Not far from the financial heart of the UK capital, Tech City brings together a large number of startups working in digital technology. Offices there are shared by young companies from all over the world and this close proximity fosters synergies.
Interview, during a broadcast by L'Atelier numérique (L’Atelier Digital) on the BFM Business channel, to mark London Technology Week which took place at the end of June, with Maia Fontaine, UK country manager for French startup Headoo. The company has just set up an office in London in order to help roll out its software tool, designed to track the impact of events across the social media.
L’Atelier: The startup which you joined has just sent you to London to develop the business there. Not a random choice of location, presumably?
Maia Fontaine: Absolutely not. Our offices are in Tech City, a competitiveness hub centred on innovation. The hub brings together all kinds of companies working in web and digital technology. We’re there alongside entrepreneurs from all over the world, working in shared offices, which helps to create real synergy between all these entrepreneurs from the digital world. We’re also right next to Google’s Campus London, which has a reputation for putting entrepreneurs in this field in touch with each other.
You’re not too far away from the City, the financial nerve centre?
No, in fact we have City people based just next door to Tech City and that’s very useful. They know a lot about the digital world. Headoo, the startup I work for, managed to raise £300,000 [close to €400,000] in funding in less than a week in order to set up in London.
And this doesn’t seem to be unusual, seeing that you share an office with seven other firms which all obtained financing very easily here in London…?
That’s right. We share offices with companies from Canada, Vietnam, China, Italy and many other places. They also came to London because they were able to find funding here fairly quickly and easily. We all arrived just in the last three months. And in fact we all have to deal with the same issues – finding partners, hiring accountants and opening bank accounts and everybody helps everybody else a lot here. We give each other tips about good deals and where to go to set up networking events, etc.
Apart from the close proximity of investors, what is there in London that you can’t find in Paris?
The biggest change is the impact of the English language, which means we can attack the US market more easily. In France everything is handled pretty much in French and so it’s far more difficult later on when it comes to exporting your product to other markets.
Amongst this friendly rivalry, is the entrepreneurial spirit rubbing off on you?
Well, in actual fact I had my own idea for a business before Headoo recruited me. I wanted to set up a crowdfunding website for non-profits. And for that I interviewed quite a number of entrepreneurs in France, including Jean Dussetour, the Headoo CEO – and he offered me this job in London.
Do you think this experience will help you to set up your own company later on?
As Country Manager, I’m personally running the business in the UK. So, yes, this is an excellent training for setting up my own business later on.
In Paris or in London?
I’m not sure about that yet. But since I’m developing my network mainly in London, it could well be there. Especially if I needed to raise funds quickly.
Do you meet a lot of young entrepreneurs with whom you discuss the resources they need to get their business up and running?
Well, there are a lot of networking events for creating joint projects. In fact in my office I have a colleague who was sent over by an Italian firm and then decided from one week to the next to set up her own web development company. She registered her business and – bingo! – she’s now become an entrepreneur! It was all very easy.