Figure 1 – The Organic Cluster
Silicon Roundabout, is an entrepreneurial cluster which has has grown up around Shoreditch and Old Street in East London, extending to reach the Olympic Park in Stratford. It is a ‘hot ticket’ in terms of innovation and creativity and comprises start-ups, multinationals, academia and VCs. A number of big players (Cisco, LinkedIn, McKinsey, Imperial Innovations and Atos) have ‘presence’ and are actively working on various innovation and business development initiatives therein.
The cluster is essentially ‘organic’ (i.e. not specifically engineered around academia, as was largely the case with the Cambridge cluster). There has been assistance from central government, but much of the entrepreneurial success pre-dates this involvement.
Tech City Map (Figure 2 below) is a ‘window’ on the interaction between companies within the cluster. A high-level analysis of the map and interactions between participants leads to a number of conclusions about the cluster’s make up (Figure 1). It is safe to say it is significantly heterogeneous. There are a number of primary participant groups:
- Creatives and design companies – the vanguard of Silicon Roundabout?
- Hybrid businesses – creatives combining design, PR, web tech and promotions
- Social enterprises – not for profits etc.
- Academia – e.g. the Digital Media Innovation Centre at London Metropolitan
- Traditional businesses providing core services (legal, accounting, business support etc.)
- Financial services – in niche segments and through the City of London and investors such as Barclays
- Shared service providers – an interesting function supplying ‘economies of scale’ within the cluster for certain commodity functions (printing etc.)
- Physical and virtual spaces – e.g. The Trampery, The Cube and portals such as Space Projects
- Founding Partners of Tech City map – Thomson Reuters, Cisco, Atos, LinkedIn, Playgen and social analytics specialists, Trampoline Systems
- Digital media companies are pervasive (across video, animation, music, games, and mobile tech)
- Meet ups, and ‘drink ups’ are popular and a small industry has ‘sprouted up’ aimed at ‘entertaining the cluster’ and offline networking
- Consulting companies and journalists are present in smaller numbers
- I haven’t spotted any specific Gov Cos. (i.e. formally co-owned public / private sector ventures). I think it would be disingenuous to consider the cluster as such, as its success is attributable to the entrepreneurs and VCs
- Near neighbours is an interesting consideration. Does the cluster have a gravitational pull for ‘near-neighbours’? Mainstream fashion brands are establishing presences in Shoreditch, no doubt to leverage local creativity (and perhaps even credibility).
As I watch conversations flow across Twitter’s wires on the Tech City Map I’m intrigued to better understand:
- Is the map widely used by those within the cluster?
- Are the links and conversations which the map ‘surfaces’ representative of the ‘real’ connections and conversations between companies?
- Given the physical ‘intimacy’ of the cluster, is offline networking of more importance than ‘online networking’?
I’d love to hear your views. These are interesting ideas to ponder over ‘beer and nuts’ at a future Silicon Drinkabout.
Figure 2 – Tech City Map – The social graph of Digital Shoreditch