European Mission wrap-up

Startup Catalyst just wrapped up it’s second annual 2 week mission to Berlin and London, with 11 days on the ground in 3 cities across 2 countries, hitting 40 group events and 20+ private meetings, generating well over 100 new connections. The 20 participants comprised of a mix of mostly investors, scale-ups and startups, plus accelerator/co-working leaders, corporates, University faculty, and public servants. We were also joined in London by delegations out of Victoria and New South Wales, making it the largest Australian delegation to ever visit the UK.

We were also joined and supported by the incredible Warren Bartlett (TIQ London) and Craig O’Kane (UK DIT Brisbane).

Why we went:

Our missions are not trade missions, and nor are they tech tourism. Our objective is cultural transformation: we re-program minds such that they see the world differently. This is summed up best by Peta Ellis, CEO of River City Labs, in her blog post after returning from the mission:

It is designed to be a sensory overload for the Aussies and to smack them in the face with the reality that they have everything they need to create or be part of a globally scalable tech company, their skills are THAT good. They just need to start and believe in themselves. It’s a mindset play, think big, then bigger again, then start. We don’t quite get it here (in Oz) so we need to take them to a place where you simply can’t escape it.

We do this mission in June each year so that it coincides with London Tech Week, with an incredible 48,170 attendees from 93 countries visiting 219 events at 212 venues, and dozens of inbound international delegations. It is simply the best time to visit the UK startup scene.

About the London startup scene:

The UK has 800+ startup hubs and programs, including 167 accelerators, of which 50% are corporate back, plus 42 corporate venture funds. In 2016 UK digital tech investment reached £6.8 billion, that’s 50% higher than any other European country. Individual co-working spaces in London typically house 300 to 3500 members, and places like Campus London have around 40% female membership. WeWork alone has 9 locations just in London, just one of which has 3500 members. (view more stats here)

About the Berlin startup scene:

With around 500 new tech startups per year, Berlin is Germany’s capital city for startups, and has an increasing relevance now post Brexit. We heard that they are already seeing an influx of people and startups from the UK (and from elsewhere who would have otherwise have gone to the UK). Cost of living there is cheap, and it’s very easy to get around with just English.

What we did:

In Berlin, we met with corporate innovation groups like Innogy Innovation Hub, private groups like the Flying Health Incubator and BiTHouse, and spent time with the Australian scale-up 99designs at their European HQ.

We also toured co-working spaces like BetaHaus, Ahoy! Berlin, and breakfast with members at The Place Berlin, before heading over to tour the huge new player, The Factory.

The Place Berlin

We also spent time with the co-founder of Tech Open Air and Openrs, plus visited with the Commonwealth Landing Pad in Berlin (we received a lot of support from their in-market program manager).

We were also fortunate enough to have breakfast at the Australian Embassy with Ambassador Lynette Wood.

But the highlight for me personally was the Porsche Digital Lab – a fantastic model of corporation innovation by truly partnering with the startup sector for co-design.

We also had a dinner with 6 Aussie ex-pats as guests who now live in Berlin.

A small group of us then landed in London early and headed to the cricket in Birmingham (after a breakfast event hosted by the City of Birmingham), only to watch England beat Australia and send us home out of the ICC Champions Trophy.

In London, we kicked off on a Sunday afternoon with a networking event with the other Australian delegations. Our Monday morning started with presentations from Tech City Ventures on the local UK startup scene, with guest presentations from Nitrous London, SeedCamp, Momentum London, and SwiftScale, before we also heard from local startups CharlieHR and Tide Banking.

For the investors in the group, we had a private meeting with Lord Marland, to hear about the Commonwealth First programme, and a seperate investor breakfast with local VCs, angels, and corporate venture funds.

We spent time exploring Barclays’ Rise London, and their fintech focussed TechStars accelerator, as well as co-working spaces like Google’s Campus London, plus WeWork (they have 9 locations just in London, some housing 1000 to 3500 people), as well as RocketSpace, which is coming to Australia in 2018.

We were also fortunate enough to be part of a panel event dubbed Tech Australia at the Australian High Commission, where about 300 people showed up to hear us sell Australia.

We visited the CBA Innovation Lab to learn about their model, before a quick presentation on blockchain technology.

We caught up with lots of Aussie startups who now have operations in London, including simPRO, Focal Labs, and Adepto (2016 Catalyst alumni).

We also had a detailed tour of Facebook, including lunch in their cafeteria with 3 aussies who now work there.

We also met with UK startup Technology Will Save Us, and had a tour of their factory. Most of us were so impressed we purchased packs for our kids back home.

Participants also went along to their own events selected from the London Tech Week schedule, and arranged private meetings relevant to them.

Peta Ellis (CEO of River City Labs) and I were fortunate enough to attend a conference titled “Corporate Acceleration 3.0: Is the Bubble About to Burst?”, with an amazing line up of Program Directors and EIRs from over a dozen accelerators, all sharing their insights into corporate innovation models.

Some of the group even received special tickets to go and see the Queen:

Between all that, there were a lot of walk, tube wides, and networking events. A lot. Every night ended with a group dinner, which usually continued on to bar (well, actually several, and I’ll explain why that is important in a seperate post).

London Tech Week statistics


We have to give a huge shoutout of thanks to Trade & Investment Queensland (particularly Warren Bartlett in London and Elisa Henderson in Brisbane) along with UK DIT (particularly Craig O’Kane from Brisbane), and Austrade (particularly Luke Deacon from Sydney and Michael Bingel from Berlin) for their amazing support (and they all travelled with us during the mission as well).

It was an amazing experience, with a fantastic cohort of people. There were a lot of takeaways, and no doubt they will be shared by participants through various blog posts over the coming weeks as they recover from jet lag and the experience that is the “Startup Catalyst hangover“.

Find out more:

Also checkout some of the blogs from our participants, including Peta Ellis (here) and Aaron Birkby (here and here).

If you want to hear more from the other participants, please join us for a panel catch up in Brisbane on July 17th, tickets available here.

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