Silicon Milkroundabout, the London-based networking event started as an informal side-project by two of the founders of the live music alert service Songkick, is growing up. Three years on from its first oversubscribed meet-up in a pub, it is now spinning out into a standalone startup of its own, led by Pete Smith, the co-founder of Songkick who until now had been the company’s COO.
The move speaks to a couple of things going on in London — and as a journalist living here covering tech news, I think both are awesome as they are each barometers of exciting things going on, and more exciting things to come.
The first is that, the job market in tech — despite wider economic and employment issues in Europe — continues to be a dynamic one. When I covered SMR’s event last year, Smith described how one of the main purposes of the event was to show to talented individuals, so often persuaded by the big money of jobs in other London industries like finance, that they had alternative career paths.
That message seemed to be an easy one to deliver: each event held by his team exceeded expectations in terms of the number companies that got involved looking for talent, and number of people showing up looking for new opportunities. At a time when we are hearing about talent shortages for engineers and others that make the startup world go ping, that’s great news.
Starting out as an off-the-cuff event at a pub with some of Songkick’s friends, now SMR takes place twice a year and covers 150 startups and 2,500 jobs, with dozens of connections getting made each time.
Launching as a separate company, Smith told me in an interview yesterday, will help SMR take these events to the next level: there will be more targeted fairs focusing on specific verticals or specific skill sets such. Product management and engineering are two that will have their own events this May. And despite the very geographic-specific nature of its name — Silicon Milkroundabout is wordplay on “Silicon Roundabout,” the nickname for the Old Street intersection in the heart of London’s East End tech scene; and “Milk Round,” the UK term for when big companies visit university campuses to recruit people — we will see more activity outside of London. Last year saw SMR launch its first event in Cambridge, and Smith notes that we will see more geographical expansion going forward.
The second trend that is interesting here is the formation itself of Silicon Milkroundabout as a standalone business.
It’s great to see ever more startups appearing, with this one in particular coming to the game with a proven track record of interest from its target market. It’s also interesting to me to see Smith use some of his entrepreneurial smarts to enter a space quite different from that of Songkick — the one connecting point, perhaps, being that both are in most general terms event-based businesses.
This is also another example of how the tech startup ecosystem continues to evolve, to include not just pure technology plays but also businesses focused on services for those in the industry. This category also includes businesses like General Assembly.
“What we’re specializing in is the real world connection,” he says.
In fact, Smith says he doesn’t see this as a competitor as such to job sites in that this isn’t an area SMR will pursue (for now, at least).
“What we’re specializing in is the real world connection,” he says. “We will use the website to get more informaiton about poeple, but at the core we’re about getting people together in a room. While we sit alongside recruiters and job sites, we’re the events part. If we get really good at that, then we could become a good tool for startups to screen 100 people per day if we do our events right.”
For now, Smith says that Songkick has been and will continue to be bootstrapped. But his past experience with Songkick shows that Smith is a savvy operator who will seize other funding opportunities if they present themselves. Songkick was incubated in Y Combinator and has raised some $16.5 million from VCs that include Sequoia and Index Ventures.