London’s TechHub plans to be a mini-cluster for tech startups

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TechHub (@TechHub), the project set up by Elizabeth Varley and Mike Butcher to create a physical space in London for tech start-ups “from from across the UK, Europe, the US and beyond”, appears to be well on its way. It is now accepting a limited number of Founder Memberships, booking sponsors and details about the actual space will, I’m told, be outlined shortly.

Comparisons could be made with the similar-ish Plug and Play Tech Centers in Silicon Valley, although TechHub’s model feels like it may well be better adapted to the spread-out nature of the European scene, and potentially more flexible. It’s also not an incubator.

Not bad for an idea dreamt up a couple of years ago by my colleague and editor Mike Butcher, who has joined as a director and cofounder, advising on strategy. Perhaps because of that, the back-story here is relevant.

The problem they are tackling is quite clear. While in Silicon Valley you can’t throw a stone without hitting a geek or a VC, thus giving rise to the amazing technology cluster there, the opportunities to rapidly develop startups in Europe are witheringly limited (in fact, it’s amazing we do as well as we do). Unless they have an unlimited travel budget, startup founders and developers must find their cofounders and venture backers in their backyard – that can be very limiting. In addition, while London’s business friendly regime makes it a key European meeting hub for startups, actually living and working here can be pretty expensive.

So what’s needed is an affordable, easy to access “mini-cluster” of other tech companies, which lets you touch down in London, work and network – and, crucially, not charge you when you’re not there, as as a managed office or a high-priced private club does. With a sort of ‘pay as you go’ model for its community, it turns out that’s exactly what TechHub wants to do.

As Varley tells me: “London has all the pan-European VCs, it has new seed funds like Seedcamp and PROFounders, an active Angel investor market, many tech events and locally created startups as well as ones from Continental Europe. It’s also a bridge between Europe and the States. But to access this eco-system you shouldn’t have to be locked in to a pricey office lease, hit an expensive conference or join a London club where they are more interested in racking up your bar bill than who you are and what you’re doing.”

It’s a fair assessment. After all, what do most of us want, other than somewhere to sit, power, wifi, coffee, maybe a printer and, ideally, a spot next to someone interesting in the tech industry, rather than just the barista for company in a Starbucks.

But what exactly will it be like to work in when it launches? Varley says there will be a co-working space with flexible seating so members can work alone or move chairs/desk around to “huddle” on a project.

There’ll also be meeting rooms and on some evenings the venue will turn into an event space usable by any one of London’s many tech events, or ones coming from outside. There’ll also be about 30 or so desk spaces rentable on a flexible monthly basis.

Plus – get this – a device room where mobile startups can test their applications on Android, iPhone, iPad, Nokia Maemo etc etc.

In fact, she hopes that the initial London TechHub in the Old Street area of London, where there is already an existing cluster of tech start-ups, will just be the first of many geared towards technology people in other markets.

The site itself also has potential. It doesn’t look like much right now but I’m told it’ll have an internal member network at launch. The online side sounds particularly interesting as Varley says they hope to create a platform where startups can run applications that help the community.

How’s it all getting funded? Aside from memberships and desk spaces, TechHub is in the process of closing a “very limited number of founding sponsor partners”. The idea is that these are sponsors which will have something to offer TechHub members. She points out that TechHub is not a venture-based incubator and will be agnostic when it comes to the venture scene. It also has a business model: as a commercial entity it’s set up to be self-sustaining – crucial in London’s expensive property scene. This compares with some older style co-working facilities which have often withered on the vine when public sector, charitable or individual backers withdraw.

And what’s Mike Butcher’s role? Does TechCrunch have an involvement? “Absolutely not,” he says. He says he’s involved in a purely personal capacity to advise on what works best for tech people and startups.

“Hopefully, TechHub is going to be like a sort of ‘tourist office’ for startups, pointing visitors to where the tech scene is, where the companies are around London, across Europe and just networking people. It’s also going to be neutral. I’d love it if other bloggers and journalists join up. Elizabeth will run it day to day. Frankly, it beats the hell out of working in a Starbucks for me as well.”

It sounds like a few startups might well agree. Check out the many videos on their site in support of the idea, as they’re running a competition to win a free place if people submit a video about “Why I want TechHub.”

Update: We should have mentioned other co-working facilities in London, though to be fair none appear to be as laser-focused on tech as TechHub.

