London is starting to get serious about building a startup scene, so it gathered a bunch of reporters to promote “Tech City” this week.
Tech City, originally dubbed Silicon Roundabout, is a section of East London where startups are cropping up. Google Campus is in the heart of it, and companies like MindCandy and Yammer have offices nearby.
As part of the Tech City experience, the reporters stayed in a new, high-tech boutique hotel called CitizenM.
The hotel, located in Bankside, doesn’t have a concierge. Instead, guests check themselves in and out on touch computer screens. In each room, a personalised Samsung Galaxy tablet greets guests and lets them control everything from the blinds to the lights on the tablet. Internet access is free and there’s no password. Netflix movies can be watched on the TV from the tablet for no charge. CitizenM says it wants to make guests feel like they’re at home.
The chain was started four years ago in Amersterdam. CitizenM will be coming to the United States later this year when it launches a Times Square branch in New York City.
We were blown away by the tablet-controlled room. We don’t know how we’ll go back to a room where you actually have to get up to do things.
Full Disclosure: London & Partners, a not-for-profit funded by the city’s mayor, paid for our flight and hotel to London this week to cover London’s startup scene. It paid the full price (about 400 pounds for three nights) at the CitizenM.
When you turn left, there are desks and chairs where people can work. It's a popular spot because the WiFi is quick and free, even for non-guests.
There's also a bar and a kitchen with food that's served until all hours, from breakfast buffet through dinner.
As you walk toward the bar, there's an outdoor courtyard on your right. It was a little too cold to sit outside, but the patio will undoubtedly be packed this summer.
If you forego the kitchen and bar, you can head straight back to the elevator bank. It's decorated like a bookshelf with odd trinkets and a photo of a man hiding behind blue sequin underwear.
Even though the halls are dark, the rooms are full of light. Our room was on the third of five floors. The centre of the hotel is the courtyard, so every room has one large window for a wall.
The bed takes up one-third of the room. On it is a big fluffy comforter, two pillows and no sheets. A TV is mounted on one of the walls. There is a strange stuffed animal too.
The computer you check-in on notifies the device in your assigned room so it's waiting when you walk in.
The Galaxy can also be controlled by tilting the device. Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Google+ and YouTube can all be accessed from the tablet with a single click.
You can also turn the lights on or off, up or down, and change their colour. My room didn't stay purple for long. I switched it from red, to blue, to yellow to green.
While it wasn't close to London's most popular attractions (Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Eye, etc), the room was convenient, comfortable, and it really felt like home. We can't wait for CitizenM to open in NYC.
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