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Ask HN: Where are all the London hackers working on startups?
43 points by nickwsmith on Feb 4, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 43 comments
At the London HN meetup last night I was amazed at how few people raised their hands when the group was asked "who is working on, or planning to work on a startup?".

Regardless of how one defines a startup/how the question was phrased/whether people just didn't bother to raise their hands, am I wrong to assume that a room of HN faithful should have more than ~5% of people trying to turn their software in to viable businesses?

Logging in anonymously, because it lets me be slightly more direct.

As someone who does work on a startup in London, but didn't go last night, it's because I've found the HN London meetups to be chock-full of people who don't work on startups, but simply talk all evening about recycled opinions they've garnered from reading HN posts.

Not an interesting way to spend an evening.

Haha, I am sure you would have thought of me as 'that guy'. I'm not in a startup, I'm quite young, very interested in technology and from time to time work on web development 'side-projects'. But I want to work on a startup in the future and I want to meet intelligent people interested in creating startups. Surely that's the point?

I understand that you want to meet people that are more successful than you. You want to meet people that you can learn from. Or at least to meet people that are on the same level to you that you might share the experience with or work with. But that's exactly the same reason that people with less experience go.

So I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being hypocritical because this would be missing the point: you judge the evening on its value to you (as opposed to the value you're given others by effectively mentoring them). That is just what I do. However, at the very least I expect you could find good developers, future employees, interesting stories and people to bounce off ideas and help test your software.

edit; As others have stated: if you are really interested in startups you should probably be at home working. ;)

I think you are being a bit harsh. The meetup was never intended to be an event purely for the early stage startup entrepreneur. The primary goal was to allow the users of Hacker News to meet in the real world, talk about their interests and share experiences.

I've met many fascinating people there, who between them have been through all stages of the startup life cycle and made many new friends.

I am sorry that you got stuck talking to a bore. In my experience people like that have been very much the exception rather than the rule.

Anyway, I value all feedback and want the meetup to be as useful and interesting as possible so if you have suggestions or ideas on how to improve it I would love to hear from you.

HN is probably quite an aspirational thing for those still stuck in the perceived drudgery of enterprise and large scale software development for established companies. It's their dose of inspiration, I feel.

I agree it doesn't add a lot of value to the community, though. Speaking for myself, as someone who works at a startup, I was actually busy working last night. Like most nights.

Yeah, instead of talking about starting, how to and when to start... Just use your time well! Voted +1

As a not-working-at-a-startup person, when I went to the first HN meetup I was impressed by the fact that pretty much everybody I met was working at a startup. That's part of the reason I haven't been since actually, because I didn't think I had too much to add to all those startup people. So my experience was pretty much the opposite of yours. How many have you been to?

Shame - I've been to two of these HN meetups, and last night I met a lot of people working on interesting ideas. Most of these ideas were actually projects that are too early to call a startup but could possibly have potential.

Maybe I got lucky and chatted to the right guys.

Amsterdam is suffering from the same problem, and likely other EU cities might as well. And by that I mean it's full of consultants/social media people, not do-ers. That's why we started STIKK (stikk.nl). (Near-future) founders only.

Rob actually asked "who is thinking of starting a startup soon, or has done so in the past couple of months", which may have prevented people who have started a startup or have been employed by one from raising their hands.

Exactly, most people at the meeting were working on startups, just currently a little later in the life-cycle

My colleague and I are working on a startup within an existing business. I think it was the way the question was phrased that yielded so few responses.

Important point, thanks for clarifying

I live in London and am currently trying to get my startup off the ground. I am also an avid reader of HN, and was considering going to last nights event.

Due to work pressures, i.e. launching soon, I saw it better to spend my time working on my startup than going to the HN event. I have 2 children, and work from home, so I need to grab any opportunity I can to work.

Also, there are now lots of startup events in London, and if you are busy then you really need to pick and choose which ones you go to. In my case I am going to the lean startup one next week, which I see as being currently more relevant (and maybe more useful) to me than the HN event.

We're all busy working, I think is the answer.

