THE UK government has lured a senior executive from social networking giant Facebook to lead a taxpayer-backed venture to create London’s answer to Silicon Valley.
Joanna Shields, Facebook’s managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, is leaving to lead the Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO).
The venture was set up in April 2011 to attract inward investment focused on an area in London’s East End, dubbed “silicon roundabout” and supporting start-ups looking to expand.
It has signed up companies including Cisco, Google and Intel.
Shields, who will join TCIO in January, said that she would lead a drive that hopes to make London the number one location for tech firms in the world.
Before joining Facebook, Shields held senior roles and AOL, Bebo and Google.
Her departure will be a blow to Facebook, as the US group that runs the world’s biggest social network seeks to reassure shareholders after a rough reception on Wall Street since its high-profile listing in May.
Concern about its slowing revenue growth rate has seen its market valuation halve – Facebook shares closed at $19 on Friday, compared with a $38 issue price in May.
A Facebook spokesman said that the company “supports the UK government’s vision for building a stronger technology-based economy and start-up ecosystem”.
Last week, Facebook opened an engineering centre in London, its first outside the US.
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