Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Where are all the UK startups?

Many years ago now, I was discouraged from applying to Cambridge by a very short, bitter tutor (who had been to Cambridge) because he said my predicted grades of A, A, B, B were not strong enough. He even said I shouldn't even apply, because it would look bad on my UCAS form to the other universities. Yes, I know how stupid that looks now.

Well, I never applied, so never got a chance to prove him wrong. Little did I know they probably would have been happy to accept - I later got on to a Physics course at Bath University where other attendees were accepted with just 2 E grades, they were that desperate for intake, and that was considered one of the top non-Oxbridge courses in the country at the time. Still, I can't change history, and Mr. Sampson is still short, and a poor teacher. I have never trusted anyone in authority since, never let anyone question my intelligence and I cannot abide the short. So I guess I learnt some valuable life lessons.

All of which roundabout rambling brings me to the subject of the fabulous technical parks set up by these bastions of British learning. Cambridge in particular has thrown up many security start-up companies. Indeed, the area around Cambridge is often referred to as "Silicon Fen" (being in the area known as 'the Fens'). There are apparently over 1000 technology companies there with several billion pounds worth of investment. Most people will have heard of nCipher in particular, now a little past their prime, but at one point valued at hundreds of millions of pounds on the FTSE. I could name half a dozen bright little Security ideas that have come out of the area in recent times, some whom I have had contact with, others not. Of course, not all of these go on to greatness. The investors play a numbers game here just as they do in Silicon Valley.

Outside of those hallowed walls, there seems to be a scattering of other good UK-based technology startups around at the moment too, right across the country. I'm encouraged, because it's an area I know quite well, I know the processes and the pitfalls, the people to work with and those to avoid like the plague. I just want to hear more about them at the moment as I'm pretty sure we're about to see a lot more growth in this sector over here.

If you've got a security startup and think it's worth talking about, get in touch, I'd be interested to see what's new and what's working.

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