Last night was the culmination of the UK Technology Innovation and Growth Forum, with an awards dinner at the Park Lane Hilton. If I have followed its permuations correctly over the years, the UK TIGF (can I call it that?) is part of the European Technology Forum (ETF), which in turn is today owned by CNET. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong).
Although not quite a match for Rory Bremner's performance at the EVCJ awards dinner a few weeks ago, Guardian columnist Guy Browning ("the David Attenborough of the business jungle"...apparently) provided for laughs as awards were handed out for VC Firm of the Year (Esprit), Hottest Tech Company (Messagelabs) and -- our favourite! -- Deal of the Year (Kennet for Cramer Systems), among others. Here is the full list of nominees and winners.
I haven't seen anyone blogging from the conference itself -- I guess live blogging is not as popular here yet as it is in the US (or maybe this conference is a bit too old-school...). But I did see VC bloggers Jason Ball (London Seed Capital) and Nic Brisbourne (Esprit) pressing the flesh at the black-tie dinner.
Unusually for the company showcase presentations, Nic presented one of his: Zeus Technology, presumably because the CEO of Zeus, Paul di Leo, was participating in a panel discussion in the main room. Zeus is a great comeback story -- pre-dot-com the company developed high-throughput web servers which it pitched against Apache and Microsoft. Zeus raised buckets of money and was getting ready to IPO in 2001. The business nearly went under during the downturn, but Esprit recapitalised the company in 2004 and brought in new management to restart the business. Zeus has since repositioned into the application traffic management market and is successfully selling against Cisco, F5 Networks and Citrix, with double-digit revenue growth expected this year. It's always good to see turnarounds like this in the tech markets, and VCs who stay the course long enough to see them through.
Other interesting companies that presented at this year's conference were Skinkers (platform for pushing information services to desktops), ClusterSeven (enterprise spreadsheet management), Benchmark portfolio company NewBay (mobile blogging, sharing and community apps), and Mimecast (on-demand email management).
I confess I missed most of the panel discussions, but apparently Richard Holway's usually dour prognosis for the UK tech industry was rather more upbeat this year. To me, having companies like the ones above -- homegrown UK and Irish innovators -- is sign enough that the European tech industry is alive and kicking in the right direction.