The Cube in Shoreditch is again non-sector specific, described as a “conceptual workspace” whose members consist of freelance graphic designers, copywriters, web designers and film production companies. The Hub is aimed at “social entreprenuers”. eOffice is not a co-working space but a managed office facility providing a hot-desking. Again it is not on the niche of tech. As a commenter points out below, The Trampery is a co-working space where anyone can drop in, aimed non-specifically at “software developers, designers, consultants, entrepreneurs and other creative spirits” as well as “creative freelancers and small businesses”. It’s the former office of Trampoline Systems.

Naturally, other co-working or community spaces don’t focus on technology, mainly because they can’t afford to close themselves off to potential business from outside that sector.

In fact, a close analysis of all the London co-working spaces listed at the Coworking Wiki reveals that not a single space is focused completely and totally on the technology sector. General they are aimed at the ‘creative’ sector which is dominated by design/media companies.

  • Dom A

    This is potentially great news – I was looking for flexible office space in London during 2009 for our start up site, and found a frustrating lack of choice. What was available was limited in terms of offer and often the price high and the lease terms inflexible, despite a number of vacancies.

    I gave up back then but if TechHub and other such clusters continue to emerge in London, and are broadminded enough to embrace a variety of web-based businesses then I predict exciting times ahead. I will certainly be investigating things further. This sort of approach can only encourage start ups to flourish.

    Many thanks!

    • Elizabeth Varley

      Thanks Dom, we’re hoping that with TechHUb bringing together the various elements of the tech start-up ecosystem (start-ups, developers, VCs, Angels, advisors), plus the various options for flexibly using TechHub will indeed help start-ups to flourish in London and beyond.

  • LaS

    In general I think the idea is great, but having looked at the site there are a few areas I am unclear about.

    1 – is Tech Hub being run for profit?

    2 – Tech Hub doesn’t actually appear to be that cheap. Having looked at sharing office space in the same area, I have come across cheaper deals.

    3 – companies such as Moo and Songkick already run their own mini-Tech Hubs internally by offering space to startups.

    It will be interesting to see if spaces will be offered at cheaper rates / free if any sponsorship deals are struck.

    Again, I think the idea is a good one, but I have my doubts over its usefulness. Also, more transparency would be useful.

    • Elizabeth Varley

      @LaS just to answer your questions:

      1. Yes TechHub is a business and it is for-profit.

      2. I think there will always be cheaper and more expensive deals in various places than anything one is looking at. We think we’re offering the services at a fair price if the benefits of having lots of like-minded tech people around you and some free events and advice work for you.

      3. Yes some companies offer desk spaces within their offices to start-ups. I think it’s great. We’re also pleased that the Songkick and Moo guys think TechHub’s a great idea too.

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  • Martin

    These are great news! We will be visiting you soon!

  • Charles Armstrong

    I applaud Elizabeth Verley’s efforts to get TechHub off the ground. However I’m concerned about what appears to be a bias in TechCrunch’s reporting.

    Last year I helped to launch the Trampery ( This is Shoreditch’s first co-working space, providing a similar range of services to those planned for TechHub. Like Dom’s experience noted above I’ve come across lots of startups who struggled to locate suitable space in Shoreditch. We opened the doors and started welcoming co-workers on 29 October.

    I thought this would be of interest to TechCrunch readers so I wrote to Mike (Butcher) twice with details of the Trampery’s facilities, pricing and the launch. He chose not to write about the Trampery on either occasion. That’s fine, TechCrunch is free to cover whatever it chooses.

    However it does seem somewhat strange to post three long articles about TechHub before the space even exists; and not write a single word about the Trampery even though it provides similar facilities and has been running for six months.

    There’s no sense of sour grapes. The Trampery community is growing and evolving just as we hoped. It’s a non-profit project so there’s no pressure to rope people in. Recently we’ve started hosting the London Hackspace’s monthly meet-ups as part of our support for the tech community (the next event is 10th March).

    When journalists take on outside commitments they need to pay attention to ensure that their editorial choices aren’t compromised. In this case I’m concerned that TechCrunch might have let its usual high editorial standards slip a little.

    How about correcting the balance? A journalist from TechCrunch will be a welcome guest at the Trampery any weekday between 10am and 7pm.

    : c :

    • Mike Butcher

      Hi Charles, actually the impression I got from you was that The Trampery was a co-working space aimed at any kind of business not specifically at Tech (which is what TechHub is) which is why we didn’t bother covering it. Now you’ve put me straight we’ll be happy to update the post.

