Prime Minister unveils interactive map of Tech City in a bid to boost east London technology cluster

Start-ups on the map. Pic:

The Prime Minister has unveiled an interactive map of Tech City, charting more than 600 businesses in east London.

The map, created by Trampoline Systems and designed by Playgen, collects social network data for all of the businesses in the area to help analyse their performance. Users can also add companies from east London that have not yet been listed.

During his visit to the Old Street area earlier this week, David Cameron said: “One year ago we made a major commitment to helping the tech cluster in east London grow.

“The successful growth we see today is thanks to the talented, creative entrepreneurs who have decided to set up there.

“As a government, we are determined to continue doing everything we can to help support and accelerate this growth.”

The attention the east London technology scene has received from the government and the media in the last 12 months. This has led to Google purchasing office space but also an increase in rent prices.

The government underlined a 225 per cent rise in the research and development (R&D) tax credit offered to small and medium sized enterprises, a doubling of capital gains tax relief to £10 million for start-up owners and an ‘Entrepreneur Visa’ to help attract talent.

However, there have been doubts about the governments aid to the technology community.

Paulina Bozek, director of Inensu, maker of social entertainment apps, said: “Our projects aren’t R&D, they’re much more commercial, so that is something that does need attention, because if you’re just doing R&D it doesn’t necessarily have the impact on consumer facing [businesses]. Whereas, Silicon Valley is all about: Get your products out fast.”

Tom Allason, founder and CEO of Shuti told EastLondonLines that the government’s ‘Entrepeneur Visa’ doesn’t address the key issue for his business, and others in the Shoreditch area, of finding skilled technical employees.

Tom Adeyoola, founder and CEO of Me_tail, a virtual fitting room for clothing retailers, said east London’s technology scene has become “self-perpetuating”.

A prime example of the ‘do it yourself’ culture among many of the start-ups is Silicon Milkroundabout (SMR), an employment fair, organised by Shoreditch-based live music aggregator Songkick, specially for bringing new talent to the start-up community.

The second event of its kind was held at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, on October 30. Over one hundred businesses, the majority of them start-ups, were present, courting close to 1200 graduates and experienced developers.

Dan Crow, chief technology officer at Songkick, told EastLondonLines that demand for exhibit slots at the first event in May 2011 far exceeded their expectations, and the story was the same this time, despite a venue four-times larger.

“We could have had more start-ups if we’d had more room. So clearly there’s huge demand for this,” he said. “It’s done on a fairly shoestring budget… I think with more publicity and effort we could make this even bigger.”

The main attraction to this event for start-ups was being able to met potential staff directly rather than going through recruitment agencies, which can be “impersonal and time-consuming”. Not to mention costly. Businesses paid between £200 to £2000 to exhibit at SMR, which demonstrates dramatic savings.

In that regard, it is clear why Songkick has had so much interest in the event from local start-ups.

Asked what the importance of SMR was, Crow said: “[SMR is] building the start-up community, particularly here in east London and in Britain generally, and I think that’s amazingly important. From a long-term point of view that’s the thing we really get out of it.”

SMR has proved popular with exhibitors and attendees, and a third event has already been scheduled for May 2012.

Crow believes the collaborative, entrepreneurial culture that has matured in east London is beginning to hit its stride. While he welcomes some government involvement, he is keen for SMR, and events like it, to remain by start-ups for start-ups.

“I don’t think it’s the government’s job to run this [SMR]. I think it’s much better run by the start-ups, whether that’s Songkick or a spin-off. I certainly think it makes sense that this should be something very organic, organised and run by the start-up community. That’s wants made it successful. I don’t want it to become a big bureaucracy.”

Additional reporting by Jane McCallion

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