Last year European startup Songkick got bragging rights for bagging a new CTO by luring Dan Crow away from Google’s London office, now London-based ‘unhotel’ startup, onefinestay, has bagged a West Coast exec as its CTO, convincing him and his family to relocate all the way from the Valley to rainy old London. In case you’re wondering what an ‘unhotel’ is, think of onefinestay as a luxury version of Airbnb, offering a service for high-end homeowners to rent out their homes when they’re away — with the startup doing the dogsbody work of vetting the renters, cleaning the houses and providing the towels and toiletries.
Jackson Hull, the CTO in question, has clocked up 15 years’ tech industry experience. Most recently he was leading the engineering and product teams at San Francisco-headquartered Plum District, the community and commerce platform for mums. Prior to that he was founding CTO at Chatterfly, a location-based mobile loyalty application, and has also been CTO of ecommerce platform Sitoa, also based in California.
onefinestay is currently hiring to expand the tech team that will be marshalled by Hull and Davey. “We really want to build a technology brand here in London,” Hull adds. “A magnetic, engineering culture that can draw in worldclass engineers that want to disrupt the world.”
Bearing in mind this summer tech giants Facebook and Amazon both unveiled new London bases — with Facebook opening an engineering office in London and Amazon opening a massive media R&D hub — it’s worth asking whether there’s something of a ‘Silicon Valley coming to London’ trend going on here. Although, also worth noting, Plum District — Hull’s previous employer — has been laying off senior staff recently and appears to be in a transitional phase — as we’ve reported — so his departure from that company isn’t surprising. But he didn’t have to leave the Valley just to get a new job, so why London?
“London reminds me a lot of what the Valley used to be,” Hull tells TechCrunch. “There’s a lot of up-and-coming entrepreneurial capital, also just the spirit that’s emerging in London is definitely something that drew me here. It’s certainly, in terms of Europe, the spot to be for startups and particularly those driving towards the edge of technology.”
Hull is convinced “more and more” tech types will be relocating across the pond to join London’s tech cluster. In his view this is a reflection of a relative atmosphere of grounded realism on the London startup scene vs. an over-inflated sense of what’s possible in the Valley.
“Businesses here in London, startup businesses, often have a firmer footing in terms of their business models,” he says. “Speaking from my own perspective there’s actually a little bit of craziness in Silicon Valley in relation to startup ideas and the amount of capital being thrown behind these startups, so [US tech folk relocating to London] could be… a reflection of the fact there are great opportunities in London with high growth potential and a lot less noise. There’s more of a focus on a sustainable business model for startups in London.”
“There’s plenty of opportunity in Silicon Valley, there’s no dearth of opportunities, but the exciting challenges in London are really what drew me out here,” he adds.
The startup Hull is joining, onefinestay has built a nice bit of momentum since its 2010 launch, raising a $12 million Series B round back in June, and adding some 500 homes to its books in the two cities it currently operates in: London and New York.
“We’re delighted to welcome Jackson and his family to London,” said CEO and co-founder Greg Marsh in a statement. “This is a hugely strategic step for us. London can learn a lot from Silicon Valley, and Jackson’s West Coast experience will be decisive in our future plans for expanding and improving our service.”