London group opens S.F. office 

The fog shrouding The City from a penthouse lounge may have been a good omen Tuesday for the non-profit organization based there promoting business ties between London and the Bay Area.

Think London officially opened its doors that morning, urging the region’s information, communication and technology firms to open offices in the similarly foggy English metropolis. London shares more than the fog with the Bay Area, according to a study the group contracted from research and communications firm Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates.

PSB’s study of 112 American business executives based in both California and London indicated that they perceive London as the European capital of "convergence," or a place where companies have access to the services of complimentary companies in the related spheres of technology, media, design and other fields.

Access to capital, talent, markets and technology infrastructure are also important to the executives polled and areas where both London and the Bay Area excel, according to the survey.

"We see San Francisco and London as leading global centers of convergence," PSB Vice President Mitch Markel said, presenting his firm’s findings.

The pitch for regional investment is not unusual. But the nonprofit group is, according to staff at the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, because it is not an arm of an embassy or consulate.

Instead, the group is primarily funded by the London Development Agency, which is a city government body, and by major local businesses through the organization London First. It seeks to snag companies ready to go global before they set up shop in other European cities, offering free advice on everything from making the business case for opening a London office to navigating laws, taxes and rents and networking, Think London CEO Michael Charlton said.

"In total, foreign investment in London amounts to $110 billion, which is the equivalent of 27 percent of the total GDP of London," Charlton said. "In other words, [foreign investment is] incredibly important to London."

The new office at 225 Bush St., Suite 1661, was opened with a single staff member, Vice President Richard Stanaro. Without an office, the group has already worked assisted local firms such as SVB Financial Group (SIVB)’s Silicon Valley Bank, Google Inc. (GOOG), Emeryville’s MobiTV and San Francisco’s Pizco Inc. with their London locations, Charlton said. Worldwide, it has helped some 1,000 companies from 44 countries establish or receive assistance for their London offices, Charlton said.

"About half of our business is in the U.K.," Pizco Vice President Peter van Pruissen said. "We think it’s a perfect springboard to launch our products into new markets."

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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