Now, it's bustling. Joanna Shields, CEO of London's Tech City Investment Organization and former Facebook VP of EMEA told reporters this morning, "The energy is intoxicating."
Techstars London's managing director Jon Bradford agreed. The pair sat on a panel this morning at Google's campus in East London and explained what's changed in their city: the attitude.
"What's different today than two or three years ago is the startup ecosystem in London has a vibrant community," Bradford said.
Techstars is one of the top startup accelerator programs in the world. It was founded by David Cohen in Boulder, Colorado and has spread to multiple cities throughout the United States. London is the first city the program has expanded to overseas.
Bradford says Techstars noticed the change in England's perception towards entrepreneurs, and thinks it's a great place to find international innovators.
"B eing a startup in London today is really normal," he said. "Previously it was, 'Look at that freak. He's working for himself and chances are it isn't going to work.' It's pretty cool. People stare at this building [Google Campus] and they say, 'Look at them, they work for other people, and it's weird.'
"Techstars looks at London as much more internationally friendly country than the U.S. itself," Bradford said. "They're looking at how to get to more exciting international teams, not just UK teams. And there's access to government here. They will actually sit and listen to what's asked of them."
The startup scene in London recognizes its still behind U.S. hubs, such as New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Silicon Valley. But London is undoubtedly up-and-coming.
Facebook opened its first international office in London at the request of its employees. Spotify has a big presence in London. Yammer, Stripe, General Assembly and BuzzFeed all have office space in London too. Google is also opening a major £1bn space in London's King's Cross area that will be 750,000 square feet. Its East London campus has only been open one year, but it has already held 166 events for about 60,000 people in the tech community.
London startups are starting to get national recognition. Summly, founded by a 17-year-old in England, was recently acquired for $20-30 million. Today another London startup, Mendeley, was acquired for about $100 million.
Disclosure: London & Partners, a not-for-profit backed by London's mayor, paid for me to visit London and explore its Tech City.
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