Last month the Government said it wants more US tech firms to move to the UK – but how simple is it? We ask Heather Brunner, CEO of web hosting company WP Engine, who has done just that.
The company launched its EMEA office in Tech City London last month, having been a successful business in the US for a few years now.
PCR: Why did WP Engine decide to open an office in the UK?
Heather Brunner: In addition to being a platform for global growth, the London office has been opened to enable WP Engine to better serve its existing 3,000+ European customers and partners, in collaboration with our the global hub in Austin, Texas.
Heather Brunner, WP Engine: The UK can be expensive to break into. Have you seen any cost savings here as a business?
As with growth into any new country, there is a big commitment involved with doing so. For us, it was really important to be closer to our EMEA partners and customers but via collaboration and help from key technology organisations like Tech City UK, we’ve been able to quickly and efficiently launch our London office.
How easy was it setting up here?
It was surprisingly easy for us. One of the typical challenges associated with opening new offices is knowing where the right location is. For WP Engine, a fast growing organisation, locating somewhere that reflected our culture was important and so choosing the high energy, thriving technology hub in Shoreditch felt natural.
We made the decision to join Second Home, an invitation-only innovation space for start-ups and fast growth digital companies. This enabled us to move straight into a fully serviced office space with access to facilities such as internet and meeting space and the team could hit the ground running. It’s also important to surround ourselves with other like-minded companies and be active contributor to the UK tech scene.
How does Tech City London compare to Silicon Valley?
They’re both unique in a good way. Tech City is clearly younger and has a personal community feel due to its close proximity and ‘start-up’ impression. It’s clearly growing, and as we start to see larger tech investments which have already been seen within Silicon Valley, the gap between the two will begin to close.
Can the UK become the global hub for tech?
I don’t think there will ever be just one global hub, and I don’t think there should be. Creativity and innovation is more likely to thrive if it develops across multiple locations and attracts individuals from different backgrounds and cultures.
In the US, Silicon Valley is important, but regional hubs are vital too. We’re headquartered in Austin, Texas which is great example of thriving creative community with a vibrant tech scene. The same applies in Europe, Tech City in London is an exciting place to be but so too are the growing hubs in Munich, Paris and Karlsruhe. All of these cities uniquely contribute to the wider global innovation opportunity.
What do you think of the Government’s initiative to attract more US tech firms to the UK?
It’s really exciting to hear. For us, having organisations such as, Tech City UK and London & Partners supporting our move into London was game changing – we had support and practical guidance at every step of the process.
Through promotion of collaborative organisations such as these, the UK will continue to become even more attractive to US businesses.
What changes would you like to see in the UK in the future?
I hope that the UK and the City of London continues their commitment to creating an open and accessible technology community.
The technology industry is growing significantly within the UK and for me, having launched European presences for many US businesses from the UK, I’d like to see more businesses feeling encouraged to take the leap and do the same.
Further details: WP Engine