A Short History of Tech City

Oct 17, 2017 · Guest post from Heather McKay, Content Marketing Manager at Totally Communications Ltd

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Mention the area around Old Street, Hoxton and Shoreditch in London to most people and the first things that spring to mind will be probably hipster facial hair and expensive cups of designer coffee. What more and more people are coming to realise, however, is that this corner of London can lay claim to being the UK’s answer to California’s Silicon Valley.

A World Leader

Dubbed ‘Silicon Roundabout’ or, more officially, East London Tech City, this is a region which is home to a diverse and concentrated cluster of technology firms, ranging from innovative start-ups to outposts of some of the world’s leading and most firmly established companies. The precise number of companies based there may ebb and flow, but the prevalence is such that the area is widely regarded as being behind only New York and San Francisco in terms of the concentration of tech start-ups.

Government Input and Growth

Many of the companies based in Tech City were founded during the 1990’s but it is since the turn of the century that the area has emerged as a centre for innovation in its’ own right. The growing reputation of Tech City received a huge boost in November 2010 when then Prime Minister David Cameron visited the area and delivered a speech in which he hailed the enterprise already being shown by start-ups in Tech City, and unveiled ambitious plans to expand and improve upon the facilities available. These plans involved investment in the area from established tech giants such as Facebook, Vodafone, Qualcomm and Cisco, offering a combination of advice, support and infrastructure, and up to £15million in government funding. After just 12 months the initiative had seen the number of tech firms in the area rise from an estimated 200 to a figure nearer to 600. By the time London estate agent Stirling Ackroyd published a survey of UK tech businesses on 2015 it found that the EC1V and EC2A postcodes – both in the heart of Tech City – were respectively home to 3,228 and 1,580 tech firms per square kilometre.

TweetDeck Breakthrough

Another significant boost to the growing reputation of Tech City came in May 2011 when Twitter spent £25m on TweetDeck – a social media dashboard. The fact that, at the time of the sale, the company was only three years old was symbolic of the impact of a cluster of this kind, and of the speed with which tech start-ups can become highly successful concerns.

At the time of the sale, TweetDeck was based in an open plan office which was home to other tech start-ups such as SoundCloud. The advantage of an area such as Tech City is that it soon becomes a self-supporting phenomenon. The presence of successful tech companies encourages those just starting out to choose the same location, spurred on by tangible assets such as an established infrastructure and by the less tangible but no less important advantage of being surrounded by like- minded and highly inspiring individuals. The presence of a space such as TechHub, which allows budding entrepreneurs to work by utilising desk space and making use of the facilities such as meeting rooms and secure Wi-Fi rather than having to cover the expense of renting office space in central London, serves to underline the importance of Tech City.

The contemporary Tech City offers a blend of innovative digital disrupters and high-end companies such as Amazon, Adobe, Microsoft and EMAP. This interactive map helps to give an idea of just how densely packed the area is with tech start-ups. The fact that it is also home to the Google Campus, a space in which entrepreneurs can network whilst seeking and offering inspiration, is another sign not only of the status of Tech City but of the fact that it’s place in the digital start-up eco-system seems firmly assured.

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Heather McKay, Content Marketing Manager at Totally Communications Ltd

Heather has worked with the digital team at The Stage since 2015, a residential and commercial development on Curtain Road, Shoreditch. She has a background in marketing and journalism and has lead projects for the development on culture in the area, food and drink and now technology and startups.

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