This post was first published on The Croydon Citizen on 21/06/2016
The Croydon Tech City ‘Timeline of Success’: From 20 people in a room to London’s fastest-growing tech cluster
Croydon Tech City founder Jonny Rose recounts four action-packed years in the Silicon Valley of South London
In June 2016, Croydon stands as London’s “fastest-growing tech ecosystem”, and is now home to over a thousand early-stage and scale-up digital, technical and creative companies.
Croydon has also just opened TMRW, a “world-leading” 21,000 sq ft tech hub in Davies House that was made possible when Croydon Tech City approached the council and made the case for supporting the community with a building.
But how did it get to this?
From idea to borough-wide initiative: The Croydon Tech City timeline
Tuesday 4th October, 2012 – First Croydon Tech City public consultation
The very first public meeting in which founder Jonny Rose introduces the idea of Croydon becoming a “Tech City” to an audience of twenty locals at Matthews Yard. Over the next two months there would be two larger public meetings, as the idea took hold.
Thursday 24th January, 2013 – Croydon Tech City launch
Benjamin Southworth, deputy CEO of the government’s Tech City organisation, comes to Croydon to support the formal launch of Croydon Tech City: a movement and organisation that is making Croydon “the Silicon Valley of South London”, and championing tech skills, opportunities and businesses across South London.
November 2013 – Future Tech City launches at BRIT School
Over one hundred parents, teachers, governors, students and children walked into the world-famous BRIT School for Future Tech City – Croydon’s first tech-education event and dedicated CTC scheme to provide Croydon’s primary and secondary schools with resources to teach extra-curricular coding classes, with speakers from Google and the Financial Times.
December 2013 – “Croydon Rate Free For A Year” campaign starts
The London borough of Croydon and the Mayor of London start a major campaign to help attract new TMT, engineering and financial services businesses to the area, including a 100% relief on rates for the first year of occupation. The campaign sees the borough team up with five developers, offering 360,000 sq ft of grade A office space. As well as the discount on business rates, companies can get deals on rent and data services.
February 2014 – ONS recognises Croydon as “London’s fastest growing tech cluster”
The Office of National Statistics reveal Croydon has seen a 38% growth in technology businesses since 2011, higher than the London (17.1%) and the UK (11.3%) averages over the same period, making it London’s fastest-growing tech cluster.
Thursday 20th March, 2014 – Croydon Tech City: The MPs Debate
Croydon’s two most prominent MPs, Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central, Cons.) and Steve Reed (Croydon North, Lab.) take to the stage to discuss the implications of Croydon’s burgeoning technology sector – both positive and negative – and how both parties are supporting Britain’s digital economy.
May 2014 – The first Croydon Tech City ‘Women in Tech’ event
In what would become an annual tradition, May saw Croydon host a roundtable and a series of talks with local female tech entrepreneurs.
Summer 2014 – The inaugural Croydon Tech City Summit
The first of another annual CTC event sees over one hundred attendees come together to discuss the future, past and present. The next year would see this figure double, and this month’s Croydon Tech City Town Hall event taking place on Tuesday 21st June at 2pm (book now) is expected to host even more.
December 2014 – Croydon Tech City and council cooperate to build a tech hub in Croydon
The council agrees to work with Croydon Tech City to dedicate a building to house Croydon’s growing tech community. The opportunity to rebuild and manage the tech hub in Davies House is put out to tender in January 2016 with the winning candidate, Tech Leaders Capital, chosen later that year. The tech hub, TMRW, opens in May 2016.
January 2015 – Croydon Tech City teams up with local arts for a month of events
Local arts collective Turf Projects collaborates with Croydon Tech City for a month of art and tech projects, including the A Pixel or Digital exhibition, free community classes, and an art vs. tech public debate at Croydon College.
February 2015 – Launch of three monthly Croydon Tech City community classes
Croydon Tech City initiates a monthly programme of three free community classes for non-tech Croydonians: monthly classes include a startup MBA, web design for beginners, and an introduction to Agile & Scrum project management.
August 2015 – BBC News does a major feature on Croydon Tech City
BBC News visits the major new South London tech cluster, which features comment from Simon Bird, co-founder of DotMailer and Han-Son Lee of LOAF app, and others.
September 2015 – Croydon Tech City goes to San Francisco
In the first of several international trips to raise the profile of South London’s tech cluster, Croydon Tech City’s Nigel Dias visits Silicon Valley, the British Consulate in SF, and tours Westfield Labs, and meets various dignitaries. CTC trips to Australia and Israel occur later in the year.
October 2015 – Sussex Innovation Centre Croydon opens
The new innovation centre and CTC Ecosystem Partner opens in No. 1 Croydon, providing a base for up to 30 high-growth potential companies with over 300 employees, and intending to support more than 100 local businesses through its network.
November 2015 – Croydon chosen to pilot Baroness Martha Lane Fox’s digital skills pilot
Baroness Martha Lane Fox, founder of Lastminute.com, chooses Croydon to launch her charity GO ON’s digital skills initiative to provide free training to the 89,000 Croydonians that lack basic digital and internet skills.
Thursday 21st Jan, 2016 – Matt Hancock describes CTC as “a blueprint for the future”
Minister for the Cabinet Office, Matt Hancock, tours Croydon Tech City and speaks at the 2016 launch, describing the organisation’s strategy as “a blueprint for the future” for community engagement, education, and economic growth.
From idea to borough-wide initiative
In just over three years, Croydon Tech City has grown from just twenty people in a room discussing an idea to a community of over two thousand venture capitalists, developers, tech entrepreneurs, creatives and engaged local volunteers.
The Croydon Tech City movement has made an extraordinary impact on both the local and national psyche, positively affecting Croydon’s economy (Financial Times), property market (The Times), education (Croydon Advertiser), inward investment (Evening Standard) and reputation (Metro). The above isn’t just an organisational ‘timeline of success’, it’s a testament of what happens when a local community is empowered around a cohesive, inclusive vision.