Welcome to the (Campus) Party: Why East London is the right place for international start-ups
The start-up scene in London is still young, but it’s maturing quickly. In the half decade since its conception, ‘Tech City’ has expanded from fifteen recognised technology companies to a community that, conservative estimates suggest, is in excess of 1,400. On the eve of Campus Party, the world’s largest tech event, we ask why London is becoming the spiritual home of the start-up.
With start-up clusters around the globe experiencing similar levels of growth, what has made East London so attractive to young, international start-ups? A stroll around Central Working, Seedcamp or The Bakery will encounter more nationalities than a UN summit, so why have they chosen Shoreditch over New York, Berlin or Tel Aviv?The city surrounding the scene plays an important role. London has a long history of being at the forefront of global advancements in design, innovation and creativity. An eclectic mix of boroughs with unique characteristics and qualities are linked by vastly improved transport links, a consequence of Olympic investment over the last decade.
East London in particular has undergone a transformation in recent years. Once the rough-and-ready home of the capital’s ‘alternatives’, Shoreditch and its neighbours are now some of the most sought after locations in London. Rental costs have gone up 50% in the last three years – although it is interesting to note they still remain a fraction of the average cost of premium areas like Soho.
Squeezed into converted warehouses between Old Street and Shoreditch High Street, the entrepreneurial start-up community has a home that reflects its mentality. No frills. Functional. Efficient. The companies that are moving to East London are streamlined and focused, and they want their work space to echo that. There is greater demand than ever for converted warehouses that offer little more than a roof and a floor. The traditional corporate office space has been largely rejected by Shoreditch’s new wave of start-ups.
East London’s appeal also stems from its geographical proximity to a diversity of areas, something that mirrors the start-up community. Unlike certain cities that significant distance between financial, urban, creative and industrial quarters, London is a patchwork of diversity tied together by a strong infrastructure.
The financial district of Liverpool Street is a five minute walk from Shoreditch High Street’s creative epicentre. This, in turn, is a short stroll from Silicon Roundabout, the subject of a £50m renovation project to make the traffic island the symbol of ‘Tech City’. There are few places in the world where this assortment of hubs can be so easily accessed.
Like its counterparts in New York and Berlin, the start-up scene in London has been revolutionised in recent years. But what has been a clear catalyst for development in the UK has been the influx of international start-ups keen to position themselves at the heart of the ‘Tech City’ project. Speak to almost any visitor settled in co-working space in East London and they’ll tell you the same thing – Shoreditch is the only place to be as a technology start-up. And long may it continue!