Why I love London and am setting up my startup there

I just got back from #GAN Founder in Boston two weeks ago, and in addition to experiencing life in the USA again, I had a chance to evaluate how I compare it to living in London.

I’ve also wanted to talk about why no one says they love London for a long time.  When I go to NYC, people have this certain pride about being from the City.  By God, they’re even more specific, with delineations between the five different Boroughs.  Other cities and regions have their loyal fan base, so when you travel to the US don’t go confusing Chicagoans with Bostonians.

The third concept that I’ve encountered recently is Startup Genome’s ranking of London among global startup ecosystems, at #7 behind big names Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv, but also LA and Seattle.  By comparison, London is weakest against its peer group in the Performance Index, Talent, and TrendSetter indexes.

This is no means a defense of London.  But I feel like expressing why I love London, and perhaps unlock some latent pride in others as well. (circling with my conversation with John C. here)

So here goes – echoing UK Trade and Investment, Visit Britain, and the British Council’s past campaign - I think London is GREAT because:

1.    The diversity of London is just simply incredible.

I’ve lived across the world, from Hong Kong to New York, Chicago to Seoul.  And what I find awesome about London is how the great cities of the world each have their own little stake here in London.  If I want a piece of Hong Kong, I head down to Chinatown; if Brooklyn is more my fancy, I head to Old Street.  If I want NYC Financial District, I head to Canary Wharf (not sure why I would, but stay with me…); if I want sophisticated Chicago, I head to West London.

Why is that relevant in a startup?  Well, from a life balance perspective it’s incredible.  If I want to be in an area of incredible startup energy, I’ll head to Old Street.  But if I want to take a break from it all, I’ll head 30 minutes East.  If I want a bit of design inspiration I may head to Farringdon.  The possibilities are endless.

2.    London forces a startup to be international right from the get-go

London’s geography is only so yeah-big.  So knowing that we don’t have the breadth of the US in terms of catering to certain niches, we have very unique scaling issues.  That’s why to some degree, growth hacking is very tough here in Europe, as there are other issues to consider including border restrictions and language barriers.  But if scale is thought about right from the beginning, a startup may actually have a shot.  And that’s what London forces.

3.    London’s breadth of talent is much wider than its geographic limitations

The only Startup Genome index I am in disagreement with is London’s Talent index.  I think in particular London’s talent pool is restricted only to its geographic borders, when in fact it has flexible labor laws with over 27 countries in Europe (as part of the EU).  Which means that if labor is so badly needed that it’s imported into the UK, it can be.