      • Charles Armstrong

        Thanks for the quick response Mike!

        For the record I’d have been happy to clarify any questions about the Trampery’s focus, you only needed to ask.

        It’ll be great to see the Trampery featured in future when TechCrunch discusses co-working facilities for the London tech community.

        : c :

      • Mike Butcher

        BTW, I just thought I should re-state what my involvement in TechHub is, so here it is.

        I have been up front about my involvement from day one, because I really want to see this idea happen for the benefit of the whole tech community. I’ve been writing about this idea since July 2008 (and came up with the name “TechHub”).

        My post on September 24, 2009 about the launch of the actual project said: “I’m declaring an interest, in as transparent manner as possible. This is a personal project for me and my involvement will have nothing formally to do with TechCrunch.”

        I will be financially compensated for my time, which seems fair. What TechHub is trying to do will hopefully benefit the whole tech community so it seems reasonable that the people who put in the hard graft to make it happen are compensated for their time and input.

        As the post says, TechHub is a commercial entity, and as such it is a limited company of which I am a director. I have been such a vocal supporter of this idea and I hope I can offer expert advice to the project about what startups and tech companies need.

        TechHub is in my bio on this site and has been for some time, and is also on my Crunchbase entry.

        And btw this post has been updated to reflect some other great services available to startups.

      • fedd

        > co-working
        sorry, for the foreigners… what’s the difference? not offices but just desks?..

      • Elizabeth Varley

        @fedd Co-working’s not just a UK concept, in fact things were really kicked off in the US with spaces like Citizen Space etc.

        Yes it’s about renting desks, not whole offices, but it’s more about having a variety of people in one space working, chatting, sharing ideas, collaborating etc. The ethos is about more than just the physical services of desks and power, and is about new ways of using space, coming together and working in the new economy.

  • igniman

    What about working remotely? Not everyone wants to move their business to London

    • igniman

      geez, can’t I read?

  • Drummond

    Great idea … I’ve already applied for membership and can see this being really useful.

  • Ben Rometsch

    The TechHub site lists Mike Butcher as “a board advisor on strategy to TechHub.”. Do you have a financial involvement in the company, Mike? What is its legal status? Is it a limited company? What is your legal involvement to it? Do you own any equity in it?

  • Jonathan Markwell


    Why is there a need to distance TechHub from so called “traditional” coworking?

    My impression of TechHub is that it is simply an exclusively product focused coworking space. Your values don’t seem all that different from those of the coworking movement (summed up in 35 words at: TechHub could gain a great deal by being more involved in the wider community, not least by participating in the coworking visa which would allow members to roam between places all over the world.

    I admire the fact that you are taking an exclusive approach and I very much hope it works out. We’ve found that a mix of product and service businesses works well at our coworking space, The Skiff, in Brighton. Not least because early stage services businesses tend to have more revenue they can use to pay for the space than early stage product businesses do.


    • Elizabeth Varley

      @Jon thanks for your thoughts. You’re right in terms of our values, we’re seeking that great collaboration and ideas-sharing that comes from co-working, plus the cost savings that come from sharing space as opposed to finding self-containted office space.

      We already have in our plans to look into participating in the co-working visa programme as there is a great network of co-working spaces around the UK and elsewhere which can only benefit everyone.

      I think Mike’s comment about the difference with TechHub is that we have a more international outlook than many co-working spaces, plus our model of taking on sponsors, plus running a more extensive events and training programme.

      However, that ethos of bringing together like-minds and sharing space is of course at the heart of what TechHub and many other spaces are doing.

      I know you’re doing great stuff with The Skiff and am looking forward to popping in to say a proper hello and take a look around when I’m next in the area.

      • Jonathan Markwell


        I’m still not hearing a big differentiator between TechHub and the coworking spaces I’ve visited around the world. I’ve not been to one that doesn’t have an international outlook and all of them have programmes of events and training. We also often have companies sponsoring us, some buying the beers at events all the way through to others paying membership fees for their staff. There is so much direct value in it that few sponsors insist on putting their brand all over a space and making a song and dance about it. Not all of it gets written up on the web since so much of the communication in the coworking community happens in person.

        It does seem to me that your main differentiator is that you are aiming to make the space extremely high profile and high growth with the support of TechCrunch. While it wouldn’t be my preferred approach to building a coworking space, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. I’m keen to see how the project develops, and look forward to being a part of it.

