5 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn in 48 Hours in London’s Silicon Roundabout

By: Virgin Atlantic

July 28, 2015

In June, we joined forces with Fast Company magazine at their first-ever Creativity Counter-Conference in Los Angeles in search of five “creativity scouts” to explore London‘s ‘Silicon Roundabout’ – the burgeoning tech scene across the pond. We were on the hunt for people who share our mutual passion for entrepreneurship and adventure; people who really understand how to Let It Fly.

Through social media, we found the perfect crew: Johnna Marcus senior director of Sephora’s Innovation Lab; Adam Britten, strategy manager at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, who handles social media for NBC shows; Jill Kinney, a Gatorade, Nike, and Beats By Dre marketing veteran; Kristin Guy, a food and lifestyle creative director and brand consultant and editor of Dine X Design; Clint Schaff, the U.S. general manager for the integrated marketing and communications agency Camp Playa and a startup advisor.

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The crew toast the start of their trip at Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Bar

With the gang in place, we kicked off the trip with a guided exploration of the Los Angeles Clubhouse. With design elements inspired by the West Coast landscape and LA’s famous sunshine, the Clubhouse features a tranquil space framed by panoramic views that span from the aircraft just outside the window to the iconic Hollywood sign and the mountains beyond. From the colourful décor to the travel-inspired menu, Senior Design Manager Jeremy Brown gave us unique insight into each of the Clubhouse’s distinctive features before we boarded our flight. 


(From left) Chuck, Jill, Jeremy, Adam, Johnna relax in the Los Angeles Clubhouse before boarding

Suitably relaxed, we then took off on a 48-hour tour of the most innovative businesses and creative people shaking things up overseas. Here are the top five things we learned on this whirlwind trip: 

  • If an opportunity comes your way, grab it

And then take a picture, write a clever caption, add a filter (or in Kristin’s case, an emoji or two), and be open to wherever it might take you. 

Our #LetItFly gang took a simple idea – to craft a tweet that showcases how they bring our “Business is an Adventure” mantra to life – and made it their own. Naturally social media savvy, they quickly used their skills to respond with creative content and brilliant banter – and their efforts paid off. Just weeks later, they were thousands of miles away, face-to-face with some of the most inspiring people leading London’s tech scene. Not exactly where they expected to be when signing up for a conference in Los Angeles, but it does go to show that a spontaneous spirit can open doors you never expected.

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Johnna enjoying the service in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

As Kristin put it, “Whether it’s 48 hours across the sea or a trek across town, this trip has proven that the adventure of saying yes to new opportunities and leaping out of your usual routine to meet professionals outside of your industry can lead to unexpected inspiration and creativity in your own work.”


  • Break boundaries

One of the first stops on our tour was to The Foundry, the global software developer that works behind the scenes to create the special effects in our favourite movies and TV shows (think Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video). They gave us the inside scoop on their new Mischief product, a sketching app that gives you infinite space to keep building on an idea. The theory behind Mischief is that you’re able to open up your mind and discover new ideas by getting rid of physical borders. As The Foundry’s Chris Cheung points out, in the earliest stage of the creative process, you need the freedom to go wherever an idea takes you. 

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Left: Kristin listens to The Foundry’s Chris Cheung; Right: Chris Cheung showcases the new Mischief product

Whether that means having unlimited space to sketch, or letting go of your usual routine to travel to interesting places, meet new people, or expose yourself to different ways of thinking, it’s crucial to keep an open mind. Breakthrough ideas are rarely composed in the confines of a cubicle or office. 


  • Embrace failure 

Over after-dinner drinks, we got on the topic of “rolling innovation” with special guest JC Oliver, the Global Head of Innovation at Microsoft. 

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JC Oliver, Global Head of Innovation at Microsoft

That’s a big job. For a big company. And we imagine he has some big stakeholders to wow with his ideas. 

But that’s no reason to play it safe. JC’s truly passionate about what he does – intersecting creativity and business and fusing it with tech and science – and he’s not afraid to test the limits to see what’s possible in that space. He’s got guts, and believes that to accomplish great things you can’t be afraid of failing. In fact, he argues that most of the time you aren’t going to get it right. From JC’s experience, “Eight times out of ten it fails. One might get some success. One might be so successful it changes everything.”

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The group enjoy dinner with JC Oliver

For Eileen Burbidge, one of the most influential venture capitalists in London and “Silicon Roundabout’s real reigning queen” according to The Telegraph, this audaciousness is appealing. When the group asked her what the one thing is that makes her invest in a project, the answer was simple: “genuine conviction”.

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Eileen Burbidge, partner at Passion Capital, shares her knowledge with the group


  • Don’t get comfortable

In 2012, UK tech-start up Mind Candy was on top of the world with its online game Moshi Monsters. With 80 million users and dozens of licensed products, it was one of the hottest brands for children. But kids are fickle. 

As the dynamic founder of Mind Candy, Michael Acton Smith, explained to us, “There’s nothing more viral in the world than kids discovering something in the digital space. But just as quickly, they can decide it’s uncool and move on to the next hot thing.” So as Moshi Monsters’ revenue declined, the Mind Candy team needed to stay one step ahead of the curve, which they’re doing with new creations such as World of Warriors and PopJam

His story struck a chord with the group. Regardless of what industry you’re in, there will always be new trends, ideas, and innovations. What’s hot now will most likely always be upstaged by the next flavour of the week.

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Michael Acton Smith, founder of Mind Candy, explains how important it is to stay one step ahead of the curve

Our takeaway? Don’t get comfortable. Celebrate your hard work, but always keep today’s success in perspective and make sure you’re looking ahead to the future. 


  • Your adventure is never the one you expect to take

That was the thought running through our minds after lunch with Imran Amed, founder and editor-in-chief of the world renowned The Business of Fashion, a personal passion project that turned into the leading digital authority on the global fashion industry. 

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Imran Amed, founder of The Business of Fashion, explains how he pursued his passion

Imran, who has an MBA from Harvard, was on the fast track at global management firm McKinsey & Co. before he went on a meditation retreat in South Africa and decided he wanted to follow his heart to the creative industry. Now, a guy who admits he was a complete outsider in the fashion world is respected across the globe as an authoritative leader in the space. As he shared with the group, he was on the overachiever path, doing what other people thought was best for him. He seems much happier now having created his own path, and his pride in what he’s achieved is evident as he excitedly talks about plans for the future. 

Imran embodies the Let it Fly mentality; he didn’t wait for new opportunities to fall into his lap, but instead went out on a limb and took some risks in order to follow his passion. And he found great rewards as a result, in turn becoming an example for others to follow.  

Our winner Adam left the trip inspired by Imran: “It was very stimulating to meet people like Imran Amed from Business of Fashion and Eileen Burbidge from Passion Capital who overflowed with tips and tricks for fostering innovation.”

For deeper insight into what we did and who we met, visit Fast Company

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