Best Southworth

As some of you may have heard, the metaphysical bell has rung on my time at Tech City. From the 1st of August I will be actively pursuing a collection of new projects and activities. Some of you may be wondering what this means, and maybe even why it’s happened. I wish I could tell you a tale so epic in proportions that it would make Tolkien cry, but the simple fact is my contract was, and always had been, a 12-month contract. Those 12 months are now up.

When I first stepped in to Number 10 Downing Street to meet Rohan Silva to discuss my joining, it was at a time where the previous CEO was departing, and another being recruited. My role was to ensure continuity and to engage with community to ensure we addressed any structural issues that may have arisen. With the arrival of Joanna Shields, the stewardship of the organisation is in fantastic hands, and there is no real need for a Deputy CEO.

I am fantastically proud of what the team has achieved in the last 12 months and I passionately believe that we’ve managed to create an organisation that is radically different from what it was, without losing any of its core functionality of attracting foreign and direct investment in to the area. We’ve managed to add a new, more understandable messaging strategy, a greater sense of purpose and increased the agility of the organisation. Most importantly we’ve been able to do this with an increased sense of transparency via our direct relationships with those we serve: The company owners and employees, the hackers and hustlers, the strivers, the doers and the world changers.

One of my core activities was to ensure the organisation was fully plugged in to the connective tissue of the area, to really understand what this area was actually about, not what it thought it was, not what it wanted it to be, but to rewire the circuit board, to create a bottom up organisation that responded to the needs of the community. I believe with all my heart that we achieved that; we’ve built a great team, who fully comprehend what makes this area of London unique, and who understand what is necessary for it to reach its potential.

To all of you whom I met, from the smallest startup hustling on barely a penny, to the profitable, to the vast, to the creative, to the agile, to all of you – I want to say a massive thank you; you kept me inspired and alive.

Those who know me best will know how challenging I found the last 12 months. I will admit at times I found certain areas of the job beyond my limited skill set, and some of the procedural requirements of public sector certainly brought out the worst in me. To those within government who steered me, guided me, chided me, assisted and educated me – a huge thank you. You brought sunshine to those grey days.

I believe we have a responsibility to ensure we are making the best of what Government can do, and I am honoured to have been so privileged to work with some of the brightest and best public servants, from Policy wonks to Civil Servants, to those who work tirelessly to make change – I take off my hat to you. Your tireless, selfless sacrifices to democracy are not celebrated enough.

I have been honoured to be afforded an opportunity to ensure that we, the makers and creators, were represented at the table of those who make decisions that impact us the most. In the world I come from, “Yes!” was the most powerful word, however sometimes the smartest thing I could do over the last 12 months was to say “No”. I will admit that I am looking forward to being able to say “Yes!” a lot more than “No”.

I promised myself I wouldn’t get emotional, but it seems to have all gotten a bit Oscar-ceremony-breakdown-on-camera. I do want to make one small point. We, as participants, as tax payers, as stakeholders of a brighter future, have a responsibility to ensure we are represented and understood by those who are employed to represent us, and I urge the community to continue to come together, to connect, collaborate and discuss this future we are creating and to ensure that our voice remains loud, proud and powerful. The government is more open than ever to panoply of voices of the community, please do not let this opportunity to speak freely go to waste.

So what’s next for me? Well, I went in to this job as one person, and I’ve come out another. My “national service” has changed me, I think for the better, in more ways than any other project. I am going to spend some time thinking, relaxing, and getting my coding chops back up to speed. I’ve several projects and ideas I want to explore. One is looking in to the idea of a Harkness method inspired free school in the area to address the digital skill shortage, ensuring that rising tides floats all ships. The other is a far larger project around democracy in the 21st century and what that means. I’ve also got a few web apps I want to knock up to help triage a few personal itches that have developed.

To all of you I’ve met, to those who supported me, to those who were nice to me: Thank you, from the very bottom of my heart.


Here’s to the future, it’s a very exciting time.


Best Southworth

Hi everyone,

So if you’re reading this then you’ve no doubt heard the news. From today I will be joining the Tech City Investment Organisation as Deputy CEO. It has not been an easy decision, and I have no doubt that many of you will have questions which I will endeavor to answer for you in this post. If not, please feel free to get in contact with me via Twitter and I will be happy to answer directly.

Why did I join Tech City Investment Organisation?

I have spent my entire life working in the start-up scene – first Cambridge; then Boulder, Colorado; and finally back here in London. From Product Development to project management, to coding to design to community management and finally – as many of you know me now – events. The start-up ecosystem and culture is my life and my passion, I love it and I will challenge anyone who states otherwise. I have seen the very best, and the very worst, but not only am I still here, I am more certain than I have ever been that right now there is a real excitement here in London and a real opportunity to do something big for the ecosystem. For the past 12 months, Mike, Bryce and I have spent every single week running events to bring the start-up community together and foster collaboration, and in that time we have seen something remarkable occur. From business growth to collaboration, investment and the support of big tech companies like Google, Cisco and now Amazon, there is a reason that this is one of the few growth areas of the current economy. But more than that, we’ve seen more young people – those who have grown up with coding and development – coming down and realising that there is a new career option open to them that previously they did not know existed. And that is a truly valuable thing.


When TCIO approached me I had to ask myself one simple question – when faced with the opportunity to make real change happen for the ecosystem and community you love, do you take it or do you sit back, play it safe and watch someone else take the heat? Those of you who know me know I am far from a public servant, but I am a man of conviction and my role, as Deputy CEO, will be to make sure you, the community, are heard and that your needs are being met. If they are not being met, I will be responsible for talking to all of you and explaining why they have not been met. I will also be responsible for better communicating how TCIO can help.


The fact is, unlike ever before, the current Government is not only listening to the start-up community – they want to listen! As a result, there is a real opportunity to maximise this attention in a way that drives growth for all of us. If I learned anything from the past 12 months of running community events and working in start-ups, it’s that everyone has a place in driving the growth and continued success of the East London tech community.

What does this mean for my role in 3beards, Digital Sizzle, Don’t Pitch Me, Bro! and Silicon Drinkabout?

Over the next 12 months, my focus will be on first addressing a number of the current issues that many of you have raised with me in the past.


As such, I will be stepping away from my involvement in 3beards, Digital Sizzle, Don’t Pitch Me, Bro! and Silicon Drinkabout. I will still be present at as many of the events as I can, but as an attendee rather than an organiser. This has been the hardest part of my decision, as I am extremely proud of everything we have done in providing consistent community-focused events of the highest standard; however I don’t feel it is appropriate to continue doing so for the duration of my new role.


However, all is not lost for The 3beards! I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Joe Scarboro – who has been working with us for several months on Silicon Drinkabout, and has been an integral part of the growth of that event – on board as the new Third Beard in my absence. Many of you already know Joe from his work on Drinkabout, and I know he will be the perfect fit in helping Bryce and Mike continue to grow and run the same great events you all love in my absence.


I am also pleased to announce another new addition, Parker Crockford, who will be working closely with Bryce, Mike and Joe over the next few months on the commercial side to help them streamline the business side of 3beards and help them scale each event in line with the both humbling and amazing demand we’ve seen from all of you for bigger and better events in the future. The only goal of 3beards has always been to put on the best events possible for the creative and start-up communities and, with an amazing business development track record and as a regular Drinkabout attendee, we felt Parker has the perfect mix of skills and start-up experience to help us do that.


Well, that’s all from me for now, it’s an exciting new challenge and I only hope I can support all of you in the same way you have all supported me over the past 12 months.


Cheers, beers and brilliant ideas.

Benjamin Southworth