Should the UK worry if ARM & Autonomy were the last big UK technology businesses? CEO Tales discussion, March 16th.

We are pleased to invite you to participate in some of the best entrepreneur and investor networking in London in the offices of Taylor Wessing, City of London on March 16th from 18.00.

In a discussion moderated by the excellent Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC Technology correspondent, we will debate the question, ‘Should the UK worry if ARM and Autonomy were the last big UK technology businesses?’

Speakers: Stephen Allott, Sherry Coutu, Ben Holmes, William Reeve.

Drinks: 18.00

Discussion: 18.45 followed by networking drinks.

Extra pre-event workshop masterclass: Prior to CEO Tales, from 17.00, we have a very limited number of places (16) available to attend a workshop masterclass, led by David Grundy & Dan Hyde of Erevena, strategic search for the technology sector. This session will help you consider the key human capital issues you face in scaling a global software business. If you would like to be considered to attend this, please note your interest on registration.

Register for BLN CEO Tales & Networking Drinks - ‘Should the UK worry if ARM & Autonomy were the last big UK technology businesses?’ in London, United Kingdom  on Eventbrite

‘Should the UK worry if ARM and Autonomy were the last big UK technology businesses.’

Rory Cellan-Jones – Moderator

Rory Cellan Jones dot.rory


Stephen Allott

Stephen Allott pic

Stephen Allott is a technology business leader and social and business entrepreneur. He is Crown Commercial Representative for Small Business, building a more strategic dialogue between the Government and smaller suppliers. He is also chairman of Red Gate Software’s Council of Advisers. Red Gate are a 200 person privately owned software company based in Cambridge and are officially the best small software company to work for in the UK. Stephen co-founded his own business, Trinamo Ltd, a management consultancy for UK technology companies and founded a non-profit: the Cambridge Computer Lab Ring which is an association for Cambridge computer science graduates. He is a member of the Ring Governing Council. Stephen is a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge and has worked for Xerox, Sun Microsystems, McKinsey and Micromuse, where he led their NASDAQ IPO and was President, CFO and a main board director. He has chaired 7 technology company boards and is a quondam City Fellow of Hughes Hall, Cambridge University.


Sherry Coutu

Sherry Coutu

Sherry Coutu is an experienced executive, former CEO and angel investor who now serves on the boards of companies, charities and universities. The companies she serves range from fast growth private early stage to public and boards with turnover more than £ 1 bn. As an entrepreneur, Sherry established two businesses in the financial services industry. The first (acquired by Euromoney) has operations in more than 70 countries. The second (acquired by AMP) was floated in 2000 on London and Nasdaq and valued at more than $1 billion before being acquired.

Sherry loves working with great entrepreneurs solving problems that matter. Her current portfolio of interests include sitting on the boards of Cambridge University and Artfinder, the advisory Boards of Linkedin, Harvard Business School European Council, NESTA and Cancer Research UK. Her investments usually include ‘databases’, as a common theme. These range from movies (Lovefilm) to real-estate (Zoopla), energy consumption (Alertme), clean energy (New Energy Finance), water pressure (i20), investments (covestor), professional contacts (Linkedin), builders (mybuilder), to how to get pregnant by monitoring trends in body temperature (CTC). Her latest ‘exit’ was New Energy Finance (acquired by Bloomberg).


Ben Holmes

Ben Holmes Index VenturesBen focuses on the software and internet sectors and has been actively involved with many of the firm’s consumer and media investments. He currently sits on the boards of Just-Eat, Mind Candy, Netlog, Notonthehighstreet, Rebtel, Stardoll and Shapeways. He was previously a Director of Playfish (Electronic Arts). Prior to joining Index Ventures, he worked at the NewMedia Spark investment fund, before becoming Vice President at EO plc, a Spark portfolio company in the consumer financial services sector. Previously he spent four years at OC&C Strategy Consultants, advising firms in the retail and IT sectors. He has a Masters degree in Engineering, Economics and Management from Oxford University.



