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Silicon Valley invades Oxford to talk start-ups and digital work

Conference seeks to foster growth in UK tech sector, but carries warnings about IT.

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Entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley will today flock to Oxford in a bid to accelerate growth in the technology sector and ask how computers are affecting our lives.

The conference, which is held at the university’s Said Business School, will particularly draw attention to how the IT industry is changing the balance between life inside and outside of work now that good home computing power is so widespread.

Phil Libin, chief executive of software firm Evernote and speaker at Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford, told the BBC: "I think our lives are going to change quite a lot and almost all for the better.

"Many companies are now organised around the principle that people want to work at all times of day, but they also want to have time for their personal pursuits."

When pressed, Libin did admit that he struggled with a work-life balance – a conundrum many of his peers in the Valley also face – and admitted that "I kind of do both all the time".

Dave Coplin, chief envisioning officer at Microsoft UK, added: "It’s not about this binary thing that you’re at work or you’re not at work: it’s just life."

He maintained that rather than forcing people into a set lifestyle, the technology produced by Silicon Valley was enabling greater choice for people – even if there were teething problems.

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"The challenge we have today is we’re kind of the first generation of a digital society. We’re still figuring out how this stuff helps us," he said.

"We give you mobile devices with email on and most people think that means they have to answer email all the time. The point of those devices is to enable you to choose when you should engage with work. We need a new culture at work that supports that."

Now in its 14th year, Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford started on Sunday and continues through until Monday, featuring many speakers from the University of Oxford as well as chief executives from a wide array of Californian start-ups.

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