UK tech scene 'knocking on the door' of Silicon Valley says Lord Livingston as he welcomes Salesforce to London

By Peter Gothard
23 Jun 2014 View Comments

Tory peer and ex-BT CEO Lord Ian Livingston applauded the UK technology sector tonight as he helped cut the ribbon at London's new Salesforce Tower, boasting of a UK "knocking on the door" of Silicon Valley, with a national tech industry situated "not just in London".

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff introduced Lord Livingston as a business contact he has shared a relationship with "for a long time".

"[I've known Ian] from back when he was the CEO of British Telephone [sic] and our customer, before he was Lord Livingston. But we've also had some great conversations at the world economic forum," said Benioff, before the duo cut the ribbon.

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The ex-British "Telephone" boss then took the stage to call Salesforce "an incredibly visionary company" that has made "such a visionary decision to expand into the UK".

Boasting unemployment rates "fallen rapidly" by 6.5 per cent and inflation at only 1.5 per cent, Lord Livingston described a UK tech industry hosting "a huge amount of technology entrepreneurs".

"We're not quite Silicon Valley yet, but we're knocking on the door," said Lord Livingston.

"It's not just London - it's around the whole of the UK," he added.

Lord Livingston may have been tackling growing attitudes of industry unrest outside London, such as those of Durham County Council head of ICT Phil Jackman, who recently told Computing of what he sees as "a general movement away from the North-East to the South-East" in the tech sector.

"If I were to ask Whitehall to do anything, it would be to practice what they preach," said Jackman.

"We talk about digital government, but departments make it difficult by having so many processes that are still analogue, and it's also hard to work out what they want to do when they seem more politically focused than pragmatically focused."

Still, Lord Livingston today said the government wishes to "encourage" the UK generally as a force in technology.

"We are very much open for business. It's not just the tax rate of 20 per cent or the special rates for R&D - it's because our future lies in being of the most international countries in the world," he said.

Benioff spoke again of his early decision when founding Salesforce of "taking one per cent of our equity, one per cent of our profit and one per cent of our employees' time and put[ting] into a public charity".

Livingstone added that Salesforce's wish to "contribute to the society which it's in" is "important to companies", because "if it helps business, it helps everybody".

"We're not just pleased to have you in the UK and looking for you to expand more - we're proud to have you in the UK," finished Lord Livingston.

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