Ian Burrell: Time to build a legacy now the big boys have arrived at Silicon Roundabout

Viewpoint: The Silicon Roundabout district has now grown to about 600 businesses

Google will this week announce plans for its seven-storey "campus" near east London's Silicon Roundabout. Twitter arrived in the area last year through its acquisition of the UK business TweetDeck and now Foursquare, the location-based social-networking site from New York, is moving into the neighbourhood.

The big boys have arrived. Unlike most of the snarled-up gyratory systems in the capital, there is a fresh momentum about Silicon Roundabout, a district around the Old Street Tube station which was first identified in 2008 as a group of 15 start-ups and has now grown to about 600 businesses.

The Government has rebranded the area as Tech City and is hoping that the London Olympics will provide a further catalyst. A "Start-Up Games" is being planned at which 300 international tech companies will compete – by pitching to a panel of experts – for gold, silver and bronze medals that be presented on a plinth overlooking the Olympic Park. "We are going to be showcasing the very best of the area," says Eric van der Kleij, Tech City's CEO, who points out that 20,000 journalists will be reporting from east London this summer.

According to Mr van der Kleij, this digital hub is unrivalled in Europe and stands alongside Silicon Valley and New York as one of the three great technology centres of the world. His enthusiasm is not universally shared, however. Olivia Solon, of wired.co.uk, which has reported that 50 US-based executives from companies including Microsoft, Google and Apple have recently decamped to Silicon Roundabout, is disappointed that none of the London companies have grown to become internet giants. "There is no denying there are lots of cool companies but none of them are growing at any terrifying rate – we aren't seeing the next Facebook emerging," she says.

The biggest success story so far is Moshi Monsters, the virtual-pets site, followed by the likes of the concert-tracking site Songkick, the business-card printer moo.com and the relatively well-established music site last.fm.

Jason Goodman, founder of the digital creative agency Albion, was one of the first of the tech arrivals in the Old Street area, nearly a decade ago. Albion has recently taken an additional floor in the Tea Building at Shoreditch and is providing desk space for start-up companies. He praises Mr van der Kleij for having taken Tech City beyond the realms of "political hot air" and gaining the attention of the bigger players. "It makes a big difference when you have the likes of Google, Twitter, Intel – these guys fund a lot of the networking and provide a lot of resources. They create certainty to the environment and lay longer-term foundations."

But Goodman compares Silicon Roundabout unfavourably to Tel Aviv's Silicon Wadi, which has benefited from two decades of Israeli government investment, including in specialist education. "They are delivering phenomenal developers and amazing engineers." He would like Imperial College and the London School of Economics to establish facilities in the area "with a specific focus on the web".

Google's Silicon Roundabout facility is likely to be based on research and development and also house workers from outside the company. "The arrival of the Google building will certainly boost the area's reputation and investment opportunities," says Harry Cymbler, founder of the digital PR and social media agency Hot Cherry. Silicon Roundabout could give east London a greater lasting value than those five Olympic rings.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Account Manager / Sales Account Manager / Recruitment Account Manager

£25k Basic (DOE) – (£30k year 1 OTE) : Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright A...

Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

Trend Writer / Copywriter

£25 - 30k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Trend Writer / Copywriter: Retail, Design and...

Business Development Manager / Media Sales Exec

£28 - 32k + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering