London's tech startup cheerleader gets new chief from BlackBerry

New CEO appointed as Joanna Shields steps down from Tech City UK to join the London Stock Exchange.

Change at the top for Tech City UK, the government body charged with cheerleading London's tech startups: its current CEO Joanna Shields is stepping down from her role to join the London Stock Exchange as a non-executive director.

Shields, formerly Facebook's European chief, has been the CEO of Tech City UK since October 2012 and will continue as chairman, working with government on policy to support growth and entrepreneurship and promoting the UK tech and digital sector as UK business ambassador for digital industries.

Gerard Grech, a BlackBerry executive, will take over as CEO for Tech City UK from early February.

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Tech City UK said he brings over 15 years of international management experience in the world of digital media, web and mobile, having worked with app developers and startups at Blackberry, Nokia, Nokia Growth Partners and Orange in Paris, London and New York.

Grech said in a statement: "As a Shoreditch resident, I'm especially keen that our initiatives serve the wider local community, keeping the ground fertile for the next wave of digital startups. I'm delighted to be joining the team at this exciting time."

The Tech City UK initiative was created by the government just over three years ago to support the tech startup ecosystem emerging in East London and encourage further investment by shining a spotlight on the companies in the area.

While the tech ecosystem in East London is still at a very early stage, it does seem to generating new jobs and investment , and Tech City UK has been credited with focusing attention on the area and helping with the regeneration of the neighbourhood. However, critics warn that much more needs to be done — while it's now relatively easy to get seed funding for new company, it remains harder to land the later-stage funding needed to create the next tech giant.

The London Stock Exchange has also appointed tech advisor and investor Sherry Coutu as a non-executive director as it tries to woo tech startups as well. Tech City recently launched a Future Fifty initiative aimed encouraging London's startups to IPO in the UK instead of in the US which has been a common trend.

Further reading on Tech City