        Would be great to have you down to visit The Skiff. Some of the events we have this month are listed here: The £5app on 30th of March is likely to be a particularly good one.

        I’d encourage you to also visit other spaces such as New Work City in New York and Co-up in Berlin, most, like ours are web technology focused.

        One thing to note: Coworking as in the coworking movement doesn’t have a hyphen, as explained here:

      • Elizabeth Varley

        @Jon – we’re actively recruiting members from outside the country in which the space is situated, and have plans to expand into the UK regions and internationally under the TechHub name. As I understood it, many coworking spaces are more locally-focused, enjoying the network of spaces operated by other individuals or organisations.

        I may have had the wrong impression with this, but either way, I think the coworking movement is a wonderful thing. I haven’t been as involved in discussions on the forum as I’d like (though I do pop in to read when I can), simply because we’re working at speed to get TechHub running asap.

        Really appreciate your feedback and your support, and look forward to seeing you soon.

      • Jonathan Markwell


        International recruitment makes a great deal of sense given your goals of making Europe more connected and it does make what you’re providing quite a different animal from most coworking spaces. Obviously it also introduces a load more challenges when it comes to forming a community around the space. It’s probably too much for those of us creating spaces as side projects to take on while earning a living doing other things. :)

        Typically members of The Skiff spend work time when they’re not here at home, in cafés, at meetings or travelling. Internationally the Coworking Visa has worked well for us to welcome far travelling visitors and to use spaces around the world.

        I’m also a bit of a lurker on the coworking list. Much prefer having conversations in person. :)

        l look forward to seeing how TechHub develops and hope to meet you again soon.

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  • Patrick DAlton Harrison

    Anyone know of anything similar, but a bit further west, closer to the centre? Looking for something closer to Euston.

    Thanks for any responses.


  • Iqbal Gandham

    I came across the Techcrunch-hub a few days ago, and I still have not worked out what it is, and what you get for £600.

    Admittedly I maybe a little slow on the uptake, and of course anything which aids startups is a great idea, but a little more info as to what you get. The following is from the website:

    Membership gives you

    * All benefits of TechHub Membership in our Old St area space in London (desks, power, wifi, printer, use of kitchen area and more).

    >>> So does that mean I do not pay £295/mnth ?

    * The ability to book co-working desk space for £10 a day at TechHub in London and be part of the community.

    >>>> So this is extra ?

    * As well as accessing the TechHub community for face-to-face networking, you’ll have online access via the exclusive member network.

    >>> So you have access to a online network, a kind of paid social network ?

    * Access to TechHub events, including free member-only networking events.

    >>> What events, are these different from techcrunch events, I mean there are sooo many events, how will these differ.


    * Three years membership of the TechHub community for the price of two, giving you a year free as a thank you for supporting us right at the start.
    * Priority booking for TechHub events.
    * Founder Member section on the TechHub website.
    * Access to exclusive Founder Member events and networking opportunities.
    * Ability to help influence the future development of TechHub at the special Founders’ Forum.
    * Priority on membership renewal, so even if there’s a waiting list, you’ll always have a place at TechHub, as long as you want it.

    >>> Am not sure what any of the above actually means.

    Does the £600 mean I do not have to pay ADDITIONAL for a deskspace, OR do I still need to pay the £295/mnth for deskspace. If the latter it leads me back to the question of what you get for £600, aside from access to a online social network.

    Again maybe I have missed the point by a mile, hence someone clarify.

    There was a mention above of other hubs in and around London, maybe Techcrunch should get a list of all of these, with price points, and actually try to network these together instead, maybe virtually. The benefit of having not just tech hubs is that the customers of these “geek” products are possibly sitting in the other hubs.

    Of course that would mean there is no focus, but a generic list of hubs with focus would be a great idea.

    One last question, since all startups love to be “stealth” startups, what happens in a hub :-), we all wear disguises


    • Elizabeth Varley

      @Iqbal TechHub co-working membership means you can use a desk space as and when you need it:

      Founder Membership
      £600 for 3 years
      Plus £10 each day you use the space


      Standard Membership
      £300 for 1 year
      Plus £10 each day you use the space


      If you need a permanent desk space where you can store your stuff and have the same space every day:

      Deskspace Membership
      £275 a month

      All of the options mean you’re a member of the TechHub community, and can access events, and all of the options give you a space to work at – it just depends whether you want it every day, or just sometimes.

