Tech City Life: Location is more important than your business model

Why Tech City is more than self-consciously trendy glasses and MacBook Pros. It’s a network like nowhere else says our man on the inside

Like me, one day if you decide move to Old Street, London (land of Tech City) you’ll find yourself sat on a Sunday, working in a café. In this instance I am taking a break from day-to-day work in order to write my weekly column for Startups.co.uk.

Don’t be fooled however, there is no difference between writing in this café, compared to one elsewhere in the country. Well, there’s no difference in the croissant or fresh orange juice you can consume – the difference however is clear when you look up from your computer screen.

For starters, my mid-set, black framed glasses are made to look ‘frame free’ in the hustle and bustle of overly large thick framed, glasses wearing, customers that surround me. While an active care for one’s visual organs is key when working with computers so often, it is an amusing sight to behold.

You’ll also quickly notice how much you stand out if you were to own a Windows laptop. Right now, around me, there are nine people using a computer, we are all using an Apple MacBook Pro. Given this blog will no doubt stay online for quite some time; I wonder how quickly this proportional fact will become dated?

While I could continue with my light hearted jibes against the stereotypical figure to grace a café in Tech City (of which I no doubt fit a few areas), without a doubt it is the place to be if you wish to launch your start-up career.

Flubit.com is here, we’ve been here from the very beginning – almost. I say almost as we started of with a very humble beginning – my spare single room. I remember dreaming of big offices when I sat in here.

Then soon after my friend and marketing colleague Dan (@danielshirley) joined me. For a short while this walk-in wardrobe turned into his room, and my living room became office number two.

But soon after these fun and games it got serious; we raised serious money. At the time I lived in Newbury, Berkshire. It’s where my previous start-up is based – I saw no reason to move.

The philosophy when we started my previous media agency was that there are so many media companies in London we can wrap up the work outside. It worked, and I still believe that’s a great philosophy for that business model – all you had to do was see the size of the studio we managed to afford as a new company; it was huge!

But for Flubit, I couldn’t have been more wrong to try and hold on to this opinion; and I tried to. I was nervous to uproot and move to London when I had been settled down in Newbury for three years. There are many proud moments of Flubit, many which I’ll try and take credit for – moving to Tech City is not one I can however.

The credit has to go here to the persistence and drive of my co-founder, Adel Louertatani (@adelpara). At the time, I wasn’t aware of what or even where Tech City was, that’s how naïve I was to the start up scene. Adel would send me article upon article how important the location of your start-up was, and I would return with excuse after excuse as to why Newbury was fine.

It wouldn’t have been, not for a tech start-up. I was just failing to take my own rule into account, and take a risk – I am so glad that Adel took me by the scruff of the neck and forced me back into London.

If we flash forward to today you’ll notice that we have around 35 people in our team. We have over 15 different nationalities bringing us a wealth of experience; we have some incredible developers from Romania, India, Italy and Poland (to name a few).

Our non-exec is from eBay, our strategic advisor launched Apple into Europe with Steve Jobs. I could go on and on quoting awesome educational backgrounds and CVs of our team, but I always fear I’ll miss someone out.

The point? Do you think I’d have assembled this team as a start-up in Newbury? Not a chance. Maybe if I was Vodafone [which has its HQ in Newbury]. I love Newbury, but I was kidding myself when I believed I would give my tech start-up the best possible chance by launching it there.

Getting the right location deserves two weeks of writing. Next week we’ll look at where we ended up, how we chose it, and the key advantages from day one of being located in Old Street (beyond being able to form an incredible team of course).

Welcome to Old Street, N1, Tech City, Silicon Roundabout – whatever you call it, this place is buzzing.

Bertie Stephens is chief executive of demand-driven marketplace Flubit.com.

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  1. Hi Bertie,
    I really liked this post. It has inspired me to ask for your opinion. Being from a small European country, do you think that if Location is that Important indeed, would you say that moving to another country, not only bigger city within, could make a difference to a start up business? If I would be interested to work internationally, should I start on international level from the beginning?