London TechHub – It might actually be happening

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Back in July I got a little tired of the perennial problem that hampers the development of startup eco-systems in the UK and Europe: The lack of definable geographic clusters where startups can congregate. This is not just a “nice to have”. Silicon Valley became a big deal – admittedly after decades – because people there were largely in tech. They met eachother and started things together. In the UK there have been lots of regional initiatives. But few centre on London because it’s usually considered big enough to take care of itself. However, without re-running all the arguments in that post, this view ignores the fact that London is now a huge trading hub for US investors and tech companies to meet UK and European companies. That’s something a ‘tech hub’ (however defined) in London could take advantage of.

So I wondered out loud about starting a debate on exactly where the “TechHub” was, or should be, in London. We had lots of comments on the post (69) and clearly it turned out to be an issue worth discussing.

A day later, unknown to me without any fore-warning, the meme about Silicon Roundabout broke in the press and talk of a “TechHub” now seemed rather a “top down”, imposed concept. Clearly there was a large organic hub (check out the map of startups there) forming in the Old Street / Kings Cross / Shoreditch / Farringdon borders areas. This makes a lot of sense. The office property is cheaper, many engineers/developers live in these areas, plus it has great transport links to Heathrow and the Eurostar.

Frankly, I forgot about it after that. Who needs someone banging on about socially engineering a cluster when one is actually forming? Just sit back and watch it grow.

However, clearly a few more people were interested in the idea. We’ve now had the emergence (or should I say branding?) of Digital Riverside (just South of the Thames) here’s a full map of startups in the area. Huddle is doing it’s part in London Bridge, with some hotdesks supported by Sun Startup Essentials, now housing Veedow, Rummble, TheCareerMole, Seedcamp winners’ Basekit and UberVU plus a Sun Startup Essential hotdesk recently used by BookingBug. The rest of the area has, Reevoo, Truphone, SmithBayes, Masabi, Wigadoo, Globant, Parkatmyhouse, Headshift, Admoda and Periscopix. Moo is building an little eco-system of its own in its voluminous offices right on the Old St roundabout, and is surrounded by even more companies than that.

And there are a few more slightly engineered meetups/areas forming: Silicon West, “Soho Valley/OpenSoho” and perhaps a few more attempts will appear.

King’s Cross also recently got a new an interesting venue in the form of The Hub which looks like a it might be a nice venue for co-working as it is a kind of mashup of a “member’s club, an innovation agency, a serviced office and a think-tank” (a tad reminiscent of Place perhaps…).

But the most interesting development was that I started getting contacted by people interested in the property angle.

Perhaps this is to be expected, but unlike most property entreprenuers they actually seemed to genuinely be into the like the idea of a TechHub.

Paul “Fletch” Christian, a genuine tech entrepreneur and founder of the Liveaps startup, has thus sought out an actual 5 storey building which could house around 175 people – including meeting rooms/cafe, roof garden etc. He blogs about it here (btw the building in question is not the one in the video on that post). He is looking for feedback about whether to go ahead with the idea or not so I encourage you to email him if this sounds interesting to you.

Meanwhile a chap called Peter Storey who runs a serviced office business down in Bow in an old garment factory enthusiastically threw up a blog called and has even suggested surrounding the project with “a network of mentors, angels, etc who understand very early stage tech”. He too is looking for interested parties and companies to join up and make presentations to the LDA , NESTA, etc. Here’s his email.

So there you have it – a run-down of just some of the activity surrounding the idea of clustering tech companies in London. Let’s hope these efforts blossom. Bloom, even.

  • wim vernaeve

    interesting read Mike, maybe one day you’ll be managing a tech property imperium :) We’ve actually just moved but decided to stay in the Shoreditch area for a lot of the reasons mentioned in your articles. We’re having a party at our new office next Tuesday to celebrate the relaunch of our site, so if you or anyone wants to drop by, just send an email to

  • Sam Collins

    That’s great to see a lot of effort going in the right direction. I’ve no doubt that in the flurry of attempts to organise the tech eco-system, that it does actually result quite productively.

    Mike, I spoke to you a while back about our tech meetups in Edinburgh. London has some really good stuff going on, but I want to make sure that what’s going on in the rest of the UK also gets connected. So we’re starting to gather a crowd in Scotland and will start working our way down the country.

    This island is missing the network or community or whatever word we want to use to describe interaction. I appreciate that this article was about the London scene, but it took me four and half hours to get the train down today (the plane left without me), it’s not that big, can we try and connect it all?

  • Mike Butcher

    Sam – I completely take your point. And I sympathise. The thing is, I guess what I am arguing here is that if London starts to make a bit more “sense” in terms of where the companies are, it’ll make the whole business of doing business more efficient.

    As for connecting Scotland and others parts of the country, yes, I agree. But allow me to point out that there are always initiatives to create these hubs regionally. What they lack is a big mother hub to plug into that has international significance – a place where the big cheeses in this business come in and out of every day.

