When is tech no longer tech?

By Caroline Hyde 1 February 2016

Bloomberg TV's Caroline Hyde asks what makes a tech business in 2016.

It’s been my fear for a while now – making “tech” my “beat”…could I be backing a dying industry?

Not because we’re near bubble territory, or we’re heading for a crash. Quite the reverse…because tech is going to explode in a good way…it’ll be omnipresent; it will be within each and every industry. Tech will be driving change so deeply across finance, healthcare, hospitality… that all the cool businesses I’d usually be following would be other journalist’s joy to cover.

I am sure tech investors have a similar conundrum – what can they technically invest in? When is a “tech business” just a business made more efficient by tech?

Bloomberg Business Innovators 2016

This recurring concern reared its head again when having the pleasure of judging Bloomberg Business Innovators 2016.

Bloomberg set out to try and find companies changing how the UK lives, how it works, how it thinks. With the help of some expert external judges, we wanted to shine a light on the most exciting business models disrupting our industries that epitomise the vibrancy and diversity of the Great British business scene.

In the process, I realised how much “innovative” basically means “tech”…because nearly each of the 53 businesses we selected were using technology as a driving force for their business. (And yes that is 53, you read right…we just couldn’t whittle it down to 50!)

Sure there are many start-ups we highlighted that are clearly tech motivated. Take Cambridge Quantum Computing…well it’s in the name! An amazing business, developing an operating system to drive faster quantum computers and busy patenting an algorithm for a secure currency platform. And, hey, it’s always good to start with one outside of London, as I’m pleased to note not all our innovators came from the capital.

Finance or tech?

Open Bionics sounds pretty techy too. Again outside London, this Bristol-born company creates custom prosthetic bio-electronic limbs for amputees at a fraction of the usual cost by 3D printing them.

Then there’s the wealth of financial technology businesses taking the banking sector to task. Exeter-based Crowdcube & London’s Seedrs were selected for their crowdsourcing prowess, finding alternative investments for individuals and alternative funding for businesses.

Now this is already becoming a murky area for Bloomberg News, with our recently appointed `Fintech reporter’ making his home in our Finance team….not in our Tech team. How long will I be able to keep them in my TV tech beat…? The ownership battle is on! I may soon have to share my love of reporting on other great startups such as Ratesetters and Nutmeg that were also pinpointed in our Innovators list.

Is the clock ticking for online estate agent Purplebricks to be mainstay of our Real-Estate team – is it already? And drone-maker Sky-Futures is surely on the energy reporters’ horizon as the Middlesex-based business wins a growing number of contracts with the biggest oil majors.

Designer coffee or tech company?

But then perhaps I have reason to be hogging the news on hospitality companies that our excellent food critic would usually be eyeing up. Perhaps I can call two coffee based startups we loved “tech” businesses? Because both Pact Coffee and coffee chain Grind are embracing digital services to make your caffeine addiction easier to quench. Using sophisticated websites and ordering processes, building apps, tracking service times, these guys are harnessing the data.

So the inner debate continues for me…But there is one thing I do know for sure from helping in our inaugural Bloomberg Business Innovators list. The UK scene is hot. And it’s hot throughout the country not just in London. Goodness knows how we’re going to choose just 53 next year.