William Reeve

William Reeve, LOVEFiLM

William is a serial entrepreneur who has built and exited two leading internet businesses. The first, Fletcher Research, became the UK’s leading internet research firm before Forrester Research (NASDAQ: FORR) bought it in 1999. William’s second business, now trading as, grew organically and by acquisition to become the leading international online film rental business before Amazon acquired it (still in progress). At, which was backed by several leading venture capital firms including DFJ Esprit and Index Ventures, William served in a variety of roles including President, Managing Director, acting CEO and COO. William serves as Non-Executive Director with several other high-growth companies including Paddy Power (ISE:PLS), Zoopla, Graze and True Knowledge. A former McKinsey consultant, William has a first class Masters degree from Oxford University.


Register for BLN CEO Tales & Networking Drinks - ‘Should the UK worry if ARM & Autonomy were the last big UK technology businesses?’ in London, United Kingdom  on Eventbrite

CEO Tales is sponsored by Taylor Wessing and Erevena.

CEO Tales is kindly hosted by David Mardle, Partner, Taylor Wessing.

Please note, speakers may be subject to change. Rights of Admission Reserved.

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Register for BLN CEO Tales & Networking Drinks - ‘Should the UK worry if ARM & Autonomy were the last big UK technology businesses?’ in London, United Kingdom  on Eventbrite

14 responses to “Should the UK worry if ARM & Autonomy were the last big UK technology businesses? CEO Tales discussion, March 16th.”

  1. Pravin Mirchandani • Yes. Smaller companies rely on the big uns to supply their respective segments with trained engineers in particular. Larger technology companies have longer time horizons and bigger projects and thus need a much broader spread of expertise levels from ‘apprentice’ to senior-level engineering managers. Smaller technology companies almost always need a curve of expertise heavily weighted at mid-to-senior level.

    In telecoms, Nortel picked up the banner from GEC-Plessey as trainers to the industry – unfortunately there has not been a replacement since its effective demise. As a result, there is now under-supply of engineers with current technology skills at the experienced end of the market, and junior engineers are frustrated at lack of opportunities to learn and practice marketable skills.

  2. Rupert Baines, Picochip

    Yes, UK should worry – seriously

    Nothing against those two (both great companies) but if they are they are ”the last” that implies the innovation / entrepreneurship process broke about 15 years ago (ARM founded 1990; Autonomy in 1996)

    For a start, in itself, that woyuld be a problem. No more start-ups.. No successes.. No pipeline… What have VCs been doing? What entrepeneurs been doing…?

    The fact you pose the questions is scary !

    But the fact you pose the question is worrying in another way? What about CSR? Wolfson? Both IPO’d. What about Icera, Picochip, Plastic Logic? Do none of them count?

    To what degree is there are problem with UK entrepeneurship, or with funding, or with growth — or is it that even when there are great companies, UK would rather sneer than celebrate their success?

  3. To Rupert Baines:

    Thanks! I used ARM and Autonomy as they are honkingly big, growing, have proven returns for shareholders etc. They are also well known. They are not the only ones.

    There are two sides to this debate:

    Can we build BIG companies – and lots of them?

    If there are structural reasons that the UK cannot support them, then is this necessarily a bad thing?

    I think that you will see arguments from very intelligent people on both sides of this discussion.

    Lets set the bar for ‘big’ at £1 billion market cap – and growing.

    That sort of rules out CSR, Wolfson of the public companies.

    Plastic Logic is an interesting case, It has certainly taken a vast amount of venture funding but has not yet produced commercial product. You could argue that a UK founded company with a HQ in Ca, a fab in Germany, a shrunken research department in Cambridge and the IP now heading east to Russia (a country demonstrating its commitment to the development of a new industry) shows a good case for the UK being hampered in that regard.

    Both Icera and Picochip are companies that I admire hugely. I would like them to be successful in the long term – and not get bought by a foreign acquirer but I think 5 years on the public markets would be a good measure of big and established..

    I would like to think that anyone that knows me knows I am a huge champion of UK entrepreneurship. I want to hold a discussion to get some of the views you have expressed an airing. I am sorry we didn’t connect before I put it together!

  4. Jeremy Bennett • I’m not sure the question is well phrased. Presumably the definition is companies with a UK HQ in the FTSE 100 focussed on pure technology. That’s so narrow a definition, that there are never going to be more than one or two.

