Photo: wirewiping via Flickr
The British government has been buzzing in recent weeks about what it calls London’s Tech City, dubbed the new technology capital of Europe.It’s true, East London has now become a hub for tech companies ranging from long established online design agencies to dynamic and nimble start-ups. With a buzzing community spirit, communal work spaces (see TechHub) and just a five-minute stroll to London’s financial centre, the area is an attractive environment for innovating companies.
Some big names such as TweetDeck and Groupon have now set up shop in TechCity. We got in touch with some other companies, both big and small, that make up the landscape of London’s tech scene to talk about the area as well as their businesses.
Expect to hear more about a number of these guys in the near future.
Founder: Sinead MacManus
What is 8fold? '8fold is what I call a digital well-being company,' says MacManus. 'Digital well-being for me is using the web to work better. It's about helping my clients navigate what's out there whether that involves tools or social media or platforms they could be using for their business but in a really time effective way.'
Why Tech City? 'I think it's advantageous but I didn't move here because of it. I do go to a lot of tech events and tech meet-ups. There is a sense of community and most people are very helpful and supportive.'
8Fold going forward: 'The big thing I'm working on at the moment is expanding a digital assistant academy. I take low-income women, for example single mothers, and train them to create flexible income because it's difficult for them to go out and find work. It's a very big goal next year to roll that out in different boroughs around London.'
Founder: Leon Tong
What is BrightLemon? 'BrightLemon's vision is to become the number one bespoke online community agency in the UK and eventually the world,' says Tong. 'We study social psychology, community creation and community growth to help us deliver useful communities for our clients.'
Why Tech City? 'We were one of the first tech companies to move into Tech City. We moved here when our landlord sold the building we were in, in Angel not far away. We have worked with neighbouring companies on pitches and projects so it's helped our business because the area is increasingly attracting talent.'
BrightLemon going forward: 'We need more good people to join us, particularly technologists. We need more links with universities. We also need faster Internet connectivity.'
Founder: Andrew White
What is FundApps? 'The average consumer on the street benefits every day from all the latest advances in technology. Financial Service companies don't,' says White. 'They're stuck with using mediocre software that was written in the 1990s which they pay a kings ransom to use. FundApps is changing that. Starting with the hedge fund industry we are introducing cloud-based software which is startling easy and pleasant to use, think more iPad than the controls of a Jumbo Jet.'
Why Tech City? 'London has the unique mix of tech, culture and banking. As the crow flies it is one mile from our base among the iPad toting hipsters of Old Street Roundabout to the pin-stripe suit wearers at Bank in the heart of the City of London. So Tech City really is uniquely located - it's hard to imagine a low-cost area full of talent only a stone's throw from Wall Street.'
FundApps going forward: 'World domination might be a big ask, but we certainly think that going forward more and more banks and hedge funds will realise the advantages of cloud and switch to our software. We really want that any institution large or small can benefit from our technology.'
Founders: Nick Casey and Andy Davey
What is Squadify: 'Squadify connects players and teams for all sports, at all levels,' says Casey. 'We're a social sports network that allows you to search your local area for games and players, can suggest teams for you based on your ability and can even track your stats. Squadify is essentially online dating for sports.'
Why Tech City? 'For us it's the access to the people in the other start-up companies that have made this such a worthwhile experience. TechHub (where the company is located) which is in the heart of Tech City has great transport routes to all areas within London, making it easy to commit to meetings. Locating in an area with an abundance of start-ups has allowed us to share experiences and gain valuable feedback.'
Squadify going forward: 'Squadify is launching in private beta in London over the next few weeks and as we come out of beta will be spreading to the rest of the UK. We intend on increasing our reach and expanding into multiple geographies and languages as quickly as demand, finances and strategic partnerships permit.'
Red Leader creates online goodies especially for artists while being named after a Star Wars character
Founder: Katherine Green
What is Red Leader: 'We specialised in working with art-related organisations and we specialize in making websites, apps and social media marketing for that audience,' says Green. 'That makes us quite different, the fact that we choose to work with an arts and culture based client list.'
Why Tech City? 'The fact that there's now all this buzz about being a Tech City and that the government has recognised it is good. Just the fact that it's a really dynamic exciting area to be in. There's so much creativity going on.'
