2007 quite a year
• Chris Shipley: Bold prediction: Web 2.0 goes away in 2007
• Chris Shipley: Web 2.0 will test your hype (and Star Wars) IQ
Shipley has covered the personal technology business since 1984, and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. She has worked as a writer and editor for a variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine, and Working Woman.
She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, she has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the No. 1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.
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