Today, I thought I’d make some comments on the progress of Spigit EMEA.
I’ve been with the company, now, for almost 5 months. It has been something of a ride.
As you know, I left the Civil Service to work for Spigit in the middle of January. It was the culmination of many years of relationship with the company: I’d previously associated with Spigit when I was managing the innovation function at Lloyds. Actually, we were one of Spigit’s first big customers. And of course, there are great Spigit deployments in the UK government, including at DWP.
When Spigit and I started our discussions at the start of December 2010, the planning for an EMEA capability was at a pretty early stage. The company knew that its expansion internationally was happening more quickly than it expected, and everyone acknowledged that we could build something really exciting in EMEA if the company gave it proper and dedicated focus.
So when the initial discussions were positive, I was delighted to accept the offer Spigit made. I was sad to leave the Civil Service (one day, maybe, I might even return). But I duly sought permission from the Cabinet Office to take up the appointment (they have the right of veto on any position you consider, once you join the Senior Civil Service), and it was granted. I started on January 17.
At that point, Spigit decided to invest substantially in the United Kingdom, to the tune of 11 new jobs, three of which are presently filled by ex-public sector workers. Yes, I did take a few people from the innovation team at DWP with me; you would have too if you’d seen them perform.
Spigit EMEA, actually, is a UK Ltd company registered at Companies House. We have our offices on the edge of SoHo in London. We all pay our taxes, and we are generating new economic activity for the British economy. We are doing it more successfully than anyone else in the innovation management sector, a fact of which I am really proud.
Actually, when we started, we had our first offices in high profile startup space TechHub, over at Silicon Roundabout. We outgrew the amount of space they could give us in less than a month, and had to move.
There is nothing theoretical about the contribution we’re making here. If the UK was more successful in attracting investment from hot Silicon Valley startups like Spigit, we could indeed have the makings of the finest technology sector in Europe.
That’s government policy, and is very achievable in my view considering the focus presently on the tech sector. The right policies have been made in Whitehall, the right community is forming in East London, and the right buzz is beginning to be felt when you go and be a part of it. It reminds me of my (these days, very regular) visits to Silicon Valley.
I am so excited to be a part of it.
But I’m sad to discover that not everyone thinks so.
The Telegraph the other day, had an interview with one of our competitors headlined “Buy British?”. The implication in the piece is Spigit was awarded a contract to run a site, the Innovation Launchpad, without due process, and therefore the UK Government doesn’t care about supporting British small business.
Two weeks or so before that in the same paper, there was the suggestion that not only were we not British, I am an Australian, and we’re not doing our part because we host our servers at RackSpace, a US company.
It is funny in a way.
Let me tell you why.
We volunteered to help run Innovation Launchpad. There hasn’t been a contract awarded for the site, and there certainly haven’t been any financial commitments made.
We have volunteered our resources, and our time, and our money. We are, as I say, doing our bit to help small business in the UK.
And we’re so very proud of the results so far. Innovation Launchpad has been a great success. This is thanks, largely, to the great work of a number of individuals who have led the effort; people like Sherry Coutu, the independent entrepreneur. Stephen Allott and his team from in the Cabinet Office. And, of course, all the great people in Spigit, who had to work long nights and many weekends to get it up from scratch in less than 3 days.
To those who are concerned with Spigit’s involvement, I say this: if you have the time, the resources and the inclination to make an investment of this kind in the UK, you are welcome to do so. And if the site ever does move onto some kind of commercial footing with the UK government, we look forward to seeing you in the open and fair competition the Government will have to run to select a vendor.
In the meantime, we’re continuing to work in the UK, and we’re continuing to grow. Our investments here will continue, and we really want to make a difference. I feel that, and I know all my team – some of the brightest innovators I’ve ever seen – feel that too.
Thank you for giving us the chance to contribute.