One of east London’s better-known start-up event organisers has accepted a job with UKTI, in what will come as depressing news to champions of the area’s flourishing private sector.
I suppose it was inevitable. As a weary Eric van der Kleij retreats into the private sector following a disastrous year for the Tech City Investment Organisation, UKTI has been fishing around for replacements in Shoreditch and come up smiling, having picked off a weaker member of the pack.
Benjamin Southworth, profiled in The Kernel in April as part of a troika of entrepreneurs putting on events for east London, has been consumed by the hubristic Government outfit in what appears to be a play for popularity by the embattled quango. He will serve as deputy chief executive, responsible for events and feedback to policymakers.
Few consultants can resist the allure of a comfortable public sector salary, and sources inside UKTI tell us that van der Kleij’s job was split in two after the level of opprobrium directed at the outgoing chief executive for heading up a wasteful, distracting and preposterous outfit was deemed too much for any one civil servant to bear.
There will be public congratulations aplenty for Southworth today, but for those of us who admired his role in grassroots private sector efforts to galvanise the east London community, there is only regret that someone with good intentions and a popular profile could be so hopelessly naïve.
It is not known what effect Southworth’s appointment will have on the Silicon Drinkabout or Digital Sizzle events, but Southworth confirmed to me over the telephone this afternoon that he sincerely hopes he will be able to “look back after six months and say, ‘I made the right decision.’”