Last month we took Digital DUMBO to the UK for the first time, and third time in Europe, for dd:LONDON.

It took us about 3 months of planning to make happen, between identifying a venue, determining the concept, and connecting with the right people on the ground. When we first announced the event to our community of 10,000, we were apprehensive that  word wouldn't travel overseas and no one would show up. However, a funny thing happened.

Almost immediately after our email announcement we noticed that individuals within our community were forwarding the invitation to their co-workers in the UK. Although we had positioned the event as "Digital DUMBO Meets London," we were amazed at the connection that already existed between our community in New York and our new community in London. By the time the event came around we had over 250 RSVPs, from both New York and the UK.

We hosted the event in the Shoreditch area of East London, an area with a high concentration of digital companies (more on this later), at a collaborative innovation space run by our friends at Idea Engineering Agency called THECUBE.

The evening began with a dialogue on the global digital economy between our remarkable panelists and the audience in attendance.

Panelists included (More on them here):

  • Nathalie Nahai, Founder, The Web Psychologist
  • Alison Coward, Founder, Bracket & Rewire London
  • Dale Barnes, Director of Advanced Technologies and Innovation, Virgin Media
  • Shawnee Keck, Policy Advisor-Economic Affairs, Hackney Council

The parallels between New York and London could be seen in the insights from the panels. Much of the discussion focused on the need for education to incite a more skilled digital workforce and to better encourage entrepreneurship. The dialogue also transitioned into how to implement innovative technology solutions to grow economy in impoverished areas. One attendee spoke of a recent project in Africa to enable micro payments via mobile phones.

Post-discussion, over 80 attendees gathered in the courtyard of THECUBE to continue the conversation and meet one another on a beautiful London evening. I had the opportunity to meet the HUGE London team, friends from dd:VALENCIA in Spain, the leaders from London First, UK Trade and Investment, Oury Clark, and the organizers of Silicon Drinkabout, one of London's largest digital communities.

Our goal in going to London was not just to be there once, but to plant roots and connect with existing communities for the long-run.

dd:LONDON was the archetype of what we want Digital DUMBO to be - bi-directional conversation between cities at the intersection of digital and culture. Innovation happens differently across geography because of differing cultural, economical, and legal structures. We believe there is something to be learned by opening the pipelines. London proved that.