EastLondonLines brings you the founders, inventors and leaders who are turning London’s fortunes around
Unemployment is on the rise and the future is looking bleak, the headlines say. Times are tough, but some people are not content sitting back and hoping they win the lottery – they have started their own businesses and are out to make a difference.
In the past 12 months, east and south London have seen an explosion of start-up businesses of all kinds.
We’ve searched far and wide and picked just a handful of businesses that represent the bulging start-up culture that continues to grow in London. Each day this week EastLondonLines will bring you a video interview with one of the start-ups we’ve uncovered. And later this month, our listings pages will be updated with an interactive map of start-ups, making it easier for you to support small businesses in your local area.
See our special reports from each borough:
- Hackney: East London Furniture
- Tower Hamlets: PLA Studios
- Lewisham: Come the Revolution
- Croydon: Positive Elements
- East London Enterprise map (coming soon)
On the start-up scene
You cannot talk about start-ups in east London without mentioning Silicon Roundabout. The cluster of technology businesses that have set up shop near Hackney’s Old Street roundabout have become a status symbol for the capital as a creative hub, generating thousands of new jobs and prompting endorsements from David Cameron.
Since the formation of the government’s Tech City initiative in 2010, the number of technology firms in the area has risen from 200 to 700. Recently, Google launched its own co-working space for technology start-ups and Silicon Milkroundabout, a jobs fair for the technology sector, has doubled in size since its premier in May 2011.
Though the creative industries may be attracting most of the buzz around Hackney, the borough has seen new start-ups in the retail, hospitality and servicing industries.
While start-up businesses are doing well in much of Hackney, the situation in Tower Hamlets is much bleaker. The borough has some of the most deprived lower super output areas in the country and at the end of last year had 3,430 16 to 24-year-olds claiming jobseeker’s allowance, including graduates. The overall unemployment rate of 13.1 per cent is the highest in London.
Nevertheless, 70 per cent of all new jobs are created through self-employment and small businesses. Yet, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has pointed out in its Small Business Manifesto that the council does not include statistics for the number of new businesses in its Local Authority Agreement. This means it is very difficult to ascertain how many of these jobs are being created by start-ups and how many are from existing businesses.
South of the river, the outlook is brighter. Lewisham is among the top 10 local authorities that have been named least risky places to invest by property specialists BNP Paribas Real Estate. And despite being one of the worst areas hit by last summer’s riots, Croydon has seen a notable increase in business, with latest figures showing a rise of 10.5 per cent in the 2010-2011 financial year.
While a great many businesses are feeling the strain of the economic crisis, it’s worth remembering that start-ups are putting money back into the capital. The FSB reported recently that 62 per cent of small firms in London say they are looking to grow over the next 12 months, and high hopes have been pinned on the 2012 Olympic Games to boost business even further. Who knows? The next entrepreneur of tomorrow could be you.
By Aaron Lee and Jane McCallion