Can Silicon Roundabout ever top Silicon Valley?

With a Government push to create our own tech hub in the centre of London, Jennifer Scott looks at why Silicon Valley is such a success and what lessons the UK can learn from the hotbed of innovation in the heart of California.

No matter how much money or how many future Zuckerbergs you have, the key message from Silicon Valley is it's all about the attitude.

"In Silicon Valley you get a bronze star for failing," said Mike Klayko, CEO of Brocade. "Some VCs won't touch you unless you have had at least two failed companies."

No matter how much money or how many future Zuckerbergs you have, the key message from Silicon Valley is it's all about the attitude.

And it's true. The attitude towards failure is so positive and almost worn as a badge of honour. When IT PRO met with four marketing executives from start-ups across the area, they had worked for a total of nine failed companies combined one of the employees had worked for five and never struggled to find work afterwards.

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"The culture and psychological outlook of both senior managers and financiers prevalent in the area are well suited to investing in hard to predict areas," said Tony Lock, programme director at Freeform Dynamics.

"There is a great acceptance of the idea that trying something new is good, even if it doesn't always work out."

There is also encouragement for Silicon Valley to become your way of life.

"[There is] a culture where entrepreneurship is seen as a good way to be spending your career," added Skrenta.

If you bring together the education, the money and the attitude not forgetting the weather, according to Klayko Silicon Valley becomes the hotbed of technology and innovation we all aspire to.

Listen up Mr Cameron

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Back in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron has thrown himself behind proposals to create our own little Silicon Valley in the east end of London nicknamed Silicon Roundabout.

His predecessor Tony Blair also met with a number of high flyers from the Valley such as Steve Jobs and Vint Cerf to ask how we could replicate their successes on our own fair shores. Indeed, politicians have been trying to learn from the US business attitude for years.

But, what advice can Silicon Valley pass on to our current Government?

First off, they might want to rethink the location. Yes, there is already quite a bit of activity around Old Street in the technology sector, but both Harty and Skrenta said being near a university community was key.

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"Focus on areas where there is ready access to technology talent. Universities are always a good starting point," said Harty.

"The UK has strategic initiatives in Cambridge and Edinburgh, in particular, but success will require sustained investment over a prolonged period of time."

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Robinson agreed universities "needed to play an active role" but said the Government had its part to play too.

"Government can intervene to create some of the conditions for tech innovation to thrive [as in] Silicon Valley, [which] initially emerged in part due to massive Government investment in defence technologies," he added.

A number of the experts IT PRO interviewed raised the prospect of tax breaks to encourage entrepreneurs but, as Lock pointed out, it is about more than universities and money.

"You can put in place encouraging tax breaks and even try to relocate educational establishments to a convenient area, but getting the personality/culture in place is not something governments can ever achieve," he said.

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