Who would have thought an ordinary guy from Gampaha (Sri Lanka) would one day be shaking the hand of Queen of Great Britain and the Commonwealth at Buckingham Palace, and be joking with Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of York.
Well, that just happened to me on 9th June 2014. I was among number of leading figures in UK’s tech scene to be invited to Buckingham Palace for a reception held by the Queen.
Those days when I first got involved with tech, it wasn’t sexy. Very few people recognised its potential. And many took years to recover from the dark days of dot com bust. Today it’s completely a different story. If you ignore tech now, it will be at your own peril.
The UK tech scene has come a long way since Sam Sethi, Ivan Pope, Imran Ali and I plotted to build the ecosystem in 2006, initially as a way to provide Sam with tech startup stories from outside London. Those who do not know Sam Sethi, he was the original Editor of TechCrunch UK. These days TechCrunch Europe is run by Mike Butcher, and I just got back home attending the 2014 Europas he founded. Mike has done a tremendous contribution to the growth of tech ecosystem in the UK.
Way back in 2008 Mark Prisk, who was then in the opposition and later became the Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, was an early proponent of tech startups. In 2011, British Prime Minister, David Cameron announced the creation of Tech City around the Silicon Roundabout in Shoreditch. Now its the turn of Duke of York to bring the support of the Monarchy.
Many folks have asked me to share my experience of meeting the Queen.
First of all, I thought it was a hoax when I received an email from the Private Secretary to the Duke of York requesting confirmation of my details so that she could send an invitation to attend the Tech Reception.
Receiving the invitation by post resulted in my wife finally believing it. And the kids were overjoyed. And so was my father.
So I treated myself to a new suit, and let the shop manager select the shirt and the tie for me. Didn’t quite believe in the pink tie at first, but the sales manager was spot on. Wonder how much revenues UK retail have generated as a result of this single visit. Almost all of us have invested in a new attire.
It was quite surreal waiting outside the gates of Buckingham Palace among the tourists until it was 17:30hrs. I was in great company with friends from the tech industry, some of whom I have known for many years. Tech is a great industry where you learn from your peers. Its a give and take industry, where those who have made it, shares their secrets of success openly.
We had a two-hour long reception where canapés and champagne were served. We then lined up to meet Her Majesty the Queen, something I was not expecting. What an amazing moment.. And the brilliant smile on the face of her Majesty the Queen. Felt very honoured to be in her presence.
I wonder how Oli Barrett must have felt when he received his MBE sometime back. May be I should have asked him..
Later Prince Philip just walked in and started to chat with us. Instead of talking about tech, I shared my story of growing up in Sri Lanka and waving at him and Queen as they travelled to Kandy from Colombo by train. Whilst I saw the train go past, we never actually saw them in the train. It seems his first visit to Sri Lanka was in 1940 and he remembers Sri Lanka well. Who would have thought one day I would meet them in person in their own home..
Whilst I have not spoken to Duke of York until yesterday, I have met him once at Sci-Tech Daresbury. Both Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of York moved among us with ease. Perhaps tech may have played its part in bringing monarchy closer to the general public.
So what’s next? May be I should aim high..who knows where this might leads to..
Hope my lovely wife would forgive me for not celebrating our 21st anniversary, which fell on the same day.
Lastly, I know the person who recommended me. And its nice to be appreciated and recognised. Thank you.
- Attendees on Twitter #TechAtPalace – 95 added – let me know if you were there and not listed
- Prolific North: Lovely Sarah Hartley has written about me and others
- The Business Desk: Funniest spin on my visit by James Graham (you would need to login to read)
Social Media Coverage:
- Had an amazing respond on Facebook. Lot less on Twitter.