Facebook’s Shields leaves to head up Tech City

Facebook’s most senior UK executive Joanna Shields is to leave the social media giant to head up the Government’s attempt to rival Silicon Valley.

Facebook’s Joanna Shields will leave the company for London’s Tech City in January.

She will assume the role of chief executive of the Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO) in January and will be tasked with encouraging more technology firms to set up in London.

Shields replaces Eric Van der Kleij, who did not renew his contract when it expired in the summer.

Prime Minister David Cameron says Shields will “bang the drum for the UK digital sector overseas”.

He adds: “The success of Tech City shows just what can happen when we back some of our most innovative and aspiring companies to grow, helping the UK compete and thrive in the global race.”

Shields joined Facebook in 2010 as vice-president and managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Prior to joining the social media business, she was president at AOL, where she was responsible for its social and communications business. Shields also served as chief executive of Bebo and was previously Google’s managing director for Europe, Russia, Middle East & Africa.

The move is likely to be seen as a fillip to the Government’s bid to postion London as the next global centre of digital innovation in light of Shields’ experience at two of the world’s biggest online businesses.

Shields says: “Working in the UK for the past decade has proven to me that this country has the potential to become a major force in digital innovation. The seeds have been sown in East London for a dynamic and successful cluster: we have the infrastructure, the technology and the talent, now we need to accelerate the growth.  I am looking forward to leading the Tech City Investment Organisation in the next phase of its development. With the right boost now, there is no reason why we can’t make London the number one location for tech in the world.”

The TCIO was set up by the Government last April to support the growth of the technology cluster in East London.

Separately, Shields move comes at a time when UK advertisers are not seeing as higher engagement with their ads as in other countries, according to TBG Digital. The agency’s Q3 2012 Global Facebook Advertising report revealed click-through-rates (CTR) in the UK, which are a measure of how much an ad is being engaged with, had dropped by 4 per cent in the three months to 30 September.

Additionally, CTRs rose by 81 per cent quarter-in-quarter in the company’s major markets of the US, Canada, France, Germany and the UK.

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