Some people call it Silicon Roundabout. Others refer to it as Tech City. However you describe it, East London’s technology start-up scene is booming. Matt McAllister finds out how this hub has managed to defy the downturn
There have been few industries left unscathed by the recession. All across the UK, businesses and public services are facing redundancies, cutbacks and negligible growth. Yet in a corner of East London there is a sector moving in the other direction.
Welcome to the Silicon Roundabout. Named after the large roundabout in London’s Old Street, this is Britain’s alternative to California’s Silicon Valley. Five years ago the technology start-up scene consisted of a handful of companies, but now it is made up of hundreds, many of which are actively recruiting and rapidly expanding.
Everyone you speak to within the sector has a refreshing sense of optimism about the scene and its ability to impact positively on the wider economy.
“There’s outstanding creative talent in and around East London,” says Kam Star, founder of PlayGen, which creates social games, apps and simulations. “The companies who are thriving are the ones that are embracing innovation and are not afraid to chop and change. At PlayGen, we have been absolutely focused on new innovations, and the last few years have been some of the best we’ve had.”
Star is well-placed to comment on the technology scene as he is the mastermind behind the Digital Shoreditch festival, which sees hundreds of start-ups (along with companies such as Yammer, Mind Candy and Unruly Media, which have grown beyond start-up status but still retain a ‘start-up mentality’) giving talks and offering networking opportunities for attendees.