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London: hot or not?

2 weeks ago I visited London to get a glimpse of its Startup scene. The area has been getting a lot of attention recently. According to the latest updates, more then 1300 tech companies located here over the last years. In 2007 London only had one incubator, now in 2013 “Tech City” counts nine.  Because I read lots of stories about the “Silicon Roundabout” and its impact on the European startup scene I was thrilled to see it with my own eyes. Here are the observations I am picking up on from my visit to London:

One stop shopping at the Google Campus

My first stop in London was at the Google Campus. Located in the heart of Tech City this is on of London’s hottest places. Whether you are looking for a co-working space, an accelerator, startup trainings or host/attend events, here you will find it. Seven floors where each house different organizations. In the basement, Central Working operates the co-working space. 2 floors up, Seedcamp is running the accelerator program. It was a great experience to see so many different people gathering at one location. This one stop shopping principle is what sets Google Campus apart from other Incubators, Accelerators and co-working spaces I have seen in Europe. For startup founders it is an extra motivation to be in an environment where you grow your company from one office. For the Google Campus itself it is important to create a culture where they have all the different expertise and experiences within hand reach.

Involvement of London Business School with the local Startup scene

In my opinion, the involvement of Business Schools and Universities with the local startup scene is one of the key ingredients to build a sustainable culture. It was great to see the London Business School co-organize startup events throughout the city. On Thursday night we visited the Startups Meet Big Business Event, hosted by the London Business School and organized by Tech Meetups.

Next to this, they are cooperating with General Assembly and the Open Co London event. I cannot tell if other universities around London are as much involved in the startup scene as the London Business School.  If not so, I can definitely recommend them to do so. Within each community there is always the scarcity of talent. A good collaboration between universities, startups and incubators is therefore critical to land graduates at a startup job. The Silicon Milkroundabout  is one of the initiatives by the local community to match recent grads with over 120 startups. London is packed with over 40 universities so hiring for startups can be easier than other hubs in Europe.

Open Community

London is offering a wealth of events for people to make new connections, share experiences, and more. The London startup community organized a lot of events around the Le Web conference. One of them, the Open Co London invited actors from the ecosystem to open their office to the public and talk about their business and share their experiences. Anyone interested into the London Startup Scene was invited to join sessions at e.g. Youtube, Wired, Google Campus, Peerreach and many others. London Open Co impressed me because it showed the existence of an open community and collaboration between all the different actors in London. There are many of such individual initiatives in the Netherlands, like the Startup Tour XXL held in Amsterdam last month. Maybe, it’s a good idea to organize an “Open Co The Netherlands”, where startups, corporates, universities, incubators and other service providers can meet to share knowledge and experiences.

Conclusion:

From what I have seen, London is hot. With Amsterdam and Berlin it ‘s one the hottest startup scenes in Europe. I was only in London for 2 days so have not been able to get a climbs off the full picture of the London startup eco system. So if you have any thoughts or experiences with the London venture capital system for example, feel free share them in the comments section. Next to this I am also interested in hearing more stories about the startup eco system elsewhere in the UK.

Image credits: az1172

Tijs Markusse
  1. Hi Tijs,

    Interesting post! I visited London also a week or two ago (for three days) and I agree with your conclusions. I had a chat with a guy that runs an incubation network organization, and he told me, in addition to your findings, some things about the London startup scene:

    1) London is a very expensive city, both to live and travel. This could have a negative impact on (the cashflow of) startups and attracting talented personnel.
    2) The number of spinouts (of universities) is at an all time low. Technology transfer offices are closing. I don’t know the exact reasons why.
    3) A positive thing about the London scene is that every building block of the ecosystem (e.g. media, politics, corporates, finance and production) is within short distance. If you compare this to Germany and the Netherlands, you’ll find that all elements are scattered across the country. To illustrate this, media: Berlin/ Amsterdam & Hilversum, corporates: München/ Amsterdam, Rotterdam & Eindhoven, finance: Frankfurt/ Amsterdam, production: Essen/ Eindhoven.
    4) You’d expect that there is a lot of money in London, based on the huge financial ecosystem. However, venture capital investments have been low last year(s). He told me that the amount on the payroll of two major London football clubs exceeded the sum of venture capital investments last year…

    Nevertheless, I think there is both a political will (top down) and the talent, technology and infrastructure (bottom up) to make London a hot startup scene.

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