Facebook's Joanna Shields heads to Tech City

In a major coup for No. 10, Joanna Shields, head of Facebook Europe, has been appointed boss of Tech City, charged with delivering the government's Silicon Valley for London pledge.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 30 Oct 2014
Shields is a serious player on the technology scene. She was a mover and shaker at Google, became CEO of Bebo and sold the network to AOL for $850m (it was worth just $10m two years later), and most recently headed up Facebook’s European operations. Now, she has taken up the mantle at hi-tech quango Tech City, promoting London’s technology scene based in and around Silicon Roundabout.

It’s a very interesting play by Shields – few execs would choose to leave one of the world’s most famous technology companies to work for the UK government. And it certainly wasn’t the salary that clinched the deal. As boss of Tech City, Shields will be earning £115,000 a year, with a £25,000 bonus for hitting her targets. This must be a fraction of her remuneration package at Facebook (although only £30,000 shy of the Prime Minister’s salary). And doesn’t include any shares either. Although the fact that Facebook’s share price has tanked since the IPO five months ago may have made it easier to jump ship.

Shields takes up her post in January and is charged with both working as an ambassador for London’s tech scene – she is certainly the woman to make VCs sit up and pay attention – and lessen the burden on technology start-ups by snipping through red tape and launching initiatives to help firms get going. Her ‘patch’ in east London is currently made up of around 3,500 business, and UKTI, which funds the Tech City initiative, is hoping her influence will prompt a mass influx of new firms too.

In a statement issued (or, rather, leaked by No. 10) on Sunday, Shields declared that the time was right for her to enter public service and give back to the tech ecosystem. ‘The seeds have been sown in East London for a dynamic and successful cluster,’ she says. ‘We have the infrastructure, the technology and the talent. Now we need to accelerate the growth. There is no reason why we can’t make London the number one location for tech in the world.’

Read the MT Interview with Joanna Shields.

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