The birthplace of world-famous inventors like John Logie Baird, Tim Berners-Lee, James Dyson and Jonathan Ive, the UK is also a crucible of innovation. London is ideally positioned to bring together bright minds with paradigm-shifting ideas, and enable them to sell them to the world, with many Workspace-based companies leading the way.
Westbourne Studios-based what3words made headlines again last December, when its universal addressing system was adopted by the Côte d’Ivoire postal service – the second country in the world to sign up, after Mongolia. It has since onboarded another three countries – Djibouti, Tonga and Sint Maarten, part of the Dutch kingdom – where it hopes to make a real difference.
Around 75% of the world – 135 countries – suffers from inconsistent, complicated or inadequate addressing systems, according to what3words. Around four billion people are invisible; unable to report crime; receive deliveries or aid; or exercise many of their rights as citizens because where they live they simply have no way to communicate.
Since it was founded in 2013, it has completed five rounds of funding totalling over $13 million, won awards in Silicon Valley and Cannes, and formed partnerships with a host of other organisations, from courier firms to UN agencies, for issuing additional services.
Across the river, Workspace Kennington is where More United first kicked off its mission to break the mould of UK politics and combat extremist politics. They are crowdfunding election candidates of theoretically any party who are judged by the site’s members to match up to a set of moderate, rational, positive values. They backed Sarah Olney at the Richmond Park by-election last year, whose victory with a huge swing against incumbent Zac Goldsmith gives them confidence that their value-driven approach can achieve traction.
Currently with over 70,000 members, the company’s ambitious objective is to become a major force in politics by rallying those who no longer identify with a party. Acting CEO Bess Mayhew loved being in an environment with “so many people buzzing with ideas” rather than a dusty Westminster office.
Rise to the skills challenge
As technological advances fuel great new business ideas like what3words and More United, there is also the need to equip the workforce and the next generation with the skills to make the most of that new technology. For instance, the CBI/Pearson 2016 Education and Skills survey found that 69% of companies – a record high – are not confident about filling their high-skilled jobs in future. With its tech ecosystem, London is in a strong position to rise to this challenge, seizing educational entrepreneurship opportunities and obtaining a flexible, capable workforce at the end of it.
what3words was founded by Chris Sheldrick, Jack Waley-Cohen and Mohan Ganesalingam, who are on a mission to revolutionise the world’s address system. Chris worked in the music industry for 10 years; Jack led the operations of translation company Lingo24 for eight years and Mohan spent most of his career at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a research fellow. He designed the what3words system.
United we stand
MORE UNITED was founded by a cross-party group of MPs and non-MPs including politician Paddy Ashdown and environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, after the UK voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum. More United launched a crowdfunding campaign in November to raise money to support budding political candidates; a month later, it had raised over a quarter of a million pounds.
Mega tech minds
Does London have the tech edge? Find out at London Tech Week, which runs 12-16 June. A festival of live events across London, it celebrates the best of tech while providing networking social, learning and business opportunities.
The city’s official promotional company, London & Partners, teams up with coalition Tech London Advocates and Informa’s knowledge and networking division, KNect365, to bring a mega-tech festival.