Joe White MBE — a General Partner of Entrepreneur First, a Greylock backed early-stage deep tech fund — is leaving after being appointed as Her Majesty’s Consul-General, San Francisco, and Technology Envoy to the United States in a new, combined and powerful, role for the UK government.
One of the key figures from the last two decades of the tech industry in the UK, most recently White has been co-chair of GBx, a curated network of British entrepreneurs; a non-executive director for the UK’s Behavioural Insights Team where he advised on social impact technology products; and a former co-founder of Moonfruit, a website and ecommerce platform hosting 7 million sites, which was acquired by Yell.com in 2012. He received an MBE from HM Queen in 2017 for Services to Technology Businesses.
White brings to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) huge experience as an entrepreneur and VC. The appointment is also a first for the UK. White’s role as HM Consul-General has been combined with that of the new role of Technology Envoy to the United States. TechCrunch understands that this will involve high-level activity not just in San Francisco but also in Washington DC, as tech goes up the political agenda under the new Biden Presidency.
White’s combined role will lead the Consulate, manage relationships in the northwest of the US, support the UK Ambassador to the US on areas of shared UK-US interest including technology and entrepreneurship, and support Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner in “promoting and enhancing the UK as partner of choice in trade, investment and research and development.”
In a statement, White said: “It is an honour to represent the UK at this critical time, and a pleasure to support our world-renowned tech sector which continues to go from strength to strength. I am looking forward to working closely with UK government tech teams in the US and in the UK, to further our growing and important relationship with the US tech community.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added: “The UK and the US are the largest investors in each other’s economies and this important appointment further underlines our commitment to the tech sector. I am delighted Joe will take on this enhanced role as we look to build back better and support an innovative post-pandemic global economy.”
White will take up his appointment later this year. He will report to Dame Karen Pierce DCMG, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States of America.
Joe White just hit a quadruple. He is the right man, in the right place, with the right experience, at the right time.
He’s a former entrepreneur, investor and has worked on both sides of ‘the pond’, so knows the UK and European tech scene as well as Silicon Valley. He has deep connections in all those ecosystems. And it can’t hurt that his wife, Wendy Tan White MBE, is Vice-President at X, (formerly Google X), Alphabet’s moonshot company, and co-founded Moonfruit with him. Furthermore, White is no stranger to the worlds of politics and diplomacy. His father, Michael White, was The Guardian newspaper’s political editor for many years.
Under Prime Minister David Cameron, the UK government was a keen exponent of the tech industry. Brexit cooled its ire in recent years, but the current chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has proved his interest by creating the UK’s Future Fund, hailed as a big success during the COVID period.
The UK and US not only have a shared history, but they also have shared industries. The UK has been the traditional launching pad for US startups into Europe. Likewise, Silicon Valley is now awash with British-born entrepreneurs and investors. But with tensions around the actions of US Big Tech in the UK (the ‘Online Harms’ legislation is aimed at social platforms), controversies over tax and global security issues all on the agenda, it’s right that the Consul General role in SF is bolstered by this new Tech Envoy moniker.
Silicon Valley is also about to get a fellow tech entrepreneur into one of the highest roles the UK government can bestow overseas. There could hardly be a better person for the job.