Tech City Gets A Star Signing With Facebook’s Joanna Shields

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Ex-Facebook Boss To Head Tech City Investment Board

UK’s Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO) has appointed Facebook’s vice-president and managing director for EMEA Joanna Shields as its new chief executive.

Shields has previously worked for a number of successful tech companies including Bebo, AOL, RealNetworks and Google, and is considered to be one of Europe’s brightest tech leaders.

She will take up the new position in January, and will also serve as the business ambassador for the Digital Industries and chairwoman of the Tech City Advisory Group.


TCIO is a government organisation set up in April 2011 as part of UK Trade and Investment department, to support the growth of the tech cluster in East London, assist in securing investment and help companies which want to expand into international markets.

From January, it will be headed by Shields, who boasts an impressive CV in the tech sector. Before joining Facebook, she was president of People Networks at AOL, responsible for social and communications businesses. Before that, Shields served as chief executive of Bebo – pulling off a major deal in selling the teen-focused social media site to AOL for $850 million (AOL later sold it for 410).

Shields has also worked as Google’s Managing Director for Europe,Russia, Middle East & Africa (EMEA).

Thanks to her leadership skills and business savvy, Shields was named as Wired Magazine’s “Most Influential Person in European Technology” in 2011, and the sixth most influential person in global media by the Media Guardian in 2012.

In her new position, Shields will promote Tech City and the Silicon Roundabout, ‘banging the drum’ for the UK digital sector overseas. It is expected that she will be more ambitious in her work than her predecessor, South African entrepreneur Eric van der Kleji.

According to the BBC, Shields’ salary will be £115,000, with a £25,000 bonus for hitting certain targets. While this number is tiny compared to her previous jobs, it is still considerable when you realise it will be paid by the taxpayer.

“Throughout my career I have had the privilege of working with great entrepreneurs and innovators to create thriving new businesses and industries,” said Shields. “The seeds have been sown in East London for a dynamic and successful cluster: we have the infrastructure, the technology and the talent, now we need to accelerate the growth.

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the appointment, saying: “The success of Tech City shows just what can happen when we back some of our most innovative and aspiring companies to grow, helping the UK compete and thrive in the global race. Joanna’s experience will be hugely valuable in supporting Tech City as it goes from strength to strength, and as a Business Ambassador promoting the UK around the world.”

“The UK has a creative and dynamic digital industries sector that we want to see grow even further and provide a real boost to our economy,” commented Trade and Investment minister Lord Green. “Joanna’s appointment as Business Ambassador is a statement of our ambition for overseas trade in this sector and to attract new investment into British businesses.”

Tech City has been seeing some serious activity this year. In March, Google had opened a new seven floor facility in East London, while its King’s Cross headquarters are being finished. In September, enterprise social network Yammer had opened a new office in the area, followed by Facebook. Last month, UK was offering 2,697 tech startup jobs, the majority focused around Old Street and Shoreditch in London.

The announcement has been met with genuine excitement and surprise. “We were blown away when we heard who it was,” said someone within Tech City’s marketing team.

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