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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
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

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer / Front-End Designer - City of London

£27000 - £33000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End Devel...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Junior PHP Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Guru Careers: Front End Web Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: Our client help leading creative agencies ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable