The most time consuming, difficult and important task for any start-up is hiring great people. My tech start-up, Metail, is split between London and Cambridge, with our tech team based in Cambridge to be close to our collaboration partner Professor Roberto and his team at Cambridge University and the amazing talent pool of engineers and other enquiring minds. Beyond our network we have found engineer recruiting difficult in Cambridge and have had a very poor success rate with recruitment consultants.
Consequently, following on from the success of the Silicon Milkroundabout events that were started by Songkick in London, which incidentally returns again in May, we felt that Cambridge needed something similar to drive awareness of the technology start-up as a real alternative to the banks and the big engineering and development companies. Start-ups are dynamic, fun, challenging environments where employees can achieve huge amounts with greater responsibility than elsewhere. The Silicon Milkroundabout events captured this sense of dynamism and Cambridge needs something like this to get away from what can be a staid image of technology entrepreneurship when it is actually in fact one of the global centres of technology invention and innovation excellence if not arguably The best.
As the saying goes, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'...so with the support of COO, Pete Smith from Songkick, we've riffed on the brand and taken it out to Cambridge to create Silicon Milkround Cambridge.
The aim has been to start by attracting between 30 and 40 young start-ups to participate and attract great under-grads and graduates from the Cambridge universities along with other talented career engineers and developers from the whole of the south east of England including London. So far we've attracted some amazing companies from Bromium, the latest startup by the team behind $500 million Xensource; Swiftkey, winner of most innovative mobile app at the Global Mobile Awards 2012; QuBit Digital, Knowledge Transmission and, of course, Songkick.
With two thirds of the pitch spaces already gone, we are expecting the event to be oversubscribed and to achieve our goal of over 300 attendees. Stackoverflow are supporting with sponsorship and free packages for attending companies and we have prizes for attendees taking part in lightning presentation and dev challenges on BBC Micros, which have been donated by the Cambridge Computing History Centre as part of the 30th anniversary of the BBC computer. It should be a great fun, eye-opening event for developers and engineers that amazing alternative employment opportunities do exist in a post-financial crisis era.
We hope other regions and areas will do the same, because with the Great Recession and shrinking financial sector we need start-ups and great engineers to drive the next stage of growth for the UK economy. We have the talent, but just need the awareness and inspiration.
We've so far actually been lucky enough to be the recipients of this migration of talent. One of our developers used to be a Goldman Sachs senior developer and left the big City to move to the serene environs of Cambridge. Likewise a bright Bristol Maths graduate chose a move to Cambridge rather than a move into banking, we managed to convince a computer vision PhD to choose us over Google and most recently we have persuaded the most talented applicant for the job to move from Athens to Cambridge.
Start-ups offer great challenges, the ability to work with fantastic inspiring colleagues, experience dramatic and dynamic change, have a disruptive real impact on the world and at its smallest to see your code or work come alive almost instantly in the hands of the customer. For example you could work for Microsoft for years before seeing a line of code become a piece of an end user product.
Metail may have kicked off Silicon Milkround Cambridge to fulfill a need to hire more great people in Cambridge, but we hope that the trend Songkick started can roll across the country and help feed the emergence of great start-ups to drive the economy back into the black.