By Anam Alpenia
London mayor Boris Johnson has urged closer tech ties between the U.K. capital and Tel Aviv, on a trade visit to the Middle Eastern state.
Johnson, who has drawn fierce criticism for “political grandstanding” – and for dismissing leading Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) proponents as “corduroy-jacketed academics”, was in Tel Aviv with 15 leading London tech firms, as he drummed up support for movement between both cities.
His visit comes in the wake of a report by analyst the IVC Research Center, which calculated that Israel’s tech sector attracted $1.8 billion, or 75%, of all private equity transactions in Q3 2015. Israel reaped $419 million in private equity deals in Q3 2015, which help comprise $2.5 billion in the first nine months of the year.
There are currently 16 Israeli tech firms listed on the London Stock Exchange, with a combined value of £3.7 billion ($5.6 billion). London is currently home to 141 Israeli tech firms, and has become a “natural tech partner” for Israeli firms looking to expand, according to Johnson.
EdTech was high on Johnson’s agenda, as he highlighted the successes of Israeli companies that have made the jump to his city. “With access to a world class talent pool and a booming digital economy it is no surprise that Israeli tech companies are making London their home and choosing the London Stock Exchange as their international market for expansion,” he said.
Johnson’s trip comes soon after news, reported at Red Herring, that Berlin and Tel Aviv have been strengthening startup bonds with a raft of initiatives and competitions.
The London mayor, known for his off-cuff remarks and shaggy hair, was barking up a different tree yesterday, as he treated reporters and dignitaries to a show of his dog simulation skills at Tel Aviv’s Google Campus.
Despite his BDS remarks, Johnson will also visit Palestine, where one of his office officials has said he will “highlight a shared spirit of entrepreneurship between London and the Palestinian business community.”
Johnson will be keen to promote London as a key tech hub, especially as it has been considered Europe’s leading FinTech capital for some time. Last year the mayor, who has been in office since 2008, missed a window to create a £50 million ($75 million) public building devoted to tech startups.