London’s Lesser-Known ‘Tech Cities’

September 29, 2015

10:00 pm

It’s been more than seven years since the tech cluster around Old Street was jokingly dubbed ‘Silicon Roundabout’, and the capital’s digital economy has come along in leaps and bounds since then. London is now hailed as the tech capital of Europe, with recent research suggesting the city’s technology sector is worth £18 billion and employs 200,000 people. Tech City, as Silicon Roundabout is now more commonly known, gets most of the attention when journalists, bloggers and industry insiders discuss London’s fast growing tech sector, but it goes without saying that technological innovation is not confined to one small part of East London. High-growth companies can startup and scale up anywhere and everywhere. In fact, London is now home to not one but many thriving tech clusters. Here are some of London’s lesser known ‘tech cities’.

Brixton

Recent research by Office Genie, which was highlighted in an article in Startups.co.uk, revealed that Brixton currently has the cheapest desk space in London. So it should come as no surprise that cash-strapped startups are shunning Shoreditch and setting up shop in and around SW9.

Brixton has a growing number of coworking spaces, including Impact Hub, 465Brixton, The Work Lounge Brixton, The Brix Hub and The Piano Club. The area also plays host to its own TEDx conference, TEDx Brixton, which will return for its third year in October, while a new design festival, Brixton Design Trail, launched in September.

Brixton has its own startup incubator, Hatch, a social enterprise that supports and incubates startups created by young entrepreneurs. Hatch is funded by a grant from JP Morgan Philanthropy, and has incubated four cohorts of startups since its launch in 2014.

Brixton even has its own answer to Shoreditch’s ultra-trendy Boxpark in the form of Pop Brixton, a series of shipping containers designed to serve as a community hub for retail startups, social enterprises, designer-makers and pop-up shops.

Startups in the Brixton area include, Hoi Polloi, a digital media collective, Output Magazine, a crowdfunded publishing startup serving the visual communications sector, Alice’s Pig, a fashion ecommerce startup, Obba London, an event discovery app for parents, and Brixton Energy, a solar energy cooperative.

Croydon

Croydon is shaking off its reputation as an ugly concrete jungle and its association with the 2011 London riots to claim its place as ‘the Silicon Valley of South London’. The Croydon Tech City initiative was launched in 2012 to help support and promote the area’s burgeoning tech cluster, and the results have been impressive: ONS data confirms that Croydon is now London’s fastest growing tech hub, and the area is now home to over 1,000 digital, technical and creative startups.

Matthews Yard, a creative hub and coworking space, opened in Croydon in 2012, and Croydon Council recently offered property developers a package worth up to £2 million to encourage the creation of more coworking or incubator spaces in Croydon. A business incubator launched by Sussex University is also due to open its doors in Croydon soon.

Startups and tech companies in Croydon include dotmailer, an AIM-listed email marketing platform, VideoGamer.com, a digital media startup, QuidCycle, a fintech startup, and Chew.TV, a live-streaming video platform for DJs that has been described as Twitch for DJs.

Holborn & Bloomsbury

Most people have probably never heard of the part of London known as ‘Midtown’. That’s because it was rebranded with this new moniker just a few short years ago, and the attempt to fix something that wasn’t broken has met with a lot of resistance. But whatever name we give it, there is little doubt that the area around Holborn, St Giles and Bloomsbury is home to a wide range of innovative startups and global tech companies. Amazon moved into its 210,000 sq ft office on Holborn Viaduct in 2013 and LinkedIn signed a lease on 50,000 sq ft on New Oxford Street the same year, while the London offices of Booking.com are situated on High Holborn and King.com has two offices in the Holborn area.

Coworking spaces in this area include The Den, Rentadesk, Exchange at Somerset House, Coworking Desk, playhubs and ClubWorkspace. playhubs also serves as a startup incubator for the games sector.

Startups in the Holborn and Bloomsbury area include carwow, the car buying startup that announced a £4.6m series A in December, holiday rental platform HouseTrip, fintech startup MarketInvoice, social TV startup Beamly, peer-to-peer lending platform Zopa, youth hostel startup HostelBookers.com and online accountancy startup KashFlow.

Victoria

Although SW1 is one of the most expensive postcodes in London for serviced offices, the Victoria area has managed to attract a small cluster of startups and tech companies thanks to its central location and excellent transport links.

Microsoft’s London offices are located in the Victoria area, while Intuit, BskyB, and Experian all occupy office space nearby. Truestart has recently partnered with Land Securities, which owns much of the land in the Victoria area, to launch a startup accelerator aimed at retail and consumer tech startups. In addition, Victoria is home to a number of coworking spaces, including UberOffice and Archie & Doris.

However, Victoria may prove less appealing to startups after Land Securities’ £2 billion regeneration of the area is completed in 2018, which could push commercial rents higher and drive smaller tech companies out of the area.

Startups in the Victoria area include Stratajet, a booking platform for charter flights which raised $5 million earlier this year, Campus Society, a social network for university students, the big data analytics startup Rosslyn Analytics and marketing automation platform Lyris.

The City

The City vies with New York for the title of financial capital of the world, and is home to the global or European headquartered for many of the world’s biggest banks. But as technology begins to disrupt every sector, including financial services, research suggests tech companies have grown to occupy more office space in the City of London than financial services firms.

The City is home to Bathtub2Boardroom, a startup incubator, as well as several coworking spaces such as CoWork City and the UK’s biggest coworking space, WeWork.

Startups in The City include the soon-to-launch robotics startup Automata, AIM-listed fintech firm Monitise, user-generated news platform The News Hub, B2B deals startup Huddlebuy, the crowdfunded online jewellery startup Rare Pink, recruitment app Nudj, digital PR platform JournoLink and risk management startup Percentile.

Beyond Shoreditch

Although the area’s high startup density and wealth of business support continues to attract new startups to the Shoreditch area, recent news about violent anti-gentrification protests in Shoreditch could undermine the area’s appeal for some founders. London’s lesser-known tech clusters could offer these founders a solid range of alternatives when choosing a home for their new startup.

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Philip Hoey is a freelance business and technology journalist based in London, UK. He has written for Tech City News, Irish Tech News, AlleyWatch, and DeveloperTech, and has been quoted as a business source by The Guardian, The Scotsman, The Daily Mail, Money Observer, The Daily Express and The Telegraph.

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