Amazon Just Put A Rocket Under London’s Biggest Tech Startup Cluster

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With the news that Amazon will open an R&D hub in London focused on developing services and APIs for TVs, games consoles, smartphones and PCs, we’ve reached a big inflection point in the development of London’s largest single cluster of internet-oriented tech companies.

It’s eight-floor, 47,000-square-feet space in Glasshouse Yard, Barbican, is equi-distant from the large Shoreditch-centred cluster centred around the Google-backed Campus London (containing Seedcamp, Springboard, TechHub, Central Working) and the smaller (but developing) Clerkenwell cluster centred around the Passion Capital-backed White Bear Yard. (We’ve taken as our reference data for this, the excellent map produced by Duedil, which does not focus on the East of London but maps all tech clusters in London).

But Amazon’s arrival is significant, not because of the name but because of what they will do: engineering and development. Now, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but until now many of the initiatives in the East London tech cluster have focused around, well, initiatives. That’s not to do down the many events and conferences and meetups which have made it so vibrant in recent times. And it must be noted that Google’s Campus – produced after prodding from Number 10 and the TCIO – doesn’t put much onto its bottom line, so it’s pretty altruistic stuff. (Indeed, our sources say No. 10 ‘nudged’ Amazon into the area as well). But what’s been more important has been the development of the underlying core strength of companies: companies like Moo, Songkick, Mind Candy’s MoshiMonsters, and the like.

It’s clear now that the cluster is developing core “Anchor Companies”. These are the companies around which any cluster can really start to thrive because they employ large engineering teams, out of which new innovations grow, new companies are born, exits are made and investments are re-cycled back. We’ve identified the main ones as:

Amazon
Mendeley
Yammer (now part of Microsoft)
Huddle
7Digital
Moo
Mind Candy

And not forgetting, nearby:
Skype
Expedia Europe

Yes, there are plenty of others: Amee for one is trying to measure the planet’s carbon footprint. And there is Editd, Lookk and plenty of others. But these are still relatively early companies. The companies above are big, well-funded and proven. And Amazon’s arrival is about to supercharge that cluster in ways we haven’t seen before in London.

Amazon today specifically mentions the development of APIs. It owns UK streaming service and Netflix competitor LOVEFiLM as well as UK-based TV app company Pushbutton. We are not talking far-flung sales arms with no engineers. We are talking software engineers, user-interface experts, graphic designers, the works. Those people will be within walking distance of some of London’s hottest tech companies, and that can only be a good thing.

So, it’s exciting to see some real technology talent arriving to address all those issues we’ve been highlighting recently.