Tech City: Is the government getting it right?

By Stuart Sumner
11 Nov 2011 View Comments
White Bear Yard's Eileen Burbidge

Yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron revisited East London's Tech City to renew his commitment to the vast number of technology start-ups that have populated the area in recent years.

Further reading

He stated that there are now in the region of 600 firms in the area, up from 200 this time last year, and added that his government would continue to support the initiative.

"One year ago we made a major commitment to helping the tech cluster in East London grow. The successful growth we see today is thanks to the talented, creative entrepreneurs who have decided to set up there," said Cameron.

"As a government, we are determined to continue doing everything we can to help support and accelerate this growth."

Cameron last visited the area, sometimes cynically called ‘Silicon Roundabout', a year ago. Before this week's visit, some companies felt that he was attempting to lay claim to a movement that had nothing to do with his government.

This summer, Chris Downs, co-founder of data analytics start-up Level Business said: "It was happening without the government, and I can't see any material impact that it has made."

However, Mike Butcher, co-founder of Tech Hub, an organisation that provides working space for entrepreneurs and start-ups in the zone, explains that the government was always engaged, just not always with the right people.

"There has been a series of virtually monthly meetings over the last year at Number 10 and in the East End, to bring together large corporates, start-ups, venture capitalists and banks," Butcher says.

"Since they'd never done this before, Number 10 invited a lot of the big tech companies almost exclusively at first, but that's now changing so we've got many more start-ups invited."

Today, most start-ups appear to be extremely positive about the government's involvement.

"We absolutely welcome the government's involvement," says Eileen Burbidge (pictured), co-founder at White Bear Yard, a firm that advises and helps to fund other start-ups.

"The government's focus on Tech City helps with the PR and media coverage for involved companies, which in turn helps with customer acquisition and advertising.

"It also helps materially with recruitment, and attracting much-needed talent that might otherwise only consider the financial or other established corporate sectors for employment."

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