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US tech entrepreneurs moving to east London at unprecedented rate

27/01/2014 by


Unprecedented numbers of technology start-ups are launching in the capital as thousands of entrepreneurs – many from the US – rush to launch their businesses near Silicon Roundabout.

As well as London businesses, many start-ups from Silicon Valley are choosing London as their first port of call to launch in Europe, contributing to the record number of new businesses in the sector.

Experts said the rising profile of Tech City has helped attract foreign talent as well as the improving economic climate and London’s timezone.

Some also said that they preferred the “more collaborative” environment of London to the “competitive” spirit of California’s Silicon Valley.

Desk space around Old Street is in such demand – and with Google’s move to Kings Cross – that start-ups are spreading far outside of Silicon Roundabout.

Central Working, a members-club/office space company with bases in Bloomsbury and Shoreditch, said business is booming. Their new space in Whitechapel has already nearly filled up ahead of its opening next week.

Founder and CEO James Layfield said: “There are lots and lots of sexy companies coming from America and they are coming to us. The economy’s picking up and everyone’s coming to London.

“We are a jump-off point for the rest of Europe, we’ve seen a lot of companies coming from America but also Dubai. Here everything is a 20 minute Boris bike away. You’ve got this easy way of doing business. You can go and talk to guys in the City, then the next minute be at a really creative ad agency.”

Recent US start-ups to launch in the capital include Techstars – a mentor-driven seed stage investment programme already launched in the US in cities including Austin, New York and Chicago – and Silicon Valley’s “helper” service TaskRabbit.

Patty Tredway, 32, an international PR manager, moved to London from Silicon Valley six months ago because her company Lookout was launching in the capital.

She said: “There’s a great energy about the London start-up scene. Because the scene is younger here and still in the mode of proving itself on the world’s stage, there’s more enthusiasm. I find that entrepreneurs here are very close-knit, that they want to support each other not just to make their businesses better but to also prove the viability of London as a tech hub.”

Massimiliano del Vita, co-founder and CEO of food search engine, is Italian and has worked in Sweden and Shanghai but he chose Old Street to launch his start-up.

He said: “London was the best choice for me. Beautiful, convenient, very international and culturally thriving. Old street was my first choice when I moved in because I wanted to be in the centre of Tech City to take advantage of the opportunities giving by the Google Campus and by the attention of investors in this space.”

The Government’s technology guru Joanna Shields said London is “uniquely positioned” in terms of talent and investment opportunities as well as geography.

The chairwoman of Tech City UK and UK ambassador for digital industries, said: “Looking at Europe, London is uniquely positioned. We have incredible talent, the richness of our creative industries, the highest rates of new businesses starting, tremendous investment opportunities, academic prowess and great companies at every stage of growth.

“We have a government that engages, asks business for our opinions and takes our advice and feedback to heart. As a result, government policies have been developed in direct response to the needs of start-ups and entrepreneurs, creating amongst the best conditions for business builders anywhere in the world.”

She said policies such as reduced capital gains tax, R&D tax credits and the patent box scheme all offer growth businesses unrivalled benefits, while the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme encourages investors to “support high-growth companies like never before”.

She added: “As a result, we have thousands of great start-ups and increasing numbers of scale-ups that with the right support can become engines for economic growth and jobs.”

Immigration rules have previously come under fire for preventing London from attracting top talent.

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