Like you I'm working away furiously trying to get the MVP out the door so we can start doing some testing.

While I'm very positive about HN, I feel that in some ways attending stuff like HN meetups seems like a bit of a popularity contest, "look at me!".

I am not sure why you see socialising with fellow geeks in the real world as a popularity contest.

The HN meetup clashed with the Springboard mentoring & networking event hosted at TechHub. There must have been about 50 startups there (+ VCs/angels/jurnos/mentors). Quite a lot of HNers were there so I wouldn't be surprised if that had a negative impact on the number of startups at the HN event.

(For future reference if Springboard runs one of these events again, it's definitely worth going. I got a lot of practical advice that's going to have a major impact on my business, plus I had an early stage VC ask me for a pitch deck. I'm not sure how the event could have been any better.)

That really surprised me too. In my experience there certainly isn't any shortage of web startups in London, so I have to wonder why so few of them come to an HN event.

Off the top of my head, possible options:

1. Startups don't engage on HN, or don't feel part of the community. This seems pretty unlikely.

2. (London) HN readers are predominantly people in full time jobs, or just not entrepreneurial.

3. Startups are too busy working.

But none of those seem particularly probable. Maybe it is a cultural difference?

Or maybe it was just a bad night for startups :)

4. They network elsewhere

Many views on why they do, and why it's so fragmented. But fragmented it is.

5. London is flat and wide with the startups not centralised

Not everyone is around Old St, and even those who are might still be grinding out code when the meetup started and then just opt not to walk in halfway through. For the ones further out, timings and stuff might put them off. People don't live around their either so it may be a trek home for some that puts them off.

6. Topics might not appeal to them

Then there's those who might go for the topics, but weren't interested in that set of topics.

7. They don't wish to have the distraction of networking when they just want to keep their heads down and get on with it

And those who have what they feel is the network they need, and so invest their time in that network alone.

I didn't go, even though I have intended to go to the last couple. The reasons above aren't my reason, but I'm speculating that there are more than just the reasons you give.

And I do have a startup (a small but profitable one, it ticks over nicely and I have a few things in the pipeline to help push it a bit further). And across the office I see another guy with a startup who managed to sell recently. And then there's people I know down near Shoreditch working on stuff. The people are clearly around, but none of the ones I know went last night.

Just asked a couple of guys here. Reasons given: Formality and agenda, hanger-ons, recruiters, aimless networking.

Concensus here was that if it was more to let off steam and pressure with a bunch of like-minded people sharing the problems informally over beer and fussball (yeah, we're thinking Bar Kick)... then most of them would be good for it.

Also, there was the shared view that DrinkTank was pretty damn good whilst it was very small, invite only and vetted (people actually doing stuff).

Re: DrinkTank's policy of vetting attendees, it reminds me of a phenomenon that might be pertinent to this discussion http://blog.bumblebeelabs.com/social-software-sundays-2-the-...

The feedback I got from talking to people seemed to indicate people had been doing their project for too long not to feel like a startup, or that their startup was a side project but the day job got in the way. That's partly why I (somewhat cheekily) asked a question about profitability.

If youre a contractor with a day job the safety net combined with the time loss really works against you getting your startup off the ground. I think nearly everyone in the room recognised the sheer balls it took for the playnice.ly guys to go and launch. Everyone I spoke to mentioned the marketing point that wad raised and so few felt they could get it right. Perhaps that's also a factor in the response.

It's a combination of 3 and 1, I'd wager.

I've worked in startup environments in both the UK and the US.

In the US, being an entrepreneur is seen as a good thing, and people bond, mesh, and engage as a result of their common interest in stepping off the standard path.

In the UK... not so much. The vast majority of founders I know are a) busy working their nuts off and b) pretty bitter, due to the UK attitude to entrepreneurs (urgh, why would you do that? Starting your own business is stupid).

I guess what I'm getting at is that entrepreneurs in the US and the UK are pretty different - in the US, they rely on a support network of other entrepreneurs, and are part of a community. In the UK, you're on your own, definitively, and entrepreneurs shy away from potential support networks because they're so used to any large group of people being overwhelmingly comprised of naysayers.

