Shoreditch and Old Street have turned into a tech hub to rival California’s Silicon Valley. Dubbed Silicon Roundabout by former Dopplr chief technology officer Matt Biddulph, the area has become the UK’s flagship technology base. Once comprised of small start-ups attracted by cheap rents, it now houses some of the top digital and media agencies along with companies like Moo, Black Tomato and Last.fm.
The number of technology companies based there has risen from 15 to 5,000 in just five years, partly down to governmental support.
Microsoft is creating a technology centre nearby to help those wanting to get into the tech industry; Amazon has opened a development centre; and Cisco, DC Thomson and UCL are opening similar schemes to support companies in the area.
If you download music, chances are you’ve heard of 7digital. Launched by Ben Drury in 2004, it was one of the first big tech companies to settle in the area, long before the boom, and has become quite a success story.
Its download store allows users to access over 23m leagl, high quality tracks. Its technology also powers music services for companies like Samsung and has convinced sceptical record labels to embrace digital music instead of defending CDs. In doing so, 7digital has become what Drury refers to as “a PayPal for digital content”, a platform for companies that want to provide music services but don’t want to manage the transactions themselves.
HMV bought a 50 per cent stake in the company for a reported £7.7m in 2009 and the company is now seen as a real contender in the sector, alongside global names like Amazon and Apple.
This week it was announced as the first digital music store on Microsoft’s Firefox OS.
Avoiding Mass Extinctions Engine (AMEE) is a software project that captures data to calculate and track the carbon footprint of companies and organisations. While the mission is to provide information on every business organisation in the world, it currently focuses on the 2.8m trading entities in the UK.
Anyone logging on to amee.com can see a profile on any given company, outlining its environmental performance based on a unique score from 1-100 (100 being the best), which indicates the organisation’s environmental efficiency compared to its industry peers. The idea is that the score encourages companies to update their profiles with actual data allowing it to see how it fares in relation to others in the sector, while also aiding transparency.
Earlier this year the company announced a partnership with cloud-based platform CloudApps, to allow businesses and organisations like BP, Morgan Stanley and the BBC to easily report sustainability performance to stakeholders and assess efficiency.
While the company was created in Berlin, SoundCloud is one of the top companies on Silicon Roundabout. It is an online audio distribution platform originally created to allow chief executive Alexander Ljung and co-founder Eric Wahlforss to share music they were working on online and comment on what each other was creating.
Today, the tool is proving invaluable for promoting new music and has become the world’s leading social sound platform, with over ten hours of music and audio posted every minute.
At last count it had 6m users and the numbers are rapidly increasing. Many are using it as a tool to discover new artists and upcoming bands are using it as a way to distribute their music.
Earlier this year the company was heralded as the best international start-up of the year at Crunchies, an annual award ceremony celebrating the best in technology innovation each year. Last year it won the Schroders Innovation Award at the European Tech Tour Awards.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a prolific tweeter who doesn’t use TweetDeck. Founded by Iain Dodsworth, who has now become a poster boy for the area, the service allows users to customise their Twitter feeds.
After launching it became the most popular Twitter application with a 23 per cent market share.
Despite never making a profit, Dodworth sold the then three-year-old company to Twitter in a deal said to be worth around £25m, making him an overnight millionaire.
The sale marked an important milestone for the Silicon Roundabout. It proved the UK has a pool of talent to rival those in America counterpart and also that the area is strong enough to attract global companies.
TweetDeck is still being promoted as a standalone product but is now being used by Twitter as tool to generate advertising revenue.