  • Max Niederhofer

    Thank you, this was a great post. London tech scene: onwards and upwards!

  • Fletch


    Thanks very much for the mention in this post. I thought I might outline my motivation for putting time into this concept. Two really basic things: 1. I’d dearly love to see a new Last.FM or Skype type startup fly outta London and 2. It would be great for our developers to rub shoulders with other .NET people and maybe solve bugs/share tips over a coffee (I’ve seen that happen before and what a time-saver it can be!).

    Cheers – Fletch

  • Dragos ILINCA

    These venues are small right now, but they seem to be very helpful anyways. Just being around other startups, picking their brains and sharing the enthusiasm goes a long way.

    The Huddle venue is great btw :)

  • Pete Storey

    Thanks for the namecheck as well, Mike. Echo Fletch’s sentiments entirely – there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be generating a string of Last or Skype style startups. The purpose of a physical hub (as opposed to a virtual organisation) is entirely for those informal interactions and collaborations.

    @Sam – your point about London-centrism and what is often termed “the regions” is a fair one. What we want to achieve with TechLondon is to extend facilities and networking to companies based out-of-town, and indeed right across Europe. It’s a fair bet that almost all ambitious tech companies will need to spend some time in the capital, seeing clients, suppliers, media, investors etc. What we’d like to do is to provide the sort of networking and meeting resources that a lot of people use Adam Street or Soho House for, but at a fraction of the cost. There’s also a number of options for networking in a virtual space, so we want to offer those to all comers as well.

    Interestingly, my own startup, Execer, was very nearly based in Glasgow. This was in part down to academic partnerships, but was also because of the wise and enthusiastic support of Scottish Enterprise (I appreciate other opinions are available …) The LDA by comparison has been in chaos since the mayoral election, and are doing little to support the tech startup sector. TechLondon also needs to act as a pressure group to emphasis politically the significance of our business.


  • Rummbling in Bermondsey Street

    Any post that promotes the bevy of startups hiding in and around central London, is all good as far as I’m concerned. We’ve got a great little cluster down here near London Bridge, but by the looks of the linked maps, the cluster is not so little and its growing!

    This island has always seemed to have a habit of pulling itself up by its bootstraps in times of crisis … With the credit crunch looming large, that should provide a suitable fighting foe to keep us kicking against with zeal!

  • Basti


    this is a great post and i would like go give it a little bit of a different spin with my comment.

    I think that all the entrepreneurs in London should be way closer to each other. In my opinion that is even more important than whether your startup is based in Shoreditch or around London Bridge.

    The reason why the valley works is also because of the way the people work and interact with each other. Startups and founders exchange ideas, there are common meeting spots and many organized events. People tend to talk more about their ideas and because of that it is easier to find people to start a project with.

    In London we are getting closer to that but we could do more. To be fair, there are already some initiatives like the Social Media Cafe or the Mobile Monday and they both work well.

    I guess my point is that we need more and a broader variety of these events. I´m looking for a jour fix to discuss the challenges of growth and choosing the right strategy. I would enjoy it to discuss our VC experience with other startup´s and or VC´s. I would like to see more than just 12 London startup´s in one room and i think i´m not the only one.

    If the times are getting rougher than then best thing we can do is to be even better connected, support each other and listen to new ideas or solutions that might help everyone. Let´s sit down and think about how we can be stronger in a few month, maybe by using each others products, or by working together with clients etc.

    Mike, what about a meeting under the TechCrunch wrapper? We would be happy to sponsor the first event.

    Drop me a line under: or @basti on twitter if you want to discuss.



  • Sam Collins

    Mike and Pete, yes you’re right, I understand the need for what you’re explaining. I think for a minute there I expected that we could all just act together and the collective inertia would be enough; but you’re right, it does really need an epicentre. Having taken that point on board, I completely understand how London is an ideal candidate for this epicentre.

    As you know I am truly for this and I really would like to see this come to fruition sooner rather than later, let me know if I can be of any assistance – I’m more than happy to contribute toward this, as are half of Scotland.

  • alan p

    I’d say there is a triangle emerging, with 3 main nodes – Soho, Kings Cross/Old St and London Bridge area.


    * ! is not DARPA key in Silicon Valley success?
    * ?? why geo congregate when you can twit, posterous, dimdim, …

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  • Kirk Wylie

    Hi, Mike,

    Sorry, but as someone who’s from Silicon Valley and now lives in London, I think you’re probably missing the most salient points here, which are that London has a technology-requiring financial services industry that Silicon Valley never had (and that acts as a gravitational well for software engineers), and that you’re thinking Micro whereas Silicon Valley is Macro.

    I’ve written it up here: (Blogger doesn’t do trackbacks) after Rob Knight alerted me to this whole discussion.


  • Sandeep Ahluwalia

    Bedfont Lakes is a hub for technology companies.

    IBM, SAP, Cisco and Ascential Software are all located in Bedfont Lakes.

    I suppose this isn’t quite the tech hub you envisage as these are all big tech giants and not really a place for start-up companies.

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