      The idea is, if you only want to use it from time to time, then you’re not paying the same fee each month. So, say if you use it six days one month, you won’t be locked into the same cost the next month when you’re travelling and won’t use it at all.

      The daily use fee rather than a flat fee for means that members who use it only occasionally pay a smaller amount than members who use it all the time. We think it’s fairer that way.

      People who need to use it all the time and want to store things/use a desktop computer etc will pay just the monthly fee that they can give one month’s notice on if they no longer need the space.

  • Geoff Wright

    Pricing seems a tad expensive? You could have a self-contained space (2/3 people) and club memberships for that a month – if you look properly…?

    When you say extra, I say distraction : )

    • Elizabeth Varley

      @Geoff If you can find a self-contained space in central London for 2/3 people and fund club memberships, all for £275 a month, then you should definitely take it (and let me in on the deal)!

    • Daniel

      Hi, I am a member of THECUBE in East London and from reading your points it does seem expensive. At THECUBE I pay £195 per month for unlimited workspace which works out at £1per hour. I do web aps and its great to be around other indutries to get other perspectives.

      Thanks Dan

  • Iqbal Gandham

    @Elizabeth, tks for the reply.

    So basically for a month its £600/36 = £16/mnth and then £10 every time you use it. So instead of going to starbucks I can come to techhub. Have I got that correct ?

    So if I use it for say 10 times a month, which is about twice a week (give or take), I am paying £116 for a desk, and a desk is basically a desk with wifi access?

    If i want a meeting room, is this above and beyond the £10, I am thinking it is.

    Is there an option which is just pay and go, instead of £300/£600 upfront for what seems like access to a social network online/offline and priority tickets to events ?


    • fedd

      > £300/£600 upfront for what seems like access to a social network online/offline and priority tickets to events

      this is very clear.

      but if it (network) includes potential customers/investors look at me for more that 5 second and then not forget, it could be worthy, i could consider

  • Elizabeth Varley

    @Iqbal TechHub is for members, so we’re not offering drop-in fees. Sounds like might suit you better.

  • Marco

    I’ll take that as a no, then. Money up front for vaporware.

  • Araceli

    Hi, We are THECUBE. We are actually area specific, we are here to help ideas grow and produce creativity.What creates the glue is everyones ambition to move their business along, which is happening everyday. A fashion designer using a graphic designer for their promotion campaign or an illustrator getting financial advice from a consultant. That is what we love and are passionate about – connecting people, making businesses grow, and pushing innovation.

  • Steve

    I have to admit, early last year I was making some inquiries to do pretty much this in the Silicon Roundabout area as well – just renting a much larger office than I needed for my startup and running it as a coworking space, might still manage it, although that can only be a good thing in focusing the startup scene into one (manageable) area.

    Having ties to consumer electronics companies and app developers I came to the same “device room” conclusion, but alas, as I was slow on the uptake it’ll forever go down that I copied TechHub :)

    Still, all the very best, the London startup scene needs more places like this so that we can get on with developing things rather than wasting time and money on finding and developing proper offices in central.

  • Matthew Evans

    Well, we’ve just launched a competitor to techhub. The Hoxton Mix is just around the corner from Techhub on Paul Street but our focus is more on the creative and digital side rather than purely tech.

    Desks are going for £300 a month or £275 for 4 or more, so similar price, but we aren’t doing any kind of memberships or anything. It’s literally first come first served.

    Will be interesting to see how much takeup we get as Techhub claim to be inundated.

  • Elizabeth Varley

    TechHub is launching on July 12th and is now taking membership applications.

    You can get a preview of the space by going to one of the open days:

    Address is
    Ground Floor
    76-80 City Rd
    EC1Y 2BJ

    You can join the mailing list to get regular updates here:

    Permanent desks are £250 a month.

    Annual Membership of the co-working space is £300, plus a daily use fee of £10 (members only).

    Our first event is for Tech Founder Speed-Dating on 12th July 2010–seedcamp-bring-you-tech-founder-speed-dating—12th-july-2010_69.html

    We’re looking for an on-site Virtual Assistant to help members:

    We’re hiring receptionists:

    And Pearson (which has a big digital arm, as well as the FT) is our first Founder Sponsor:

    Hope to see you at TechHub!

  • caps

    You can get a preview of the space by going to one of the open days:

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