Croydon is now the United Kingdom’s fastest-growing economy – thanks to Croydon Tech City @98rosjon #Croydon #TechCity
Five years ago, Croydon was a national joke: a borough whose chief cultural exports were ill-advised hairstyles, Kate Moss, and punchlines for North London sophisticates. Despite constant hand-wringing from concerned locals and a cacophany of online debate, nobody had a clue about how to change things let alone the wherewithal to action any of the ideas they had.
Today, Croydon stands as the United Kingdom’s fastest-growing economy, according to independent research conducted by UHY Hacker, powered by “Croydon’s burgeoning reputation as a tech hub”.
All the way back in October 2011, I stood up in front of twenty members of the public and introduced the idea of Croydon becoming a ‘Tech City’. Making the case that if Croydon wished to escape the post-riot economic, social and cultural stasis, it would need to reconstitute itself as a home for early-stage and scaleup businesses. A ‘Silicon Valley of South London’, if you will. The rest is history, and you can read it here.
The Croydon Tech City strategy
Croydon’s economic success story hasn’t come about by chance but by Croydon Tech City’s concerted strategy to not only grow and nurture start-ups and scale-ups, but to ensure that ordinary Croydon people and businesses can take part in the opportunity too.
To foster our tech community, we constantly endeavour to create the right environment and culture, so we run and encourage the running of tech events to appeal to all kinds of interests, abilities and agendas. From inspirational events to socials to free adult education, our growing community of native and new talent has the opportunity to visibly see each other and interact with each other. Beyond tech, we want people to not only work but live in the borough too, so we support the ‘cultural’ aspects of Croydon, collaborating with local bars, art galleries, independent theatre and festivals – our all-day June summit and rooftop party brought in 600 out-of-towners who are considering moving their tech companies to Croydon.
But you need more than events to ensure the right support is in place to support and grow the number of start-ups and scale-ups locally. Free mentoring services have been provided for locals, and we actively engage with services providers from within the borough, such as local accounting firm Bryden Johnson, as well as London and beyond, such as Kilburn and Strode. Croydon tech businesses now receive free City-quality legal, financial, and technical one-to-one advice and services on a weekly basis.
There is also a lobbying and promotional aspect. Before Croydon Tech City was founded, Croydon was a borough that struggled to define itself. By seeking to make Croydon “the Silicon Valley of South London” the community has been able to quickly understand and rally around this end goal. We’ve run foreign visits to build international links between Croydon and San Francisco, as well as Norwegian, Israeli, and Australian tech hubs. Working with local government to promote Croydon as an area to set up in has served to accelerate the growth of tech in the borough, bringing companies like Natterbox and SMARTA to the area, as has our ability to get Croydon into the national press regularly.
The last key to the puzzle is education. Through our Future Tech City scheme, we aim to support every local school to deliver tech and STEM opportunities to local children. By working with Code Club, Apps for Good and more, plus creating ‘young’ CTC Network and Apprentice opportunities, we aim to create a talent pipeline that will lead to a STEM skill surplus over time for current and incoming Croydon businesses.
Economic success powered by community, not politicians or arrivistes
The Conservatives may believe they they laid the groundwork for Croydon Tech City’s success. They didn’t. Similarly, Labour may well conveniently say it was them that has made Croydon the gold standard in economic success that it is today. It wasn’t. The truth is before the Croydon Tech City organisation appeared on the scene, no-one said a word about tech in Croydon.
The council under both parties had no tech or inward investment strategy. Tech companies that were already here were left to make it on their own. Croydon was perceived as dangerous and “uncool”. And anyone involved in the London tech industry living in Croydon would leave the borough every morning to go and work in the City.
That’s all changed. Even though we are only at the very beginning of the Croydon Tech City journey – and are acutely aware that Croydon’s economic success isn’t being felt by everybody – Croydon is now the United Kingdom’s fastest-growing economy: thanks to the Croydon Tech City organisation, and those in the Croydon Tech City community who have supported and laboured for our vision from day one.
To learn more about Croydon Tech City and its upcoming events and classes, visitwww.croydontechcity.com. The next Croydon Tech City event is Thursday 27th October, 7pm at Project B. To attend, please register here.