    What about the likes of BAe Systems, Rolls Royce and Sage – UK companies who develop a hell of a lot of technology, even if its not pure. What about Imagination Technologies. Not as big as ARM, but in the FTSE 250 and #3 in the world.

    But that’s just being picky. The subject needs discussion, and with such a strong line up, it should be a good debate.

  5. Dear Mark

    You left out Pace plc, the world’s largest set top box and gateway technology business (20% of the United States, 50% of S. America, 25% of Europe markets) …bigger than Motorola, Cisco in that space, …with revenues according to analysts at over $2b, shipped over 22m products in 2010. This has not been seen in the UK for 50 years.

    Can Britain build technology businesses?



    Neil Gaydon

    Chief Executive Officer

    Pace plc

    Bringing Technology Home

  6. Can the UK build big technology businesses?

    Only if they begin with A

    Lovefilm scrapes in as really called Arts Alliance, or cover for Amazon

    That said prob have to wait a bit to see if Alertme can become exciting and have still to see next Amadeus major flip, and jony Ive went to work for Apple over there

    Main answer is that global companies rarely get past the letter A when looking at the UK

    And that UK VC’s typically get rid of the founders after or dilute them too much at the A round so they rarely retain talent sufficient for major B and C, and it is usual that the idea that makes the big bucks isn’t the one being invested in at onset, usually somewhere after the B stage.

    Googles first idea, page rank, was ok but didn’t carry them, neither did the second; their ‘load balancing’ method for search (meaning less servers), it was only when they then got to Adwords as their third innovation (notably beginning with A, and also unusually compared to a UK company, still having the founders incentivized to stay inhouse and not set up Adwords on it’s own) did the money roll in. Sadly adwords success depends on search being poor so you click on them instead so is somewhat in search of some new ‘Afterwords’ invention.

  7. Anon says:


    I think people should be panicking already since ARM was founded in 1990 (by

    Apple, Acorn and VLSI – hardly “UK”) and Autonomy in 1996.

    Has any UK VC firm has been able to create a $1bn+ exit in their UK

    investments in the past 15 years? (Skype was founded by Danish

    entrepreneurs, headquartered in Luxembourg and the product was developed in

    Estonia – only marketing was based in London – with the exception of maybe

    some angel money none of their original investors were British)

    We’re way past the “should we worry” step.

  8. Anon says:

    Also, which London university has a fund listed on the LSE to spin off

    research and some of their top professors doing research in the same

    building A) never heard of them and B) never filed a patent? Answers on the

    back of a postcard pls.

  9. MB says:

    I think I’d worry if I thought you were right in saying “ARM and Autonomy are the UK’s last big technology businesses”. However, I can think of mumerous others, from CSR to DeLaRue, Vodafone etc

  10. Tony M says:

    Yes, Mark. The UK should worry. I started worrying and have left the UK!




  11. Brian Anthony says:

    When big companies get big, they tend to split their activities across the world, pay taxes in countries that have miraculously low tax rates and do everything that they can to reduce their costs of operations and maximise their profits. It is far healthier for a country to have lots of medium sized and growing companies than it is to have a few very large ones.

    It is also much better for venture backed companies to get exits in the £100-300 million range as this means that the management team is likely to split c £50 million between them. Assuming money spread across a team of 10-20 people, everyone has a bit of money to spend paying down mortgage, buying bigger house etc but no-one is going to feel like they can retire forever so they do it again.

  12. plc says:

    UK and European entrepreneurs need to realise their markets are either linked, or need to be linked. It can’t be UK vs Europe vs USA. Here are some companies generating serious revenue, all of which could generate £1bn revenues in the future. Companies, and especially startups, deserve to be judged on their potential – not necessarily their numbers today.














    Forward Internet


  13. plc says:

    Pace demonstrates that UK can build technology companies, just not good or innovative ones.

  14. Struan says:

    Mark, what about Rolls Royce, Dyson, BAe, JCB etc etc.

    I think you mean semiconductors and software, but don’t forget real technology i.e. engineering!