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Silicon Valley Speakers Come to Oxford University

23rd November 2010

‘Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford’ (SVCO) is now in its tenth year and the resident tech entrepreneurs have spent the last two days networking and debating the past and future of global technology.  The majority of media attention has focused on Reid Hoffman (Executive Chairman and Co-Founder at LinkedIn), Brent Hoberman (Co-Founder of Lastminute.com, and Founder and CEO of MyDeco) and Biz Stone (Co-Founder of Twitter) to hear their thoughts and tips about entrepreneurial business and the future of social media.

The event has been taking place at the Said Business School within the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Oxford and includes a whole host of plenary sessions, Masterclasses and even sessions in the resident ‘Garage’ – a hub to discuss start-up plans and projects based on the idea that many of the most successful businesses have started in a garage or bedroom.  Older industries, perspectives, and business models are being eroded and new business innovations and so-called ‘disruptive technologies’ are driving changes at an incredible pace.  Businesses old and new are therefore seeking more guidance from the entrepreneurs and futurists who aim to be a step ahead of the trends.  Biz is already looking at the possibility of a Twitter news service, "From the very beginning, this has seemed almost as if it's a news wire coming from everywhere around the world…I think a Twitter News Service would be something that would be very open and shared with many different news organizations."  Twitter already receives 95 million tweets every day from 175 million registered users.  This exists in a world where 1 billion people are online and 5 billion people alone have mobile phones so the possibilities at this stage are endless.   In the last 6 months, Biz has also been impressed by the likes of ‘Glitch’ and other businesses and sites to keep an eye on for the future include Shutl, Taptu, Flipbook, Shopkick, Bluefin, and Square.

So what do these entrepreneurs have in common?  Usually the factor that in order to be consistently successful they know that complacency is not an option.  If you are at the top in any field you are only as good as your last tennis match, your last film, your last speech, and in a rapidly changing world this is the same for any business entrepreneur.  At Asia Best Buy the President Kal Patel works on the premise that they may be out of business in a year and therefore they simply cannot afford to sit still.  Successful entrepreneurs also move on very quickly – for example some thought Biz Stone was crazy to leave Google but he cites it as the best decision he ever made and he then went on to co-found TwitterBrent Hoberman also discusses the importance of embracing failure.  The growth of Lastminute.com was an incredible rollercoaster – at one point the share price was down 95% - and in Silicon Valley the failure of a first business is taken as a given and viewed as an essential learning curve.  It is one of the lessons that we could certainly take from Silicon Valley, but one that may take a longer time to implement given the nature of cultural change that would be necessary to facilitate it.  Reid, Biz and Brent will certainly be keeping an eye on it and perhaps in time Oxford will become the burgeoning hub for the bright spark entrepreneurs of the future?

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