From a corner of East London that most small businesses steered well clear of, Shoreditch has now firmly established itself as the leading hub for tech ventures and start-ups in the country – and possibly even in Europe. But what is it about this previously run-down corner of the capital that has attracted companies ranging from small tech firms to some of the world’s largest corporations?
Here, we take a look at the appeal of Shoreditch – from the investment and support that first saw it develop into a tech hub, to the factors that keep bringing new business into the area.
How Shoreditch Became the ‘Silicon Roundabout’
Historically run down compared to the nearby City, Shoreditch began to attract a number of small tech businesses in 2009, sensing opportunity in the area’s cheap and vacant office space. Shoreditch quickly caught the attention of the UK government, who announced plans to develop the area into a tech hub, which soon began attracting major investments.
It was also around this time that the burgeoning ‘Tech City’ predicted by the government earned the nickname that it retains to this day: ‘the Silicon Roundabout’, a reference to both California’s Silicon Valley and a local Shoreditch landmark – the Old Street roundabout.
Today, the area plays home to the third highest concentration of tech start-ups in the world – ranging from companies like Mixcloud and Last.fm, to big names like Microsoft and Facebook.
What is the Appeal of Shoreditch?
For many of the tech businesses and start-ups that decide to set themselves up in Shoreditch, the main draw remains the same one that drew businesses in a decade ago – the abundance of available shared office space Shoreditch has to offer.
From multiple coworking spaces catering to freelancers and small teams, to serviced office spaces like Proper Office offering a wider range of business facilities, the area has multiple workspace options that start-ups can take advantage of without having to purchase their own property. In a workplace era that has seen more and more businesses prioritising flexibility and creativity in the design of their work environments, this level of freedom has proved to be an extremely attractive draw for companies.
But outside of the area’s offices and workspaces, Shoreditch’s revival has also helped transform it into a cultural and culinary hub – an important element in attracting businesses. Companies have increasingly recognised the benefits of locating themselves in areas that their employees actually enjoy spending time, and Shoreditch offers a plethora of restaurants, bars, cafes, galleries and venues to complement its more business-oriented attractions.
As Shoreditch’s reputation as the country’s leading tech hub and an ideal working environment has grown, the area has seen increased attention not only from start-ups and small businesses, but major tech companies looking to capture some of the area’s energy. In 2017, Amazon began moving the staff of its UK branch into a 15-storey site that sits almost exactly between Shoreditch and the City.
Whether the presence of these tech giants helps or hinders the area’s reputation as a haven for start-ups remains to be seen. For now, however, it seems as if the appeal of Shoreditch shows no signs of fading.