If you think about the UK tech startup scene, London’s Tech City in the east of town will probably jump to mind. But look a little closer and you’d realize that while most focus goes on the Silicon Roundabout area of the city, there are other parts of the capital, and country, with a burgeoning startup scene.
One of these hubs of new activity is Croydon, just on the southern outskirts of Greater London, which saw the official launch of Croydon Tech City (CTC) six months ago.
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Since then, support for the scheme has come along in leaps and bounds and it now boasts a 400-strong community of software developers, VCs, tech startup founders and other creatives.
Tonight, Croydon Tech City chief Jonny Rose will take to the stage once again at Matthew Yard to give a recap of the last nine months (the first blog post from Rose about CTC came in August last year) and outline the plans ahead.
“Tonight will mark a milestone where Croydon shows that it has what it takes to become a credible player in the European startup scene,” Rose told The Next Web. “In less than half a year we have created a completely community-led startup scene with no outside investment or government support, and our growth and influence in South London and beyond is only set to increase over the next six months.”
Galvanizing a town’s population to create an engaged and vibrant startup scene is no mean feat, and it’s clear that one of the reasons for its success so far, simply from talking to Rose, is his genuine desire to reinvigorate an otherwise forgotten area often mistaken for being a part of London itself – although that’s a debate for another day.
To the future
One of Rose’s aims for CTC (which already has some 35 startups under its wings) in the coming months is to expand the scheme outside of Croydon and forge links with other notable tech areas such as ‘Silicon Alley’ in New York.
“We have Tink Taylor from dotMailer based out there, he’s also our ambassador as well, so he steers a lot of conversations with guys who are interested in this opportunity. So already we’re trying to build that international corridor between Croydon and the rest of the world, basically.”
It may well still be early days, but there are big ambitions.
One of Croydon Tech City’s aims for the coming months is getting even more schools in the town to offer Code Club coding lessons. In just six months, Croydon has gone from having no schools that offer them, to having 12 out of 94. Rose wants all 94 to offer them before the end of 2015 in order to help young people develop better skills, guarantee future jobs and create a pipeline of developers in the South London tech ecosystem.
Money, money, money
Rose says that as a result of its fledgling nature, CTC hasn’t yet attracted the government attention – or financial pledges – afforded to Tech City in East London. Nonetheless, with plans to register the organization as a limited company over the summer and an increasing amount of interest coming from fringe startups (those that could reasonably choose between either CTC or East London based on where they live) the workload is piling up.
Run currently by just a handful of key individuals, including Rose, all of the organizational team have full time jobs and simply do CTC in their ever-diminishing spare time. When quizzed over whether there are plans to put full time members of staff in place to dedicate themselves to CTC, Rose said it simply wasn’t generating the sort of revenues that could support that, yet.
Talking to Rose was energizing; it’s clear he has a passion for tech startups, and more than that, in seeing his local area rejuvenated and thriving once again. Whether the goodwill, support and patience of local people that share a similar desire will be enough to get the organization where it wants to go remains to be seen, but its growth and progress so far is undeniable. Six months ago it didn’t formally exist. Nine months ago, the blog post that kicked it all off hadn’t even been written. And today it’s looking ahead to the future with its 9-month anniversary event at Matthew Yard.
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