DSrupt – a reflection
Great ideas for widgets and IP, but where are the commercial plays?
DSRUPT highlighted the quality and depth of the Cambridge and UK tech scene with 10 polished pitches from 10 on-track businesses. It also highlighted the focus in Cambridge on tech-based businesses, by which I mean focused/niche applications, new tech, patentable ideas, or devices … all of which are good things from the point of view of a startup leveraging the skills of its founders.
The panel discussion about exits highlighted that most of these business will be best scaled by becoming part of larger entities, integrating into products or solutions at a bigger scale than a startup can achieve.
What was noticeable by its absence was any pitch with a ‘business model’ concept like Uber, Airbnb or ebay. These companies use tech, but tech isn’t what makes them a good idea. Such ‘platform plays’ derive from a business model, a disruption to a whole market, or a commercial proposition that scales around the world and builds a brand that global businesses and consumers recognise.
Many times we’ve heard from Cambridge tech leaders about the desire for ‘world class’ or ‘billion dollar’ companies. The ambition of being willing to be the platform on which others rely, or into which others work, is perhaps a key difference between Cambridge and silicon valley.
Recent personal experience suggests that it is this ambition to see the big opportunity, or to take the risk of believing, that is missing in Cambridge. Perhaps its too easy to stick closer to home and do what we know?