East London Tech City
East London Tech City (also known as Tech City or Silicon Roundabout) is a technology cluster located in Central and East London. It broadly occupies the part of London's East End between Old Street (the boundary of Central and East London) and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, with its locus in the Shoreditch area. It is the third-largest technology startup cluster in the world after San Francisco and New York City.
The cluster initially developed without any government backing in and around the Old Street Roundabout. This had been a relatively run down area, north of the City of London, and has historically had much lower rents. Companies were encouraged into the area by the low rents after the 2008-2009 recession. There had been many architectural firms in the area that closed around 2009, further suppressing rents. Ironically the area around Old Street was not served back in 2008-2009 by fibre optic cable, but only a few hundred metres away, where rents were much higher in the City of London, there was extensive an fibre optic cable infrastructure in place. As has been claimed by many later articles, the development of the cluster was not influenced by the government investment at the Olympic Park, but by the location and initial low rents. This reflects the fact that successful technology clusters are usually market rather than government driven.
Later, as the cluster developed, there was more support and encouragment by both local and national government, with the goal of creating a cluster comparable to Silicon Valley in the United States. Cisco, Facebook, Google, Intel and McKinsey & Company are among the companies that have invested in the area. City University London, London Metropolitan University, Imperial College London, Loughborough University and University College London are academic partners in projects based in the cluster.
The term Silicon Roundabout refers to the high number of web businesses located near the Old Street Roundabout (on the boundary of Central and East London), and as a reference to Silicon Valley in California. The terms East London Tech City, Tech City and Silicon Roundabout can be used interchangeably.
Amongst the first technology companies located in the area were Dopplr, Last.fm, Consolidated Independent, Tinker.it, TweetDeck, Berg, Trampoline Systems, AMEE, Skimbit (now Skimlinks), Fotango, weartical.com, Rummble, Songkick, Squiz, Techlightenment, Poke London, Kizoom, BrightLemon, Redmonk, MOO, Believe.in, LShift, Livemusic and WAYN.
In 2008, it is erroneously claimed, there were around 15 media and high-tech companies in close proximity of the Silicon Roundabout, which forms the heart of Tech City. Plans to help accelerate the growth of the cluster were announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in a speech given in east London on 4 November 2010. A year later, Cameron announced that he was appointing entrepreneur Eric van der Kleij to lead the initiative. In 2010 there were 85 startup companies in the area. By 2011, approximately 200 firms were occupying the area, signifying a rapid increase in interest. Wired magazine updated this figure in 2012 and suggested some 5,000 tech companies were located in the wider area centred on the Old Street roundabout. Wired maintains a topic on the area.
On 28 September 2011 it was announced that Google had acquired a seven-storey building near Old Street roundabout. Google said that the building, in Bonhill Street, would host "a range of activities, such as speaker series, hackathons, training workshops and product demonstrations" in addition to providing workspace for new companies. The building, known as Campus London, opened in March 2012.
Notable technology companies active in the cluster include:
- Amazon - has opened its Digital Media Development Centre in the area
- Aurora Fashions  - the company behind Coast, Oasis and Warehouse occupies one of the largest buildings around the Old Street roundabout (Exchange House) and with mobile sites and apps
- Avoiding Mass Extinctions Engine (AMEE)
- BT - has agreed to accelerate the roll-out of superfast broadband in the area
- Cisco - has agreed to establish an Innovation Centre in the Olympic Park
- Decibel Digital - a digital agency based in Shoreditch providing website and digital marketing services
- Decibel Insight - a SaaS startup launched in Shoreditch providing enterprise level behavioral analytics
- EE - has introduced 300Mbit/s 4G in the Tech City area
- Fabrily - sold to US company Teespring
- Facebook - has agreed to create a base for their Developer Garage programme in the hub
- Google - has created an Innovation Hub in the area to develop next-generation applications and services (whilst retaining its UK headquarters also in central London)
- Gojimo - the UK's leading revision app provider
- Growth Intelligence
- Intel - has established a new research lab in the area focused on performance computing and new energy efficiency technologies
- KweekWeek - a multi platform marketplace connecting event organisers and attendees
- Lost my Name
- Qualcomm - has agreed to provide intellectual property advice to start-up companies based in the area
- Simply Business
- Sports Interactive
- Startup Weekend
- Tug - search engine marketing led agency specialising in pay per click, display advertising, search engine optimisation, affiliate marketing and social media marketing.
- Tweet Deck
- Ve Interactive - an e-commerce solutions provider based in Clerkenwell
Educational institutions active in the cluster include:
- Imperial Innovations (the technology-transfer company of Imperial College London) - has agreed to advise on the creation of an accelerator space for spinout companies at the Olympic Park
- Loughborough University and University College London - have agreed to work with the Olympic Legacy Company to establish a bridge between academia and enterprise in the Olympic Park
Financial and professional services providers
Financial and professional services providers active in the cluster include:
- Barclays - has agreed to create a new facility to provide specialist banking services to technology companies based in the area
- KPMG - opened a dedicated office in January 2013 providing accounting and tax advice to early stage technology companies
- McKinsey & Company - has agreed to provide advice on the creation of the hub and help to new companies starting out in the area
- Silicon Valley Bank - has agreed to establish a UK-based bank to provide financing for technology and life science companies based in the area
- Capco - relocated their UK headquarters to Great Eastern Street in 2014 (along with BOLD ROCKET), and is currently providing office space for small FinTech startups
- Taylor Wessing - opened the cluster's first dedicated law firm office in October 2011
A number of not-for-profit organisations have created a sense of community in the area including Independent Shoreditch, a business alliance, and Digital Shoreditch, which organises monthly meet-ups plus an annual festival of the same name, as well as for-profit organisations like Silicon Roundabout, which is a conduit for office space in the area.
Public sector organisations
Public sector organisations active in the cluster include:
- City of London Corporation - assisted in the creation of the Innovation Warehouse
- Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO) - a quango founded by the UK Government department UK Trade & Investment to encourage the growth and development of the Tech City cluster.
The rapid growth of the cluster has met with some criticism. Think tank 'Centre for London' said the development had little focus and could be counter-productive. The think tank also raised concerns over a skills shortage, connectivity, lack of mentoring and rising costs. Tech City has been called a "marketing gimmick" on the wrong side of London (away from Heathrow Airport) which is still over 30% more expensive than any city outside of London. James Dyson criticised the government for spending money on the scheme to attract international companies who drive up rents instead of helping start-up and hardware companies who he argues have greater potential than software and internet companies.
Tech City (at its locus) is well served by a number of London Buses as well as London Underground, Northern line (Bank branch) and National Rail, Thameslink services at Old Street and London Overground, East London line services at Shoreditch High Street.
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- Tech City Investment Organisation
- East London Tech City on Twitter
- Tech City News
- Department for Business, Innovation & Skills
- Tech City Jobs
- Jobs in Silicon Roundabout