LONDON – Hundreds of the biggest names in European tech rubbed shoulders with wealthy politicians and investors on the lawn of private members club Soho Farmhouse in rural England on Thursday, in what was one of the first major tech events in more than one year.
Attendees at the annual Founders Forum event included former UK Prime Minister David Cameron (who lives just down the road), former Finance Minister George Osborne, and UK technology ministers past and present: Ed Vaizey and Oliver Dowden, respectively.
Google’s Matt Brittin and Facebook’s Nicola Mendelsohn, the European bosses of Silicon Valley heavyweights, appeared, as did TikTok Europe CEO Rich Waterworth, who previously ran YouTube’s marketing on the continent.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and Zoom co-founder Eric Yuan headed from the US for video interviews, while DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, it resurfaced after he left the company in controversial circumstances to join Google. Mike Lynch, who is currently fighting extradition to the US on allegations of fraud after selling his Autonomy start-up software to HP for more than $ 11 billion, was also in attendance. Palantir co-founder and CEO Alex Karp was scheduled to attend but had to withdraw after the UK pushed back the date for the full easing of the lockdown.
“Everyone I want to meet in Europe is here,” reads a quote from Schmidt on the event website. “Founders Forum has become the reference destination for technology in Europe.”
The founders and CEOs of apps like Monzo, Wise (formerly TransferWise), Citymapper and many more also took to the web and listened to talks about everything from existential risks that threaten to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth, to hiring the best talent. in the field of artificial intelligence.
Elsewhere, venture capitalists from companies with billions of dollars at their disposal, including Sequoia, Index Ventures, Atomico and Balderton, were also present, as were some of the UK’s most active angel investors.
For many, it was the first in-person tech event they were able to attend in more than a year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout the day, people kept saying how “weird” it was to be there while punching and elbowing each other. They all had to film themselves taking a Covid-19 test and testing negative on an app developed by Wise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus before they were allowed to attend.
The ‘Davos of technology’
British Brent Hoberman, co-founder of PROfounders Capital, president of made.com and founder and president of mydeco.com
Eric Piermont I AFP | fake images
Branded “something like the Davos of technology” by The Guardian newspaper, Founders Forum is organized by entrepreneur and serial investor Brent Hoberman.
The Eton and Oxford alumnus, who co-founded Lastminute.com and the recently listed Made.com, is known for having one of the most impressive networks on the European tech scene and many of his friends and investments are invited to Founders Forum each year. .
The organizers describe it as a private network of the world’s premier entrepreneurs, CEOs and investors in technology, media and digital.
Past guests include Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, former Apple chief designer Jony Ive, broadcaster David Attenborough and former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Also in attendance was Prince William, a member of the British royal family.
Usually held at the five-star Grove hotel, this year marks the first time the Founders Forum has been held at the Soho Farmhouse. Aston Martins, Maseratis, Range Rovers and Teslas could be seen in the parking lot on the day of the event.
“There is crazy money to have an event,” a Soho House member, owner of Soho Farmhouse, told CNBC, asking to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the discussion.
For some, one of the highlights of the day was witnessing the British inventor of the jet suit, Richard Browning, fly just a few feet above the ground.
After being fed all day, Founders Forum guests enjoyed freshly grilled lobster and strawberries and cream in the evening. On the way home, they were given gift bags containing Cowshed and Charlotte Tilbury products.
Timothy Armoo, CEO of Fanbytes, a company that helps brands advertise through social video, told CNBC that he really enjoyed the event.
“The quality of the conversations remained very high, which was very nice,” he said.
“Since this is the first major event people have been to in a while, there is a danger that it will become more of a ‘catch up’ session for friends, but that was not the case at all. Meaningful connections were fostered and that is what you are looking for when you go to these events. I also really admired how they handled the social distancing rules, the people were respectful, and the pre-testing process was quite comforting. “