Oh, and finally, London isn't the entire UK. You want to see startups? Get yourself out of the city. Bootstrapped startups start elsewhere in the country, as London is so disproportionately expensive - Bath, for instance, is chock full of 'em.

> pretty bitter, due to the UK attitude to entrepreneurs (urgh, why would you do that? Starting your own business is stupid).

I have heard this attitude mentioned a few times but it is something that I have never encountered (I really cannot think of a single instance). I feel very lucky for this, but also surprised/dismayed that people can be so negative about others who go an such an adventure.

Keep your head down, know you are doing the right thing. Speaking of which, I need to write some code...

Noo, you let out the super secret location!

I live in London and am working on a startup.

I used to go to quite a few tech events in London but found I was spending too much time with like-minded people (techies) and not enough with people who had other backgrounds and interests.

These days I pretty much just go to LRUG once a month to socialise with the good friends I've made there over the years.

HN strikes me as a fairly diverse group though, so I'd be interested in going to the next meetup.

I am working on a startup, but didn't raise my hand. I should have.

Honestly, and this is not a criticism, that evening felt much more like "talk about programmer stuff" than it did "talk about startup stuff". There were a couple of good talks about the business of startups, and the rest felt like coding, or pitches, or both (and again, this is not a criticism).

Where was it advertised? I heard about it on twitter DURING the event, but I would have been interesting in going.

Hi Piers, this is the meetup page http://www.meetup.com/HNLondon/ . We'll announce the next event shortly, expect it will be at some point in March depending on venue availability.

I did not advertise the last event on HN because it got booked up very quickly and were at pretty much full capacity last night.

Get it on Lanyrd.com please! :-) TYVM

Where are all the London hackers working on startups? Places like TechHub and White Bear Yard, mostly. Working.

(Speaking of which, nearly everyone I know – including us – is hiring.)

I went to the HN meetup last night, and I'm in full-time employment with no start-up experience; just some ambitions to do something in the future. I go along for a little inspiration and to talk to other developers - do people object to folks like me coming to these events?

Absolutely not. You are very much welcome.

It'd be interesting to see what level of involvement HN members have with startups generally. I've submitted a poll here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2179696

At the pub afterwards, about every other person I met was working at a startup - especially later on when it wasn't so packed. The pile of business cards I'm going through now reflects this. Perhaps there was some self-selection amongst the people who stayed on at the pub for a while?

(I regret that I missed the talks - unfortunately I was held up by a meeting that ran late).

Sadly missed last nights HN meetup. But just wanted to say I'm a London hacker working on a Seedcamp '10 winning startup.

I went there with the rough expectation that I might find some people to co-found something with, but since I'm a wuss I didn't talk to anyone I didn't already know.

If they're not already working at a startup, are people who attend these events likely to be open the idea of work for equity or co-founding?

Yes. Even if they're in a startup, the best is usually keeping an eye on the menu, and options available (knowing your opportunity cost allows you to make more informed decisions).

I'm in London and we're working on a startup, although it's been going for so long it's more like a bootstrapped company type affair by now. We didn't go because of time issues. We don't have enough of it! I would like to attend one of the meetings though, when I get a chance.

I live in London and work for a Boston-based startup with a small office here. So, not actually a London startup. But I'd be interested in attending one those meetups in the future. Where are those events announced btw?

Judging by the number of people in shirts and ties there, I'd imagine a large proportion are in full-time employment and on the periphery of the startup scene.

as one of the suited and booted attendees, I'd just like to say I'm running a startup but selling into conservative / corporate organisations so the shirt and tie helps.

Sorry I've missed the last two meetups. I'm in India currently, about to get married :-)

Raises hand (see profile for details)

heya, I was wondering the same thing. I'm busy working my nuts off, and wonder where I should be networking.

If you use MSN messenger ... add me as a contact. (That goes for everyone else) alainrichardt [at] hotmail.com



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