The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began their first visit to Los Angeles with the unglamorous task of sitting in on a panel of tech executives that were hard pressed to put on a jolly good show.
Prince William and Kate flew in to LAX Friday afternoon after a rapturous 9-day trip to Canada. They adapted to LA customs fast – arriving casually late to the event at the Beverly Hilton. A crowd of about 400 stood and clapped as they entered the ballroom and took seats alongside the panelists.
Kate wore a classic A-line, knee-length dress, bluish gray with asymmetric draping at the shoulder. William looked tidy in a navy blue suit, white kerchief peeking above the top pocket, with burgundy tie and blue-white shirt.
Their weekend visit to LA aims to promote interest and investment in technology and film industries, with charitable events tucked in-between. There was no pomp or fluff to the Friday tech event. Paparazzi were strictly persona non grata.
The Royal Couple took their seats at a specially designed panel with the stunning title of “Case Study On Tech City,” which defines an area of east London seen as “the fastest-growing technology hub in Europe.”
True or not it seems the Brits have a perception problem to overcome, judging by some panel conversation that took place before they arrived. A question was asked about the difference in entrepreneurial activity between the U.S. and UK. One of the panelists, a Brit who is now CEO of an innovative U.S. Internet technology firm, was rather blunt. In the U.S., entrepreneurs will build a company from scratch and if it blows up will pick up the pieces and start over, he said. But in the UK, “there is a fear of failure.”
The chairman of a London-based software company acknowledged that’s true.
“The problem in the UK is we nickel and dime startups and ask them what is the least amount of money they need to get off the ground,” he said. “In the U.S. if someone wants $10 million they give them $20 million.”
In short, there is no place like Silicon Valley. Countries all over the world for the past 20 years have tried to replicate its success. No one has succeeded. So good luck, Tech City.
Prince William did his part. He lent his name and presence to the LA tech event, though he never spoke a word for the 30 minutes he sat through the Q&A with the five panelists and moderator. When the panel was over he and Kate strolled over to 4 mini-booths set up to show off some U.S. technology. It was here that Prince William let loose with his British sense of humor and interests.
One display was to show Hewlett-Packard’s new tablet computer. Tablet in hand Prince William was asked to type something in. He keyed “Aston Villa Football Club.” Seems he had soccer on his mind.
It gets better. His next stop was a demo by Qualcomm, the cellphone chipmaker. It was showcasing “augmented reality.” With this whiz-bang technology, by holding a tablet computer with the camera enabled over an image, the picture comes to life on the tablet screen. In this case the image was that of the Royal Couple in a family photo. Holding the tablet over the image was designed to call up some news video about the family. But before the demonstration was about to take place, after being told the image would come to life, Prince William asked with a flair whether the photo of the family portrait would convert to show them not wearing any clothes!
Another demo was by tech firm Randian, which offers a unique software application for tablet computers. The user, when watching a TV show on a tablet computer, can tap their finger on outfits being worn by cast members. Those selections are catalogued and can then be viewed and purchased.
Thinking about the possibility of Kate having access to the technology Prince William said, “We’re only going to watch cartoons from now on because this will make her want to buy everything.”
Now that moment was a jolly good show indeed.