Silicon Valley it might not be, but I for one applaud the selection of “Tech City’s” location in and around Shoreditch in East London. Known as East London Tech City (or Silicon Roundabout!) the scheme has already received backing from tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Intel.
I’m not sure that any location selected by the Government would have been welcomed with open arms and minds. Outside of London? Somewhere else in London? Croydon? They have all been touted as alternatives.
Some of the criticism aimed at the Government has been around the level of funding for the plan and indeed the participation (or lack) of organisations. But would it have been different if the location had been different? Probably not.
Okay so the timing of the initiative wasn’t perfect and the slowdown of the economy and general lack of confidence in the short term future has had an impact on this. This landscape has affected organisations putting their money where their mouth is. But in principle it was, and still is, a great idea.
And yes, the infrastructure in terms of transport isn’t perfect, but to be honest that doesn’t seem to have slowed the amazing development of the area around Old Street, Shoreditch, Hoxton etc into a vibrant and growing hub of creativity. And that is a big plus for the selection of the area, as well as the focus it should get (if managed correctly) as the Olympic year approaches.
Also, let’s not forget that many of the tech giants started off in even humbler backgrounds. The favourite start point for the darlings of Silicon Valley was the garden shed: Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded HP in a garage, as did the Google Guys and Steve Jobs for Apple’s first tentative steps; and Zuckerberg worked up the billion dollar future of Facebook in a university dorm.
Our office is just on the fringes of the area in Farringdon; but I work with or know of some great marketing agencies that are based in and around that area. Whether that’s the global scale of LBi, or smaller agencies such as Nearby Digital who work with the local communities. These guys really understand how technology and ideas go hand in hand.
Why do I see that as an advantage? Well I see technology being inspired and working at its best not when it sits in isolation from the rest of the world in an ivory tower (or indeed Silicon Valley), but when it works in tandem with some of the ideas generated in the cauldron of real life.
I believe in finding the mix between Tech, Creative and Insight to develop solutions for my clients’ business problems. In fact as I write this piece, sitting next to me, is my Head of Technology, Creative Directors and Head of Planning. I believe that establishing a tech centre of excellence in the heart of one of the creative centres of the world will encourage and foster just that opportunity for Technology to drive creativity and vice versa.
Of course the real question is whether or not the Government and the blue chips of the tech world (both new and old) follow through with their commitment above and beyond satisfying the next photo or sound bite opportunity? I hope so.