Now we have Silicon Roundabout — where else are London’s existing, organic tech hubs?

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It’s weird how ideas get a certain zeitgeist. Last night at around 1am I put up my idea for a tech hub – a physical cluster for startups, probably a building or a set of buildings not unlike the converted Guinness warehouses in Dublin used for the amazing Digital Hub.

Today the FT’s tech correspondent Tim Bradshaw blogged about “Silicon Roundabout”, the area around London’s Old Street which was once a thriving dotcom scene in the late 1990s and is now re-claiming its heritage, with lots of tech companies floating around.

Dopplr’s Matt Biddulph coined the phrase “Silicon Roundabout” on Twitter last week and the idea has quickly taken off. Here’s the FT:

“Previously known as the busy junction where London’s Old Street meets City Road, Silicon Roundabout is not the most salubrious of locations for budding entrepreneurs. But a coalescence of young web and tech companies in EC1 dates back to dotcom days. Alongside cheaper rents and a surfeit of bars, tapping into that experience is part of the area’s appeal for many of its newer residents. Many will be hoping to follow the example of local hero Last.fm. The online music community was bought by CBS for $280m (£140m) last year, one of the largest UK web company buyouts of recent years.”

“For me it’s all about the community here,” Biddulph told the FT. “We moved in because our friends did too.” [Update: He says more or less the same thing in the Evening Standard which even did a bill poster, right].

Neither article mentions that Dopplr sub-lets space from Moo and can they literally shout across to the Moo guys on the other side of the office, but let’s not split hairs. This is the tech hub concept in action to a large extent, just created organically. In some sense Moo is creating its own tech hub. And all power to them for that, it’s a great move.

The Dopplr CTO has even plotted his fellow Roundabouters on Google Maps (below) and even created a social network: SiliconRoundabout.com.

Out of the 16 listed on the map, 50% are what you might call technology startups, the rest are more like Web, design, or creative agencies:

Here’s the list:

Last.fm – no longer a startup – bought by CBS, but a good example

Moo – Startup.

Trampoline Systems – Startup.

Skimbit – Startup.

Kizoom -Startup.

Dopplr – Startup.

AMEE – Startup.

Songkick – Startup.

IDEO – Design agency

Consolidated Independent – technology services company

LShift / Cohesive FT – Agency.

tinker.it – Technology and design consultancy

Schulze & Webb – Creative design consultancy.

Techlightenment – “Social Brand building” agency

Redmonk – Analyst firm.

Poke London – Creative web agency.

Meanwhile, over on the “The World’s Web & Mobile Startups” map we started for Techcrunch UK in February (and which has now been replaced by our London map on CrunchBase), there are even a few others.

My Neighbourhoods

Ether-ray.com

Rabbit MQ

Unlimited World

Welovelocal – (Now sold to GCap)

Bragster.com

So it’s a good, natural cluster with many of the networking effects that go with that.

Plus, Silicon Roundabout’s claim to be the heart of the London tech scene is getting a South London gravitational pull from Huddle which has four under it’s expansive roof in Bermondsey: Huddle, Rummble, Veedow, Kubera Money but is soon to be seven as three will come from the Seedcamp competion post-September.

Does that mean the tech hub concept is not required? Maybe, but I think it’s worth having the debate.

PostScript: Please add your company to CrunchBase and add in a full address with postcode. It looks like our our map is a little out of wack – most of the startups are in the most expensive part of London!

  • http://www.peopleperhour.com Simos

    Hey Mike

    I think the idea for a TechHub is great – we have something similar on a small scale it’s very beneficial; if anything, it keeps us sane! ;)

    Whether it’s a ’roundabout’ or a building or set of buildings I don’t think it matters hugely, although there is something to be said about things that come out of random conversations (coffee machine, corridors, watercooler and the rest of the cliches which are true!) so being in the same physical space does help. Shared services and infrastructure are obvious advantages too, especially for startups.

    On another note, there must be something wrong with the CrunchBase map indeed. I don’t see us (PeoplePerHour.com) on the map but when I search on Crunchbase I can find us, together with the full address, postcode etc. Unless I am missing something?

  • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher

    The CrunchBase map is doing all sort of weird stuff – I am talking to our developers about it.

  • http://www.afterworkdeals.com Burak Alpar

    Clusters are important for the development of all sorts of industries and London already has plenty of them for finance, law, media, haute couture, lebanese food, antiques and so on.

    The real benefits of these clusters come in the form of proximity to related services, inhabitants rubbing shoulders with like-minded individuals and also from recognition from outsiders ie a reputation as ‘the place to be’ if you’re in that industry.

    The problem with trying to base something like this in Central London is that it’s so hard to build a significant new identity quickly in this city. Perhaps the 2012 olympic infrastructure will yield an appropriate site, and it would benefit from links to Crossrail once it comes.

    Otherwise, we’ve got to come up with a better name than Silicon Roundabout.

  • http://www.ecademy.com Julian Bond

    I guess you should also mention that there are two major datacentres within walking distance as well.

  • http://www.ecademy.com Julian Bond

    A quick thought. You mean these startups have an office and don’t all work from home? How 20th century!

  • http://www.seren.com Mimi Hui

    Nice to know that we’re right in the heat of it. We’re Seren + we’re a service design agency.

  • http://www.tobyberesford.com Toby Beresford

    There’s a few tech startups round Soho too… there’s one called Visage Book or Face Library or something like that… ;o)

  • http://moblog.net alfie

    Don’t forget Moblog has an office here too!

  • http://www.songkick.com Ian Hogarth

    If there are any start-ups thinking about re-locating out East feel free to come by our office and have a chat about the area, we love it.

    We’ve also been running a monthly meetup for London based hackers at our office. There’s a bit more detail here (http://www.songkick.com/blog/2008/04/24/hacker-meetup-2-photos/) but it’s basically an opportunity for anyone hacking on a project to share ideas and get advice. We created it after experiencing how incredibly helpful it is to be surrounded by other hackers during Y Combinator.

  • http://opencast.wordpress.com Charlie Hoult

    Yes, clusters… profound concept indeed. I’ve been there operating First Tuesday, running a Web1.0 incubator space Metrocube and now blogging about business models, the next big thing, the new rules.

    I’m running an Open Office networking night, Castaway, for folk interested in beer, peanuts and digital. Check http://opencast.wordpress.com/castaway/ – offers to host, or RSVPs to attend welcome.

  • http://blog.snipperoo.com Ivan Pope

    In Dec 1996 UK Wired (remember that?) had an article about new media firms in Shoreditch, dubbing them the Ditcherati: “The Ditcherati: Old Street’s New Media”. I only have the cover to hand (framed on my wall, myself and Steve Bowbrick feature). I guess the real question is, after all this time, why so few startups in this place?

  • http://blog.mjelly.com james

    I think 7 Digital are also based around there?

  • http://www.thinmartian.com Andrew Walker

    Thin Martian the digital creative agency who do most of the stuff for MSN is on silicon roundabout too…

    • http://www.ralphlauren-poloshirts.co.uk ralph shirts

      Amazingly awesome list. I have been giving it some rep on twitter as well as some floats! Cheers,

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  • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher
  • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher
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