YSL Close up. Ph: Josh Wilks. iPhone. via Isamaya Ffrench http://bit.ly/1Rjpx3z

Driving innovation: Londoners who want to be ‘somewhere’, not just ‘everywhere’

The American engineer, industrialist and pioneer of venture capital Ralph Flanders once said,

“We cannot float along indefinitely on the enterprise and vision of preceding generations.”

We need to invent, renew and realise a new vision for prosperity.

Over the last few years, some of that new vision has been seen to rest on the shoulders of clusters of investors and entrepreneurs in our cities.

Economic development gurus have linked these new clusters to larger forces for innovation and investment, be it universities, the development of new infrastrucuture or capitalization of one-off opportunities, like the Olympics.

They’ve also tended to concentrate upon particular new groups of people, often slave to the work that they do, the ‘verticals’ that they mine - be it software, biotech, design or ‘making’ - or their ethnic and sexual identity.

A force often missed is the band of people who are globally connected but ‘occupationally localized’ - for a horrible clunky description.

Caroline de Maigret. Palermo, 2014. Ph: Unknown.

These are people who work in industries such as finance, technology, advertising, media and fashion which, despite automation and the internet, still rely upon and benefit from face to face contacts - and not necessarily in the workplace but also in neighbourhoods.

An assumption is that this is an elite band of ‘masters of the universe’ who know nothing of ‘place’, other than an house in Mustique or the non-profit animal sanctuary that they own.

Wrong. This is a band of brothers and sisters who are often less about occupation and more about pre-occupation; less about “belonging anywhere”, as Airbnb commercials celebrate, and more about “somewhere”. They demand narrow-casting, not broadcasting; and in the centre of global cities, their arrival is fast replacing the ‘ordinary’ professional, native middle classes.

If Western European economies want to get a grip on increasingly lifeless neighbourhoods, ageing populations and avenues of boutiques selling French baby wear, it needs to celebrate and engage with this group.

Frame your mission with the inspiring words of John W. Gardner, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the late 1960s under President Lyndon Johnson:

Today the skeptic is the status quo. The one who must make the effort is the one who seeks to create a new moral order.
Image of Jesse Rutherford, The Neighbourhood.

Don’t succumb to an ageing society and believe that new things that drive out the old lack style, sophistication and rich layering.

Here lies an important new community and source of new prosperity - especially when linked to the creative and collaborative financing of entrepreneurship and infrastructure.

As ever, what matters is how you engage, supportive you are and the pleasure of the network .

For as technology guru Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz put it, speaking last year about the appeal and performance of the Apple Watch:

“Delight is more important than feeds and speeds.”

David Barrie is founder of Wild Blue Cohort, a network of private investors who live and work in West London. Members of Wild Blue have made seven investments to date in early stage companies of national and international promise whose success in the future will benefit the local economy. In digital culture we are ‘everywhere’ — and that’s great. However, human networks offer an opportunity to be ‘somewhere’ — and that matters too.