When lines are bridges

When lines are bridges

I was lucky enough to recently attend the TechStars London launch at No 10 Downing St. along with many of the UK’s most well known investors (Yep, I felt like a gate-crasher).

Following the TechStars/Springboard merging announcement, a roundtable discussion focused on UK investing topics:

  • what stage most lacks capital
  • how to form an ecosystem
  • where are all the huge companies/exits
  • what role government should/can play

All of these are critical components to growing the UK technology scene, but at the same time challenging questions to answer, demonstrated by very bright people suggesting drastically different alternatives (an “oh snap” was once in order).

A “bridge to the US

To close the morning Jon Bradford made a comment that struck a chord: He described the new TechStars London as a “bridge” (to the US). While the previous conversation focused on potential UK-based initiatives (1), very little was said about expanding overseas relationships or direct investment.

The bridge Jon mentioned reminded me of a well-known post by Mark Suster comparing an investor’s get-to-know-you period as “lines” that connect the “dots” of individual interactions (in essence status updates). The post’s simplicity is awesome and worth a read.

Likewise, I see TechStars London as a bridge that enables US investors to ascertain the performance of UK teams – forming a dot. By allowing multiple dots over the span of the program, lines will form and patterns appear. And with the right patterns we know investment is likely to follow.

Lonely Dots?

There is a recent trend to take accelerator classes on a US roadshow (2) – allowing teams to collect many initial dots. Keen entrepreneurs can later expand on each unique dot, but often the program’s structure doesn’t by default form a line.

I envision the TechStars London bridge will structurally enable US investors to connect multiple dots throughout the program. It will start with a series of video chats, followed by product feedback, and by demo day the lines will lead right to US investor pockets.

TechStars London seems to be the first international accelerator with an inherent US home court advantage. Others will follow. And soon we’ll ask why this progression didn’t happen quicker.

Global Bridges

The question I ask is: Who will build bridges to connect GLOBAL dots?

For now the US is tops for startup investing. Who knows when this may shift, but most likely the consumer markets of India, China, and S America will continue their massive growth and attract more investment.

Sooner than later capital will begin flowing on a global scale into startup hubs through bridges like TechStars London has built. Initially they will be US bridges, but emerging markets will quickly catch up.

It sure will be interesting when the first Chinese venture fund builds a US or EU accelerator bridge and moving east becomes the “cool thing to do.”

I think increasing access to the global capital and mentor markets will be a huge step forward for innovation in general – and has potential to disrupt both the current model for how startups evolve and the mindset of entrepreneurs.

Agree or disagree with my vision of the future? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

(1) For example, how to encourage more graduates to take up entrepreneurship, how to transfer more tech out of universities, or how to make people aware of the UK gov’s startup initiatives.

(2) Accelerators both within the US and from overseas have started taking their classes across the US to meet investors/partners in the major cities.

About Andy Shannon

Hi, I'm Andy and this is my blog, hope you enjoy. Feel free to get in touch anytime via Twitter or Linkedin