An open letter to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan:
Opportunities and ideas taken away from London tech startup
My name is Servais Louis, a resident of your city and Tech entrepreneur. I live and have studied in London, where I graduated from Westminster University. I am a hard worker fueled by ambition and use technology as a way of making philanthropy cool again.
A few days ago your initiative Busk in London announced that you were partnering with tech company iZettle to allow contactless payments for busking performers around London. I believe the vision for this initiative was taken directly from my business plan. As a voice of entrepreneurial London and the busking community I am confused by the idea of being completely left out of this conversation.
My tech startup Mybusks is a mobile app that enables cashless busking via social media. Given our shared passion and commitment to the busking community in London, I connected with your Culture and Strategy Office back in 2014 to seek support and to discuss future collaborations and strategies to ease the constraints of busking for performers.
I met with Kate Jones, your Culture and Strategy Director in June 2014. At the time Busk in London’s main activity was a competition (Big Busk Competition) where buskers could enter to win the chance to perform on a stage, in a shopping center or train station. Needless to say I was excited and enthusiastic about the meeting — I presented Mybusks’ concept for musical crowd funding that allows users to upload a video, showcase their talent and receive donations digitally.
We discussed the possibility of giving buskers in the Big Busk competition and buskers who applied for a busking permit via the TFL scheme, a Mybusks profile that would allow passersby to donate to them digitally on the app if they did not have any spare change.
During the meeting Kate and your team were clearly excited about this innovative concept, taking ample notes and asking me many questions about the concept and business. The meeting ended with an agreement that the London Culture Development team would look into how Mybusks can begin to be integrated with Busk in London.
However a few weeks later when I tried to follow up I was met with harsh avoidance tactics and told that the joint initiative would be pushed back to later in the year (see attached).
The avoidance tactics continued for months and to my surprise the contactless busking was announced recently from the same initiative we originally discussed. Sadly my experience with politics is one I regret. I am saddened that your team used me for my ideas and it would seem my vision was then taken to another company to collaborate with.
As a former human rights lawyer you recently went to the SXSW stage in Austin, Texas, to share your vision for a “better, more inclusive future.” You stressed that there must be greater responsibility by technology companies for the impact they are having on the world –
How can a relationship between young entrepreneurs and politicians be forged if this is the shark-like tactics that await us after we meet with your team and share our intellectual property?
My experience has been an extremely disheartening one as your team openly invited me to your offices to share the vision that I had for Mybusks.
I wanted to help buskers in London on a large scale and feel that while my ideas and intellectual property were used for inspiration, I was not invited to be a part of the discussion or wider-scale initiative when the time arose.
This is my open letter to my Mayor — I would like to know why and how this was able to come to pass. I am extremely disappointed that I have to write this letter to someone who I support profusely and rooted for during your campaign.
I look forward to hearing a response from you soon.