The Croydon Facelift

If you think of all the places around the world that are synonymous with ‘technology’, ‘entrepreneurialism’ and ‘innovation’ – Croydon usually isn’t the first to come to mind. But that could all  change.

In the first of his regular reports, Jonny Rose, founder of the Croydon Tech City initiative, reflects back on the official launch of what he hopes will become South London’s Silicon Valley.

Croydon Tech City is my new initiative to make Croydon an attractive home for early-stage digital and technical start-ups – ‘the Silicon Valley of South London’, if you will.

Jonny Rose, Croydon Tech City Founder. Photo by Paul Clarke

The movement takes its name and inspiration from East London’s tech cluster, which has not only been an economic boon for the area, but it has also created a positive culture change to what was previously a bland concrete jungle.

Croydon needs its own tech scene

This, in turn, has led to a whole host of cultural and commercial offerings that have risen to meet the demands of these groups – art festivals, concerts, niche restaurants, collaborative workspaces and so forth – something that Croydon desperately needs.

Silicon Valley of the South?

The past three months have been spent introducing the idea of Croydon Tech City to the public through a series of monthly meetings at Matthews Yard.

These talks have featured demos from Croydon’s startup community, including people such as Steve Bardouille who has created Famberry, a private social network just for families, and Simon Bird who built company DotDigital Group PLC over a decade starting from his parents’ dining room.

Nigel Dias, Head of Investment and Advice at Croydon Tech City. Photo by Paul Clarke.

Public feedback for the Croydon Tech City has been overwhelmingly positive and as a result, the movement has started to gain real traction within the borough.

We’ve quickly become a 200 strong community of local software developers, venture capitalists and founders, as well as politicians, teachers, journalists and other community stakeholders – all of whom are excited by Croydon Tech City’s vision.

Last week, Croydon Tech City had its 2013 Launch with a keynote from Benjamin Southworth (Deputy CEO, Tech City Investment Organisation).

The event was a tremendous success and has set the bar for what will surely a momentous year for Croydon, South London and the UK startup scene as a whole.

Benjamin Southworth, TCIO Deputy CEO. Photo by Paul Clarke

Educating the community about coding

The next step is to start tangibly improving Croydon’s economy and culture. Plans for the coming year include introducing Code Clubs to primary schools as a way to educate young people around basic coding and programming – skills which are becoming imperative for those looking for a job, as well as running various programmes to help people create their own apps.

Packed crowd at the Croydon Tech City launch event. Photo by Paul Clarke

Over the course of the twelve months, this column will serve as a way to document the highs and lows as Croydon Tech City moves from being a dream to a reality.

The Croydon Tech City 2013: Schools Edition is on Thursday February 21st at Matthews Yard, Croydon from 7.30pm – with talks from Code Club and demos from Croydon’s young developer talent. Details to follow here.

Does London need another technology hub in the South? Or is this the start of many more individual clusters across the capital? Tell us what you think in the comments below.