Tech City? More like Silicon Jungle!

My column on – First published 21/08
monkey computer


Our returning columnist Gregory Kris dissects tech’s animal kingdom

Welcoming back Gregory Kris, long-time tech CEO and original columnist, writing about all things data and tech. In his comeback piece he explores the tech types roaming the changing economic jungle.

People who work in the digital sectors are an interesting breed of animal – a veritable menagerie of exotic visionaries and colourless functionaries, inhabiting the digital jungle and striving for success, which is a common part of the food chain for all techies alike.

I’ve been a member of London’s digital scene for 15 years now, and so I’ve seen the origin of species by means of natural selection a number of times, as both people and business models have been forced to adapt or die in the rapidly-changing environment.

I’ve seen the advent of e-tailing, instant messaging, social networking, big data and m-tailing. And when you’ve been to as many parties, networking sessions, coffee Thursdays, wine Wednesdays and drink-a-tanks as I have, you’ll start to spot the same types of digital animal emerging from the primordial ooze:

The developer ant

The developer ant is frequently seen in dark spots underground, burrowing away. Although deeply social and always present at parties, when in its natural state the ant does most of the work in the shadows. This can leave the little fellow missing out on the credit, but luckily its natural exoskeleton means it has a tough skin. This comes in useful because it allows this creature to carry many times its own weight on its back.

Weaknesses: Gets easily squished and eaten by the larger animals.

The first-time entrepreneur platypus

In its native habitat, the first-time entrepreneur platypus can be seen creating nests of bean-bags, in a vague attempt to make their nests more Google-like and welcoming to attract a mate.

This strange creature is a hybrid; half-duck, half-beaver, with a bit of an identity problem. Not quite sure which way is up, but very cute and interesting to all the other animals.

Special skill: The only mammal that can lay eggs – very, very occasionally golden ones.

The serial entrepreneur hummingbird

The entrepreneurial hummingbird is a flirtatious creature, buzzing around from project to project, and from investor to investor – all at dizzyingly high speed. It is best known in the tech kingdom for doing everything a high speed, but in no particular direction whatsoever.

It pauses only to take a quick drink of amber nectar, but even then it never stops flapping its wings.

Evolutionary trick: The serial entrepreneur hummingbird is the only animal that can fly backwards. (Says it all really.) 

The one-man sloth

The one-man sloth can often be seen quietly hanging in the corners of noisy rooms with a tired hangdog expression on its face. The tech sloth, generally works on the same project for 12 years and will only ever leave the tree if its branch happens to snaps away beneath its ever-accumulating weight.

Tell-tale trademark: Talks slowly but with great weight about things it saw years ago.

The designer fly

The designer fly’s favourite treats include rainforest-grown super foods like acai berry and guarana-banana to keep its energy levels up as it often has problems with Windows (note the capital ‘W’). It tends to flit about from project to project, never stopping to do anything more significant than rub its his hands together, sniff about, and fly off to the next more fragrant project.

Happiest: When hovering above a huge number of fragrant projects.

The business development rhino

This beast knows how to plough into situations horn first. It always charges and has very thick skin, but inevitably ends up leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

WARNING! Not compatible for keeping in small spaces with other animals which mainly prefer to keep their distance.

The CEO parrot

The CEO parrot is a special kind of bird. It stands near the tree tops and constantly shows off its bright plumage to attract attention. Best known for making a lot of unintelligible noises and using words that synergistically create functionalistic ideation, it has a tendency to repeat words that it’s heard the ants say in order to sound clever, but often misses the mark.

Eyesight issues: In its mind’s eye, the CEO parrot sees itself as most beautiful creature in the jungle. The other animals, however, see it as a noisemaker.

The angel giraffe

An idealistic creature that believes its long neck gives it extraordinary long-range vision. Unfortunately, its elongated spine means that it has trouble pumping blood all the way up to its brain.

Weakness: Poor blood flow leaves the giraffe thinking it can cherry-pick the tastiest start-up leaves from the top of the trees, but leaves it vulnerable to not spotting attacks from preying animals with sharp teeth lurking below.

The fat cat

There is always an apex predator in the jungle. The king. The roaring lion, with a passion for making a racket that can be heard from Mayfair to Whitechapel, is known to march around others’ territory like it owns the place. The fat cat sleeps in the shade, stealing fresh kills from weaker specimens and frequently urinating on smaller animals.

Scientific name: the Venture Capitalist, this animal is admired by all, but is hard to cuddle up to without losing an arm and a leg. 

Gregory Kris is an original dot-com CEO, selling a social network in 2000. Since then he has run and sold three digital start-ups and consulted on digital strategy for the EU. A firm believer that ‘data is the oil of the digital economy’, Greg is CEO of the generously funded Norwegian mHealth company Your.MD, and has been called ‘Europe’s Digital Data Baron’. You can follow him on twitter at @gregkris, email him or find him in a bunker on the golf course.