Prince William & Kate attend Variety summit

Royal couple tout U.K. innovation community Tech City

To the cheering fans who greeted them everywhere, they’re William and Kate. And while their humanity and charm were in abundance over the weekend, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had more in mind than just a goodwill tour of the Southland: The choice of Variety’s daylong Venture Capital & New Media Summit as their first U.S. stop sent the clear message that this wasn’t a visit about fun and celebrity but about serious business and philanthropy.

At Friday’s summit, the duo met with reps of various digital companies, soaked up news about tech changes and strategies and, crucially, used the occasion to spotlight the U.K.’s Tech City innovation hub.

Variety president Neil Stiles greeted the two at about 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Wilshire entrance to the Beverly Hilton and escorted them to the green room, where they spent 20 minutes chatting with the day’s panelists (including Mark Cuban, Shari Redstone, Brett Ratner, Paul Feig, Gary Shapiro), Variety staffers (such as publisher Brian Gott, editor-in-chief Tim Gray and event organizers Linda Buckley and Susanne Ault) and event guests (International Esq’s Paul Wright, Linda Bell Blue, agent Debee Klein, Britain’s U.S. ambassador Nigel Sheinwald and consul-general Barbara Hay).

The newlyweds expertly tailored the conversation to each person, talking about sports, film, cars and Variety. But the most prevalent topics were the conference and its content, plus the innovations and possibilities of technology and new media, particularly as it applies to the U.K. The mood in the room was surprisingly relaxed and friendly (though even the heavy-hitters were a bit starstruck, snapping frequent photos with their cellphones).

Stiles then brought the couple to the stage of the hotel’s Beverly Hills Ballroom, where the conference attendees gave them a standing ovation. The duo joined the in-progress panel and listened silently to the “Case Study on Tech City” discussion, then went to the floor of the ballroom to talk with reps from various interactive-digital vendors.

Those included Crimson Hexagon, HP, Qualcomm and Randian. Each vendor was given a few minutes to demonstrate its digital tools. For example, Crimson Hexagon, which monitors and analyzes social networking, showed the couple the results of its online study of why Canadians most enjoyed their recent visit.

The duo’s conference participation highlights Tech City, the cluster of tech, digital and creative companies based around the Shoreditch and Old Street area of East London. The area was called the fastest-growing tech center in Europe, inviting comparisons to Silicon Valley.

A main ingredient to Tech City’s future success, agreed “Case Study” panelists, was the government’s role in providing infrastructure to house the quickly expanding technological ecosystem. It will be interesting “to see how the government can assist in recruiting and retaining top talent,” said panelist Ankur Shah, co-founder and co-CEO of Techlightenment.

Variety’s summit explored how investors are propelling technological innovation that affects the entertainment industry. Speakers included leaders from Hollywood and Silicon Valley, including Cuban, Redstone, UTA head of digital marketing Brent Weinstein, Facebook’s Matt Jacobson and CAA’s Michael Yanover.

The Duke and Duchess’ appearance at the Summit was met with cheering crowds.

As with other appearances during the couple’s 48-hour Stateside trip, security, transportation and media were carefully choreographed and gave few opportunities for public photos. Preparations at each step of their weekend visit to L.A. were exhaustive. High-level security strategies, which involved reps from Buckingham Palace, the hotel, the Beverly Hills Police Dept. and others, were gone over multiple times in advance of the event. And media coverage was carefully vetted, with a limited number of photographers and camera crews allowed in the conference room, though there were many news vans and helicopters in the area.

Sometimes the planning seemed overly careful: A few hours before their arrival at the BevHilton, the red curb on Wilshire was being freshly repainted while cracks in the sidewalk were being filled in.

Following the conference, the couple went to a cocktail reception at the consul-general’s home in Hancock Park. On Saturday, Prince William played polo at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, an event that raised funds for the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry, a charitable org focused on young people, the environment and the armed forces. Saturday night, the royals went to a BAFTA black-tie ball at the Belasco Theater downtown. On Sunday, they attended an event supporting Tusk USA, which focuses on conservation in Africa. Then it was a stop at Inner-City Arts, a nonprofit group in the Skid Row area that helps children, then to a job fair for veterans at the Sony Studios lot.

While the couple had a few encounters with Hollywood and celebs, it was clear that the trip centered on business and philanthropy. Though William and Kate have been embraced by the tabloid world of glamour, fashion and gossip (albeit with a minimum of “scandal” stories and a maximum of gushing, positive stories), Buckingham Palace is sending the clear message that these newlyweds are not frivolous and that their mission is to take things seriously and to improve things for the U.K. — and the world.

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • 71st Emmys Governors Ball

    Why the Television Academy Plans to Donate Furnishings From the 71st Emmys Governors Ball

    The Emmys’ official after party is set to impress — and to leave a permanent impression. At the annual press preview of the 71st Emmys Governors Ball, the Television Academy announced a partnership with Living Spaces, Habitat for Humanity and the Hollywood Community Housing Project that will provide more than 80 custom sofas, chairs and [...]

  • Gaby Hoffmann, Albert Cheng, Alexandra Billings,

    'Transparent' Team Reflects on Series Finale Without Jeffrey Tambor

    Friday night’s premiere of the series finale of “Transparent” at L.A. Live’s Regal theater felt like a family reunion for the Pfefferman clan. Matriarch Judith Light embraced each one of her TV children (Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass) and guest stars from previous seasons (Cherry Jones, Melora Hardin, Bradley Whitford) who also turned [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Pom Klementieff poses at the launch

    Marvel Cinematic Universe Star Pom Klementieff Talks Disney-Fox Merger, X-Men Dreams

    Pom Klementieff may have entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe playing Mantis in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” followed by appearances in the last two “Avengers” movies, but that wasn’t her original superhero plan. “My dream was to be in X-Men,” she told Variety on Thursday at the Chanel dinner for its new fragrance Gabrielle [...]

  • Gwyneth Paltrow

    Gwyneth Paltrow to Be Honored at amfAR Gala Los Angeles

    Gwyneth Paltrow and art dealer Larry Gagosian are set to be honored at the 2019 amfAR Gala Los Angeles. The American Foundation for AIDS Research announced that the two honorees will receive the Award of Courage for their commitment in the fight against HIV and AIDS as well as for their other humanitarian efforts. Christina [...]

  • David Mandel Sam Richardson

    'The Handmaid's Tale,' 'Veep,' 'When They See Us' Writers Honored at Emmy Nominees Reception

    Ava DuVernay (“When They See Us”), David Mandel (“Veep”) and Bruce Miller and Kira Snyder (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) were among those honored at the Television Academy’s Emmy nominees writers reception on Tuesday night in North Hollywood. There, ceremony hosts, “Escape at Dannemora” star Eric Lange and “Veep’s” Sam Richardson, kept the show moving by tossing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content