London Web Summit – an excellent networking event, but “Where’s the Beef?”

Hats off to Mike Butcher: he runs a great event. London Web Summit, held yesterday at The Brewery, this time brought together with Paddy Cosgrave of Dublin Web Summit, drew a wide range of entrepreneurs, investors and ‘glue’ people in a day packed full with panels, interviews, discussions and startup presentations. There was a ‘coding dojo’ for kids. There was even a band, just like on The Tonight Show. The networking was excellent – there was a matching platform for surfing the delegates and booking meetings in advance. In terms of rallying the startup ecosystem, to quote the song, “nobody does it better”…

Content-wise, there was lots on cool new ideas, and, as ever, much focus on getting VC funding and whether there is enough of it, and a session on exits. I couldn’t help feeling though that the bit in the middle – i.e. building and scaling the business – was completely glossed over. Finding out from practitioners the answers to questions like “How are you changing your organisation as it grows?”, “How have you created a scalable model and what did you need to learn before you were ready to scale?” and “How are you structuring your sales and marketing efforts to ensure you deliver your growth milestones?” can only be instructive and thought-provoking to anyone going on the same journey.

There was a fair amount of attention given to hiring the right people, but the implicit assumption is that if you get the right people, then all of this will be taken care of. If exactly the right people exist, then maybe it will be, but in practice, very few people have all the right skills, and even then, there is so much that can be learned.

With Sonali de Rycker of Accel Partners saying that it is normal for up to 8 out of 10 of their investments to fail, the odds of success post-funding are still only 1 in 5, which means that getting funding is only the start of the journey (even with a world-class VC). In this case, why would you not want to devote a huge amount of time to learning about how to navigate the course and mitigate the risk?

Quite possibly it’s not the point of an event like this to look at how to generate and manage growth. Perhaps it’s felt that it wouldn’t make for an interesting discussion – maybe it’s too detailed and too specific. But if not here, then where?