Lack of ambition holding back UK tech founders

Sergey Brin and Larry Page would have likely gone to a hedge fund in the UK, Alice Bentinck said

Credit: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP

The UK has been held back from creating global tech giants by a lack of ambition driven "cultural norms" which send would-be-founders into hedge funds, a leading start-up group has said.

Speaking at the Telegraph’s Technology Intelligence Live event on Tuesday, Alice Bentinck, the co-founder of Entrepreneur First, said the world was "missing out on some of its best founders".

"One of the biggest reasons for this is because of very strong cultural norms about what an aspirational and ambitious career path looks like. We ask why doesn’t the UK have a Google and our answer is that [founders] Larry Page and Sergey Brin would have probably ended up in a hedge fund."

She said in the UK, "if you’re super smart, and you’re graduating with a fantastic technical degree, the most obvious thing to do is to go into finance".

"One of our beliefs is places like the UK do have the talent to build these globally important companies, those people are just held back by these cultural and cultural constraints which mean they don’t see being a founder as an aspirational career path".

Ms Bentinck said that this was now starting to change "rapidly".

Her comments signal the UK’s hopes of building international tech firms could soon yield results. Dominic Cummings is understood to be assessing how Britain could create a trillion-dollar tech firm, with this partly behind the recent push-back on EU state aid rules which could stop the Government from being able to support British champions.

For years, British start-ups which have been seen as market-leading DeepMind and Arm have been snapped up by foreign giants before reaching their full potential.

Semiconductor company Arm is currently being sold by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank to a US company, Nvidia, sparking fresh concerns over how Britain can protect its tech companies. The Government has been under pressure to intervene in that deal.

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