It’s hard to explain to younger people how different the London tech scene used to be, even ten years ago. Like when you explain you used to call someone’s house to find out if they were in.

Back in the mid-Noughties, a man emailled my blog, asking if I’d write for his startup. Despite having a developer dad, I had to Google the word “startup”. Soon, I was working for his company in a badly-lit Shepherd’s Bush basement, underneath the office of fashion brand Mulberry. …


When I worked in magazines, almost twenty years ago, something we always held true was that sales went up twenty per cent when the words “secret” or “mystery” were on the cover. It taps into basic human psychology; we want to know something others don’t.

It’s for this reason more than any other that, idly scrolling Twitter one day during a pandemic winter, I filled out a form to take part in something TED called “Mystery experiment”. I don’t follow TED on Twitter. I don’t remember if the form was short and sweet (who are you?) or detailed and revealing…


Crossposting from Omidyar Network; cowritten with Aniyia Williams

Back in 2018, we started funding the rise of the responsible tech worker. This is our effort to help tech workers and founders step into their power, and build a world in which technology makes good on its promise of improving everyone’s lives for the better: fueling an ecosystem that is equitable, ethical, and inclusive in addition to innovative.

2020 marked a monumental shift for the movement as the techlash came of age. At Omidyar Network, we were proud to provide a roadmap for the US Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission…


This time last year, January 2020, I was announced as one of Atomico’s picks for their second angel program. Despite the swirl of 2020 — a year so hilariously stressful I managed to chip a tooth from night-time teeth-grinding — it was one of my highlights and I wanted to document why.

Purloined from this account on Flickr

I’d been curious about scout programs in the US for a while. The few tiny angel bets I’d done had been fun. Having spent years working with early-stage companies during my time leading Campus at Google and as an operator in various startups before that, I knew the…


The technology industry is broken. Regular people like us–or users, as tech calls us– know this. Government knows this. People working in tech know this. Omidyar Network knows this, and that’s why we’re funding a diverse group of thinkers and doers focused on various paths to improve the industry.

A core challenge of trying to build a better tech industry is that it’s easier to name what we don’t want than it is to describe what we do want, or need. …


Me for Techcrunch, Sept 2020

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen new teams in tech companies emerge that focus on responsible innovation, digital well-being, AI ethics or humane use. Whatever their titles, these individuals are given the task of “leading” ethics at their companies. Whether they’ve been created because of employee pressure, endless negative headlines or the late-flowering realization that considering your company’s impact on society is probably quite important, we should welcome these roles. After all, it’s clear current leaders have struggled to do the right thing, and this work needs dedication and expertise.

But we need…


Me for Sifted, Sept 2020

What makes a healthy, thriving startup scene?

Five years ago, when I was at Google leading Campus, their East London space for entrepreneurs, our partners at UP Global/Techstars released a popular whitepaper that emphasized how essential five elements were; talent, regulation, density, capital and culture.

But five years is a long time in startupland and it’s clear there’s an ingredient that paper misses that sits between talent and institutional investment: great angel investors.

These individual backers are the first money into a startup, often when what you’re funding is a person or team with a…


In 2020, we’ve had to depend on technology more than ever before. The products and platforms we use have become lifelines to working, ordering food safely, finding important information, connecting with friends, socializing, learning and more. Even in parts of the world where the worst impacts of the pandemic are behind them, it’s likely more of us will continue working from home and staying closer to our neighborhoods than we were before.

Designers, developers, founders and community organizers never designed for these moments. Who could imagine they’d have to?

Take enterprise products. They were designed to be used at work…


Community’s a funny old word. I spent most of the 2010s hiring people for roles with the word “community” in the title, and used to ask, at every interview, how candidates would define it. At best estimate, I’ve done over two hundred interviews and never heard the same definition twice.

It’s an elastic phrase, something that exists in the ether between groups of people, a feeling, something with lockdown we’ve learnt very clearly this year that we seek out and require. …


Tl;dr Launching today, Ethical Explorer is a digestible, accessible (& free!) toolkit designed to help founders, product managers, designers and their collaborators build better, more responsible technology.

Back in 2018, my team co-created EthicalOS alongside our friends at Institute for the Future. We’re so proud of it but, in the last year, it became increasingly clear it needed to be reimagined.

For one thing, 2020 isn’t 2018.

Even before the disruptions and distractions of a global pandemic, incoming recession and ongoing fight for deeper racial justice, there’s been incredible change in the responsible tech movement.

The clearest example I can…

Sarah Drinkwater

Director @OmidyarNetwork's Beneficial Tech. Ex-head Google's @campuslondon. Into communities, London, looks and books.

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