FORGET Silicon Valley and Cambridge’s Silicon Fen, the Silicon Roundabout celebrated by David Cameron in a speech late last year is the UK’s newest and coolest hub of entrepreneurship. Dozens and dozens of IT start-ups lie just around London’s Old Street roundabout, spreading into Shoreditch and further east. The area’s cheap rent drew them in initially, but now serves to facilitate what economists call “clustering.” Clustering is not just what the gentlemen in the pictures on this page are doing, but it is part of it. Businesses often benefit from grouping together in the same area because it allows easy networking and the sharing of ideas, and people looking for their services know where to find them.
At the start of this year, City A.M. asked investors in new enterprise what type of business they were looking for. Almost all those questioned said they had their sights set on east London, searching out the next Facebook. Some took this more seriously than others. Just last month Index Ventures, a venture capital firm, moved into one of the shared office spaces that are popular in the area alongside Moo, a digital design and print company.
The shared office space is just one way that the silicon community is making the most of their cluster. Three of the people pictured here – Ollie Maitland, Sean Bowen and Ross Motley – are fine examples of how the area’s dynamic works. Maitland’s company Byng Systems designs cloud computing software, Bowen’s company Push Technology pushes content around the internet at super speed and Motley is what is known as a “nomad”. An Imperial College maths graduate and part-time DJ, Motley is a freelance software architect. He comes up with the original outlines for software and commands a high price for his services. Motley designs the framework for the products Byng fleshes out and sells. And Push Technologies collaborates with Byng on projects for their customers. It all turns on an intricate web of relationships.
Bowen explains: “Push isn’t based out here, but I come down here a lot to work with these guys. I’m an ex-City boy and work with banks, so it’s all a bit too trendy for my liking. This stuff seems to keep the creative juices flowing for them – and that’s all good.”
Maitland thinks the environment helps: “Being based out here is great for business. IT start-ups need to be based around here to attract the best creative people. They’re attracted to the atmosphere.”
SOME OF THE SILICON ROUNDABOUT’S HOTTEST STARS
Songkick: An online database of concerts, tour dates and festivals. www.songkick.com
SocialGO: A service allowing users to create private social networks. www.socialgo.com
Tweetminster: Connecting users to UK politicians and news. tweetminster.co.uk
Smarkets: Sports betting website. www.smarkets.com
TweetDeck: Twitter browser that connects different applications.
FactSet: Supplier of market data and economic information for financial investors. www.factset.com
Moo: A printworks that turns virtual content into printed material. www.moo.com
Byng Systems: Designed cloud computing software company. www.byng-systems.com
Horsesmouth: Social network for informal mentoring groups. www.horsesmouth.co.uk
Floxx: An anonymous location-based flirting website. www.floxx.com
Last.fm: The world's largest online music catalogue. www.last.fm
WhoSampled: A database of sampled music. www.whosampled.com
My Neighbourhoods: A local neighbourhood platform to help you meet your neighbours.
Shooting People: Independent film-making distribution network. www.shootingpeople.org