L to r: Paul Graham, Kulveer Taggar, me, Harjeet Taggar, and Sumon Sadhu.
Earlier this week, Paul Graham and I participated in the seventh annual Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford event at Oxford’s Saïd Business School. I’d heard great things about this event from Kulveer and Harjeet Taggar of Auctomatic, as well as Google’s Chris Sacca.
Kul founded Oxford Entrepreneurs when he was an undergraduate, and has been an active supporter of SVCO. In fact, he met Evan Williams at the event a few years ago, and Kul says his interactions with Ev and other SVCO speakers had a big impact on his decision to move to Silicon Valley. He’s been writing about his experience in a series of Viewpoint pieces for the BBC.
Paul and I taught a master class on the evolution of startups. We presented a list of what seemed to us the major drivers of change for startups and discussed their impact.
- Moore’s Law
- The Internet
- Open source
- Advances in programming languages
- Changing attitudes
- Increased funding options
- Changes in income tax policy (especially in the UK)
I was able to talk with a lot of students during the conference. It seems like the default plan for the MBA students is to work for investment banks or consulting firms upon graduation. But a significant number seem to be rebelling against this. Many planned to start startups instead.
Luckily, they didn’t need to look too far for inspiration. In addition to the experts SVCO usually invites from America, this year they were able to invite recent Oxford grads who had founded startups in Silicon Valley, including the Auctomatics and Bob Goodson and Kirill Makharinsky.
The Saïd School struck me as extremely energetic, and dedicated to developing a real sense of entrepreneurship. In fact the school seemed a lot like a startup itself. It’s quite young as B-schools go, but obviously determined to rise quickly through the ranks.
The most enjoyable part about speaking at SVCO was meeting the students. We met a lot of promising founders. I wasn’t surprised, though. Including our winter ’08 batch, Y Combinator will have invested in 7 startups with founders from Oxford. In total we’ve invested in 8 UK startups, so they’re 10% of our investments.
Other highlights for me:
- As I was sitting next to Reid Hoffman on a panel, I was delighted to hear he liked Founders at Work so much that he’d bought several copies to give as gifts.
- It’s always a treat to see Chris Sacca. He’s a big supporter of YC and a perennial favorite guest speaker. (Regrettably, I missed the late-night kebab tour.)
- While talking with Biz Stone of Twitter, we discovered that we’d grown up on the very same street in the suburbs of Boston.
- Speakers had a private tour of the Bodleian Library, Oxford’s main research library. We saw a Magna Carta, a book of gospels thought to have belonged to St. Margaret, and 1 of about 20 remaining pre-Columbian manuscripts.
- 2 current Saïd Business School students gave me a personal tour of Pembroke and Christ Church colleges. (Oxford is comprised of 39 different colleges, many of which are not open to the public.)
Adam Rubin and Jitin Dhanani gave me a tour of their colleges. Photo was taken at Christ Church, where scenes from Harry Potter were filmed.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone in charge of SVCO: Jonathan Black, Clare Fisher, Deborah Lisburne, Colin Mayer, Josie Powell, and Fiona Reid among others. It was a privilege to take part in such a special event.