I was flicking through the back-pages of TechCrunch UK this afternoon while writing up an interview (of which more later) when I noticed a comment form Azeem Azhar about why Silicon Valley is what it is:
“You run into Paypal/Google/ebay/[name great startup] founders while having drinks with friends in a bar. The pace of conversation, the swapping of ideas, expertise and contacts, is rife. The interconnections are dense.”
Now, from my personal knowledge, back in the early days of the Web in the UK during the mid-90s, the Web was often seen as a new place for advertising (plus ca change). Hence why a lot of Web agencies gravitated towards Soho in London, where a lot of advertising agencies lived. Drop into the Jon Snow or the White Horse and you might well come across the latest combat-trouser-wearing Web agency guru spouting forth on this new thing called “Flash” and how HTML was “so over”.
Gradually, agencies and start-ups proliferated, with many ending up in Farringdon and Hoxton. It was no coincidence that Channel 4′s fictional Nathan Barley (“webmaster, guerrilla filmmaker, screenwriter, DJ and self-facilitating media node”) was set in that area of London (if four years late for the dotcom boom, but then script writers are usually some way behind the curve).
Of course Dublin has for a long time had the Digital Hub, “a community of people – artists, researchers, educators, technologists, entrepreneurs and consumers, all working together to create innovative and successful digital media products and services which support their future” located a ten minute walk from the city centre. Quite why London has never caught onto creating this idea is bizarre.
So my question is where would you say the current tech entrepreneur scene is today? Where the pace of conversation, ideas, expertise, contacts and interconnections is making is a true new hub of innovation? Where is Silicon Street? (Think London, Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow, Dublin, Cork – or anywhere else in the UK or Ireland, let’s keep it free and easy).
And, more importantly, what’s the name of the local pub? Or club, even.
Of course I ask this knowing that the answer is hugely complex. And in fact if Web 2.0 is about anything it’s not about needing to have a geographical link to somewhere, since networking and building connections to create new projects is now as much online as off, if not more so. Perhaps this is a vain question, since every firm now – one hopes – is interested in the web.
Yes there are plenty of events to attend. But events don’t really give you a sense of any geographical zeitgeist right now. And I’d still be interested in our readers’ views.