Red Leader going forward: 'I'd really like to continue working with arts organisations, particularly outside of London. In a smaller town you can make a much, much bigger impact, so I'm really interested in working with people outside of London.'
Founder: Tim Morgan (CEO)
What is Pick Live? 'By combining gaming mechanics with the fastest sports data in the world we have turned fantasy sports into synchronous social games,' says Morgan. 'We are the only company that make real-time play-along games, we know because nobody else has the data fast enough to do it. We built our system having tried every major provider of sports data in the world and none could provide us with data fast enough and granular enough for this type of gaming.'
Why Tech City? 'Tech City chose to locate itself near us! There are lots of people going through similar challenges to us and there are lots of good places to eat.'
Pick Live going forward: 'We are going to expand into the USA, but we need to find an alternative to gambling.'
Founders: Alice Regester, Dominic Cook, Seb Underhill
What is 33Seconds? '33Seconds is a specialist agency working entirely in the social space,' says Director, Regester. 'We provide PR to social tech companies, including SoundCloud, ThingLink, EyeEm and Moviepilot, and social media marketing to brands, organisations and content owners. We're different from other agencies because we have a totally holistic view of the social space'
Why Tech City? 'It is the heart of the thriving UK tech scene, and arguably of the European tech eco-system. Some of our clients are based in other flourishing European tech hubs, like Berlin and Helsinki, but as a London-based agency it was the natural place to be. There's so much buzz around the area and it's an incredibly exciting and motivating environment to work in.'
33Seconds going forward: 'Our goal is to be the 'best in class' agency for any company who want to lead in the social space. As an agency we want to stay at the forefront of social innovation and at the intersection of culture and technology, while providing the best possible service to all of our clients.'
Founders: Phillip Woodward and Jos Shepherd
What is HipSnip? 'We are a personal shopping application that helps you get advice before you buy,' says Woodward. 'The best way to explain it is to focus on the problem we're trying to solve. That's the consumer's choice; trying to figure out what the best product to buy is.'
'It's actually very difficult to get advice on what to buy from the right people. We're a bit like shopping 'Q & A.' You just post your shopping question and then we connect you with our community of experts.'
Why Tech City? 'From a programmer's point of view it's good to be able to mix with other CPOs and say things like, 'I've got a problem,' and get advice. From my perspective, as a CEO, it's good because we've actually built up a CEO support group of 12 early stage mobile and tech companies. We meet every couple of weeks and talk through problems and issues that we have.'
HipSnip going forward: 'We're going to try to push it forward quite hard now. Things have gone really well over the past four or five months. We've got over some milestones: Can we build it? Will people pay for it? Will people use it? Those are all happening.'
'We're hoping that once we've established a significant foothold in the UK we can move forward into other markets, the U.S. being the obvious one.'
Founders: Claire Wardle and Sue Llewellyn
What is Ultrasocial? 'We're partnered with a company called Ultra Knowledge. It develops web technology platforms; really cool, clever and smart technology,' says head of business development Jenni Wardle. 'It was doing amazing things but had no way of selling them. It was hard to sell their technology because the market didn't understand it. So we partnered with them. We train organisations and on the back of that we can use the technology that Ultra Knowledge has developed'
Why Tech City? 'There are clear benefits to be based around companies with experience. I still feel there's potential for someone to really own this community a bit more and really drive it. There's lots of opportunities and obviously being able to bump into someone in a sandwich shop and overhear a conversation about something that they're working on is a great benefit.'
Ultrasocial going forward: 'We're developing an online training product. Hopefully we're going to have something that's accredited, so there's a formal path of training that people will take to guide them through social media learning.'
Founder: Richard Leyland
What is WorkSnug? 'If you're a knowledge-based worker you can work pretty much anywhere that's got wi-fi,' says Leyland. 'But there are all these factors that let down the romantic notion of mobile working. WorkSnug is a solution to that. We do reviews of laptop friendly work spaces all around the world.'
Why Tech City? 'This is a really interesting city to be located but the bare reality is that we're located in East London because I live in East London! We've got no dependencies on Tech City as a movement or a PR campaign. But, it's nice that there is a vibrant encouraging climate for tech companies in that part of London, I think that's a positive thing.'
WorkSnug going forward: 'There is a lot for us to do in terms of market awareness and growing our user base. We have an active user base in excess of 100,000 which we're quite proud of in the niche mobile working space but we're going to get a lot higher than that.'
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