Former Facebook exec Joanna Shields steps down as Tech City CEO

Joanna Shields, the former Facebook European managing director, is stepping down from her role as chief executive of the Government’s flagship technology investment programme Tech City UK and is taking up a non-executive position at the London Stock Exchange.

Facebook’s Joanna Shields will step down from her role as Tech City UK’s CEO in February.

Shields has led the body, which is charged with marketing and supporting London’s technology startups, since leaving Facebook for the organisation in October 2012. She will continue as chairman and “ambassador” of the organisation – a role in which she will not take a salary.

She will also continue to be involved with the US and UK taskforce created in October last year aimed at keeping children safe online.

Shields will be replaced on 3 February by digital and mobile media veteran Gerard Grech, who most recently was senior director of BlackBerry World marketing, responsible for promoting the smartphone maker’s mobile and web e-commerce app store. He also serves as emeritus chairman for the Mobile Entertainment Forum, having founded the EMEA arm of the global trade association in 2005.

Prior to joining BlackBerry in 2013, he held the role of “entrepreneur in residence” at Nokia Growth Partners, Nokia’s global venture capital business. He also previously held senior strategic and content roles at Nokia and worked up to a director level role at mobile operator Orange.

Grech says he plans to “take things [at Tech City] to the next level” by introducing more partnerships and “further solidifying Tech City in the international tech scene”.

Last year Tech City formed a partnership with mobile operator EE, which launched its 4G internet service in the East London area and mentors start-ups as part of the deal.

Shields said of the appointment: “There is incredible momentum in the UK tech and digital sector and I am delighted to welcome Gerard as our new CEO during this exciting time. He is an East London resident who’s had a front row seat in the evolution of web and mobile platforms over the past decade. He brings a strong combination of start-up and corporate development knowledge to the team plus many years experience in developing and marketing digital products and services.”

The Tech City UK initiative was created by the Government three years ago to support the burgeoning tech startup scene in East London and encourage investment in the area and the businesses located within it through marketing and partnerships. The Government hopes the scheme will position London as the next global centre of digital innovation following the recent interest in the US’ Silicon Valley.

Shields’ departure follows that of deputy CEO Benjamin Southworth, who left the organisation at the end of his one year contract. He has since started work on creating a new free school aimed at teaching coding, inspired by Ada Lovelace who is largely recognised as the world’s first computer programmer.

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