East Kent hailed as next hub for tech and digital entrepreneurs

Industry leaders identify Canterbury and Folkestone as new “centres for tech” at Grow for It event

East Kent has been praised as the next ‘Tech City’ by leading digital and technology entrepreneurs and investors at an event hosted at Canary Wharf’s Level 39 yesterday.

Centred on the concept of ‘established meets emerging’, the event was organised by Kent County Council’s campaign Grow for It to showcase entrepreneurship in East Kent, and to highlight business advantages in the area.

Canterbury, Folkestone and Ramsgate were identified as growing tech clusters due to the density of emerging start-ups, with Kent County Council leader Paul Carter CBE keen to build upon this growth through its Expansion East Kent Fund.

The fund, which is facilitated through the government’s Regional Growth Fund programme, offers interest-free loans to new start-ups launching in East Kent and existing businesses looking to relocate, and has over £15m available.

Advocating on behalf of the Kent region, high-profile angel investor Dale Murray CBE and business owners such as Playmob’s Jude Ower, and Charles Armstrong, founder of London co-working hub the Trampery, argued the opportunities for start-ups outside of the capital.

These start-up opportunities included cheaper office rental and property rates, connections to London with its High Speed 1 rail link and access to European markets, namely France.

Other speakers at the event included Eric van der Kleij, Head of Level 39, Luke Quilter, managing director of Folkestone-based SEO agency Sleeping Giant Media, Liam Gooding, founder of Canterbury co-work office Fruitworks, and Lizzie Hodgson, digital strategist for Deeson Online, and organiser of Kent meet-up Digibury.

Outlining East Kent’s start-up potential, The Trampery’s Armstrong said:

“The rate of business formations across technology and the creative industries has increased by 400% over the last 10 years in East Kent. That is way above the national average.

“The revenues for those businesses – which are typically small, employing one, two or three people – grew by 5% per year during the worst years of the recession, so something very resilient is happening there.”

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, added: “There is great quality of life to living in East Kent.

“A lot of these tech entrepreneurs are not the type of people who want to be stuck in an office block all day. They want to be stimulated in a creative environment and that’s what we can offer.”

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