Monday, June 2, 2014
Tech firms have backed Kentish Town to become the capital’s newest hub for digital startups – and one day rival Old Street’s famed Silicon Roundabout.
The Kentish Cluster, a new community for NW5’s tech-minded businesses, hopes to build a network of companies that can “put Kentish Town on the tech map”.
The area already lays claim to being home to some of the country’s most innovative new businesses, including the fastest-growing tech company in the UK (MVF Global in Ryland Road), the UK’s largest parenting website (Mumsnet.com in Highgate Road), the 2013 winner of Digital Business of the Year (The Beans Group, Highgate Studios, Highgate Road) and an award-winning software designer (Softwire, also in Highgate Road).
Bizarrely, even the world’s very first laptop – the Grid Compass by designer William Moggridge – was born above a dry cleaner’s in Kentish Town Road, and was used on NASA’s Space Shuttle throughout the 1980s.
But this hidden pool of tech history and talent has so far remained under the radar.
It’s something James Eder, founder of the Kentish Cluster and youth marketing company The Beans Group, wants to change.
“Moving to Kentish Town last November, we discovered a number of great businesses not only in our building but in the whole area,” he said.
“We thought it was about time that we introduced ourselves and got together. There has been an obvious focus on Tech City and there is a perception of Old Street and Silicon Roundabout as being the centre for what is happening in the tech space.
“But I think it means other areas haven’t had the chance to shine and as the Kentish Cluster shows, we’ve got some of the best award-winning businesses in the UK situated right here in north London.
“So there’s an untapped opportunity to create something great here.”
The group plans to meet up regularly to share ideas, and its first gathering at The Grafton in Prince of Wales Road in April attracted about 80 people.
While it’s only early days, collaboration between firms has already extended beyond buying each other a pint.
Zoe Cunningham, managing director of Softwire, said: “People mistakenly think that technology and inter-connectedness mean that we can interact just as well with companies anywhere in the world, but the truth is that we can form much more meaningful relationships by simply talking to our neighbours.
‘‘By getting to know the businesses near us in Kentish Town we have found long term clients and collaborators and also had a lot of fun.”
London’s claim to being Europe’s “capital of technology” was strengthened this month after it was revealed by Mayor Boris Johnson’s inward investment agency that record numbers of foreign technology firms had based themselves in the city.
Cluster members say “low rents and strong transport links” make Kentish Town a good place for businesses.
Mr Eder said: “Pretty much all of the firms I spoke with at the last meet-up said they were hiring – so it’s obviously a community that’s going to get bigger.”
The next summer event is being held at The Camden Brewery.
Visit kcdrinks.eventbrite.co.uk and kentishcluster.com for more information.