Thanks to the Olympic Games and the government’s plans to continue with the area’s regeneration, London’s East End is at last ready to say a long goodbye to its impoverished past and is already becoming an exciting and vibrant place to live and work.
The best example of how an area in decline can become a thriving working community, can be seen at Tech City, better known by the people who work in and around it, as Silicon Roundabout.
At the beginning of 2008 the area around the Old Street Roundabout became a popular place for startup technology companies. The rents were cheaper than central London, but it was well served by public transport and it had a good mix of pubs and café’s. And that was that, or was it?
Inside one of those start-up’s was an enthusiastic developer called Matt Bidulph, who one day, in a jokey mood, sent a tweet calling where he worked Silicon Roundabout. Some months later at a party he met a journalist and mentioned the tweet to him. The journalist, from the Financial Times did a story on the area and it was then picked up by other newspapers. It wasn’t long before the East End startups were getting a lot of attention.
Other business began to show interest in the area and in 2010 David Cameron announced the government’s plans to help Tech City become a rival to California’s Silicon Valley. The Prime Minister also promised that companies like Facebook, Google and Intel would invest in the area.
At that time there were 200 companies based in East London and some of them weren’t happy about having to share their space with the big boys, fearing that the area would lose its community spirit and office rentals would become out of reach.
However, the big boys did come. Intel and Amazon now rub shoulders with companies like the online printing company, Moo, who were one of the original 2008 startups and Mind Candy, who created the hugely successful Moshi Monsters game in 2007; along with new startups, like Streetbank and Buddy App.
In 2012 Google opened the doors to the Google Campus. The idea behind it is to provide a place where budding entrepreneurs and startups can work, learn and play in a creative community. It has a café basement where campus members can get together to network, share ideas, or challenge each other to a game of table football. It also holds events and conferences, mentoring and skills classes.
Office rental prices have risen, but the area is still an affordable alternative to central London and when Crossrail opens it will be even better connected.
In 2013, those 200 companies had risen to 1,300, and the area is fast becoming the best known technology hub in Europe. London has always been the place to find talent from all over the world and at Silicon Roundabout it is hoped that the most enthusiastic, intelligent and vigorous producers of our technical future will want to set up in business there.