We’re all familiar with California’s Silicon Valley, but perhaps less so with ‘Silicon Roundabout’ as it’s become known. London’s Tech City is a hub of tech start-ups located in the East End between the borders of Islington and Hackney, encompassing Shoreditch, Hoxton and Old Street.
The area has seen a revival in recent years, particularly since it became a hive of activity and growing community for tech-savvy entrepreneurs post the 2000 tech crash. The name ‘Silicon Roundabout’ was coined by Matt Biddulph in 2008 when CTO & CO-Founder of Dopplr , a social network for frequent travellers which was acquired by Nokia the following year (he is now CTO at Product Club). He noted the growing tech start-up community and jokingly said Estate agents may start referring to the area as such from his then office on Hoxton Street .
In 2010 the UK Government launched Tech City UK a publicly-funded non-profit in Shoreditch to support the East London tech cluster, which has expanded to supporting Greater London and other UK Cities . The vision was to make London one of the world’s greatest technology centres. Tech City UK will receive £2.2 million in 2015-2016 to support the digital business community and accelerate growth. It has received 14,000 applications to its Digital Business Academy, offering training to the next tranche of entrepreneurs.
"Tech City is a bit like Kings Road was in the 60s." said Richard Moross, who became one of the Roundabout's founding fathers when his online printing company Moo.com arrived in 2008. Tech City now has eight times more tech firms than any other UK hub . The area has proved a profitable place to invest with a number of high profile ventures and buy-outs. In 2013 Microsoft announced its ‘Ventures Accelerator’, giving technology founders and entrepreneurs the opportunity to expand their businesses through access to investors and mentors within the tech community alongside the company’s network. Intel, Cisco and Google all grew their operations in London to tap into Tech City’s world class cluster of skills, advisory services and links to leading educational establishments . The area was also home to Tweetdeck, the social media dashboard purchased by Twitter for $40 million. Google created ‘Campus’, global office spaces (including one in EC2 postcode area) to help focus technical energy and bring together creative entrepreneurs who can share ideas, learn and launch start-ups .
Capital investment in start-ups around the world soared by more than 90% from 2013 to 2014. In the United Kingdom, 290 deals were recorded worth a combined $1.2 billion placing the country fourth behind the United States, China, and India in terms of the amount of investment received for its start-ups . In 2010 the total funding raised by London tech firms was under £10m, in 2015 it’s close to a billion . Techcrunch pointed out that this still only puts London on a par with Redwood City in California with a population of 76,000 and home to Evernote, Reputation and Turn. San-Francisco based Uber also raised $3 billion on its own last year. Tech City UK isn’t unfamiliar with criticism, having to justify skepticism about its role and funding. It claimed in a 2015 Tech Nation report that of 47,000 tech businesses employing 1.46 million people, 74% were based outside London.
Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK said “Investment in London tech companies last year was $1.4 billion, that's 20 times what it was in 2010, did that happen by accident? Probably not. Of course not. It was double what it was in 2013, and in 2015 we're already seeing [new] records.” He later continued in his Wired.co.uk interview in June this year, “Yes, London employs 350,000 "tech people", but don't forget Tech City has gone from 200 companies five years ago to 2,500 companies.”
So keep an eye on the technological innovations emerging from ‘Silicon roundabout’, it is certainly much much more than solely a hipster part of town driven by cutting-edge fashion, diverse music, uber cool bars, East End ‘caffs’ and relatively affordable rents.