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Jumping Into The Deep End: London's Tech Talent Pool

Here we are in 2014 and London has a thriving startup scene boasting some of the best digital tech talent on the planet.

It wasn't always that way.

To do is to learn

If I look back to my first startup job in 2000, the fact was that almost all of us were winging it. We were in at the deep end and it was sink or swim. We had to figure this stuff out on the job and we learnt by trial and error. This was before Google had introduced Adwords, before the iPhone, before Facebook, before broadband was common. We figured out PPC by doing it, we figured out SEO by doing it and we learnt how to do usability testing by doing it. I even learnt HTML, CSS and ASP in my time - by doing it.

Looking at recent job ads for today's startup roles, I realised that back in 2000 a lot of the skills asked for now either didn't exist or were only just emerging.

(Here's a few examples; digital product design, Ruby on Rails, community management, performance marketing analytics, cloud dev ops, attribution modelling, JQuery, iOS, Android, social media marketing, scrum master, HTML5...)

As it turns out some of the people I worked with back then (as well as a new generation who have since joined the work force) are now deeply experienced and able to offer up these skills.

It's thanks to the investment in the tech sector that tech talent has developed. Without funding, the number of startups would be smaller, the amassed experience wouldn't be there and we just wouldn't have the talent we now have.

Some startups make it, many don't. All of them however give experience to their teams and therefore build skills. Even if the startup doesn't make it, there has been an investment in the teams that run the startups. The teams in these failed startups don't fail - they grow. For every failed startup there is a team of people who now know a lot more about the tech and business challenges and the talent pool grows. For every successful tech startup, even more so.

People employed today in startups and high growth small businesses are doing what we did in 2000 - they are developing their experience by doing. To do is to learn. Immersion teaches experience in a way that school never can.

Small businesses drive job creation and build the talent pool

A key driver of talent is funding and investment.

This is clearly demonstrated by a new report from Octopus Investments - The High Growth Small Business Report.

High Growth Small Businesses are defined as companies with a turnover of between £1m and £20m and growing at more than 20% over three years.

These 30,000 business generated 36.4% of the UK's economic growth in 2013. Importantly, they also created 68% of all new jobs between 2012 and 2013. 68%!

It's also important to note that small businesses expose their teams to more experiences in a shorter space of time. There are fewer boundaries. The all hands to the pumps mentality draws out skills and forces teams to learn new ones on the fly in ways that they wouldn't get to do in large organisations where a slightly different role would be someone else's responsibility.

Small teams work closely together. That means they have a better appreciation for the roles of others, they understand each other better and this also teases out complementary skills between product, development and marketing.

Startup job creation is more than about jobs, it's also about developing new talent. Investment in high growth businesses is like investing in swimming pools where people learn to swim.

No swimming pools, no swimmers.

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