After news broke last Thursday that Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) was in freefall, Dom Hallas from UK tech lobby group Coadec realised he might have a long few days ahead of him.
By Friday evening, he was in touch with the UK government warning them that something was probably going to have to be done — and trying to quickly gather as much information as possible on the impact SVB UK going into insolvency could have on the country's tech sector.
“You had a situation where an individual company didn’t bank with SVB, either their investors did or one of their counterparties did or one of their suppliers did or one of their clients did,” he said. “There wasn’t any realistic way that anyone could have escaped the fallout of this.”
On Saturday, he joined a roundtable of about 20 (very tired) trade groups, individual investors and government officials.
“Those moments when you pull a lot of different stakeholders into a room, it's really about trying to understand two things: What do these people want? What ideas do they have? And how can we be helpful to the government in getting they things they want?” he said on Startup Europe, The Sifted Podcast. “It was pretty chaotic to be totally honest. There wasn't much levity in the room.”
Hallas said he was “impressed” by the speed of the government’s response, along with — perhaps controversially — VCs pulling together to commit to continuing to work with SVB UK if the bank was recapitalised.
“Whilst I think it received a little bit of snark from various people, actually was really critical to getting a sale [to HSBC] through,” he said. “The reality is I’m not sure it would have been able to get over the line if the commitment wasn’t there because who would buy something that was going to have no customers by Monday?”
Also on the podcast this week:
- Hallas’ thoughts on chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s spending plans, including R&D cuts and a new £2.5bn “plan for quantum”
- An interview with Benedikt von Thüngen, cofounder of diagnostics startup Sanome about the nightmare 48 hours for European tech founders during SVB’s collapse
- And why VCs are ‘absolutely to blame’ for the SVB chaos