As Tech City celebrates its first anniversary, its radical vision for Croydon could see the borough becoming the fastest and most attractive place for tech startups.
The Croydon Tech City initiative has already been responsible for fostering nearly 50 new tech startup companies since October 2012.
The January 23 event, which took place at Matthews Yard, the epicentre of Croydon’s renaissance, saw a local assemblage of software developers, tech founders, venture capitalists, technologists, entrepreneurs and creatives, who are committed to making Croydon an attractive home to early-stage technical and digital startups.
The founder, Jonny Rose, 26, conceived the idea in the aftermath of the 2011 riots, which left Croydon damaged and demoralised.
Rose, a devoted Christian, who was already involved in the community and worked in a tech start up, was inspired by the TechHub movement in Shoreditch. Realising that the same talent existed within the borough, he set up a blog listing 10 reasons why Croydon could become the next tech city.
Rose was amazed by the response to his blog and it encouraged him to set about building a community of entrepreneurs in an attempt to resuscitate Croydon.
The 13-month-old venture, which has had no funding from external bodies, has all been driven by personal money from Rose, Nigel Dias (Co-Founder), and Sarah Luxford (Head ofRelations). Rose said: “This is bottom up regeneration, this whole movement of Croydon Tech City is community driven. Tech City has grown from zero to talking to central government, advising some really big names, and has had offers of investment from America.”
An Angel Investor said: “Croydon Tech city is doing as much for the local economy in Croydon, as Google campus is in London, on a bootstrap budget.”
In addition to the tech community, a big network of firms have rallied to support the ecosystem voluntarily. Simon Bird, founder of dotDigital, an international company with over 150 employees (80 in Croydon) is one of their supporters.
Sean Durban, a local and a partner at Bryden Johnson & Co Chartered Accounts and Business Advisors, said: “There are lots of people here, who might have good ideas about what they might want to do in business, and we’re here to help them achieve their goals.”
The team of three currently work with the council but are not beholden to them. Matt McMillan, a Business Investment Advisor for Croydon Council, who attended the launch said: “Croydon’s got this fantastic story going on, Croydon Tech City is right at the heart of that, changing how people perceive Croydon. We see ourselves as enablers allowing people to do this.”
One of Tech City’s community ideas is to educate every young person in the borough about coding. Rose became acutely aware of a massive skills deficit in coding among 9 to 11 year olds. He said: “Coding is becoming more and more important to our lives. I do not want Croydon’s young people to be resigned to low paid jobs, I see coding as a really low level way of getting them trained, and preparing them for the job market of the future.”
The Future Tech City initiative was set up in 2012 and is currently working in 14 schools. They aim to establish a code club in all 94 schools in the borough by 2015.
Rose said: “We are celebrating how far we have come within a year, and we want to get people excited about the future. We are trying to instil in people from Croydon and the surrounding areas, the belief that you can build a successful business in tech, in Croydon.”