Poms have tough sell in Silicon Valley

Poms have tough sell in Silicon Valley

An organisation formed to attract IT businesses - and their dollars - to the UK capital is having as much luck as its cricketers.

London is trying to shed its stuffy image and transform itself into a high-tech city where international firms can tap into Europe's emerging Internet economy, according to advocates for the Old Dart.

`London is a great place to be, and we think it's time you were there,' said Martin Lewis, head of North American operations for London First Centre. He was pleading his case recently to representatives from Silicon Valley technology firms who had gathered for a reception to hear the company's pitch.

London First is a private firm created and funded by the UK Government and 300 London businesses to promote the English capital as a hot place to do business. However, judging by the reaction of some US businessmen who watched the presentation, London First has its work cut out. London capital has built up a massive tourist industry around its status as a city steeped in tradition where things are done in the way they always used to be. Such an image doesn't sit well with fast-moving US Internet firms.

`I've always thought of London as a bit staid, to be honest,' said Clynch Salley, chief executive officer of SRK Systems LLC, which offers software and services designed to help companies do business on the Internet. `We like to think we thrive in Internet time, where fortunes are made and lost in hours. London just doesn't give me that feeling.'

To round off its presentation, London First displayed a marketing video that showed enthusiastic workers skipping in and out of trains, taxicabs and aeroplanes around London. The Silicon Valley audience still didn't seem sold. As the video came to a close, a voice in the audience quipped: `And not a rainy day in sight.'

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