Websummit report: Saul Klein’s call to action

Saul Klein is never dull and today he is on a bit of a mission to boost the profile of the internet economy. Here are some fun facts from Saul:

  • The UK is the number 1 in the world rankings for internet economy as a percentage of GDP, and the gap is widening
  • London is the number 1 english speaking city in Facebook. And the only English speaking city in the top 11
  • ARM has the majority of the world’s mobile phone chips based on its designs.

Reasons for optimism, but, what about the City? The City seems uneasy with technology. In the US, they have got it and the US investment markets feature tech companies of a range of sizes as a result – for example,  some US listed companies are worth much less than companies like Yelp and Zoopla. But in the UK, there are £650 Bn under institutional fund management most of which is sitting on the sidelines of the internet economy.Where are the analysts looking at this sector and asking about the 8% driven by the Internet?

(By the way, if this question intrigues you the BLN had a thorough look at the issue at a CEO Tales in November last year – Mark wrote an interesting summary of the challenges facing tech IPOs here)

Even as a business opportunity there seems to be a patchy appreciation of the need to do more with the online economy within the FTSE 100: Saul talked to many of these companies and asked them about their plans for digital. Some of them have made the transistion to doing 8% of their business online: Tesco know that 6% of their sales are done online, but some of them haven’t: Sainsbury’s have no figure for that business.

Perhaps the most surprising/inspiring figure of all: even government has managed to catch up: 80% of tax returns are now done online. Saul now has a simple proposal for a promoting a balanced internet economy:

  • Ask FTSE boards, ministers and Permanent Private Secretarys the 8% question (is 8% of your business online?), with answers on quarterly basis
  • Create a public transparent body to track investment in internet
  • Celebrate the internet champions and short the laggards