This is the first instalment of our Global Tech Hub series. Each instalment looks at one of the world’s most vibrant tech eco-systems. This week we take a look at London’s very own Silicon Roundabout!
Silicon Roundabout occupies an unassuming, formerly industrial area in East London that is perfectly positioned for success both in spatial terms and in terms of its timing. Its origins lie in the post-2008 business landscape. At this point, the City of London financial district had stopped hiring and young talent from all around the world settled in this cheap but vibrant, artistic area. Silicon Roundabout is nestled between (or overlaps with, depending on who you ask) the financial district to its South and Shoreditch, to its East - a world-renowned creative hub for art, media, and advertising. This positioning is one of many factors which contribute to its irresistible appeal, both for big corporates, like Amazon and for the countless start-ups which continue to sprout up despite the ever-increasing prices. Let us take a look at three of the biggest success stories in Silicon Roundabout.
Seedrs, was founded in the area in 2012 and has recently moved back after a brief spell in South London. Seedrs pioneered equity crowdfunding in the UK alongside its rival, Crowdcube, which is also located nearby. They provide the opportunity for the general public to purchase shares in companies for as little as £10. Perhaps the most famous crowdfund of late was for Revolut where £4 million was raised. Cheeky Panda also raised £2 million on the platform’s secondary market.
Another local star is Wise (formerly trading as TransferWise). This shiny fintech unicorn (valued at over $1 billion) was co-founded by two Estonian who were both tired tired of expensive transfer fees when sending money back home. Using a peer-to-peer model, the company offers dramatically reduced transaction fees. More recently, the unicorn has moved into business and customer accounts, prompting the name change from TransferWise to Wise. In May 2021, an IPO has been pencilled in, with some commentators estimating the deal could value the company as highly as £5 billion. E-commerce, marketing and lifestyle platforms also take in big money in the area. Luxury fashion platform Farfetch is located on the roundabout itself. Launched in 2008, just as the economic crisis hit, Farfetch offered small independent brands and boutiques the opportunity to sell their high-end products online. Founder José Neves is credited as being a very earlier adopter of e-commerce in the luxury sector which has clearly paid off – Farfetch became a unicorn several years ago. More recently Farfetch has been called “the surprising winner of the pandemic” after pushing ahead of rivals in 2020. Its success continues - this year, its first quarter revenue was up almost 50%.
Find out more about the past, present and future of this innovative business eco-system on the Silicon Roundabout/Tech City Walking Tour!