Tech City: Inside London's digital start-up hothouse

How entrepreneurs in a corner of East London are gearing up to compete with Silicon Valley...

...that the success has led to a rapid rise in property prices," Trampoline Systems' Armstrong told

Shared spaces

Along with Trampoline Systems, Armstrong has also set up The Trampery - an office space and co-working environment for start-ups looking to base themselves in East London, which now plays home to 14 of the area's digital businesses.

The first Trampery opened in May 2009, with 15 seats. Ten more were added, then a further five. Demand continued and in May this year, the Trampery moved to larger premises with 50 seats, double the square footage, a roof garden and an events space - and it's now at capacity.

Armstrong is planning to open a bigger Trampery-style offering - a 500- to 1000-square-feet open-plan workspace - aimed at organisations of up to eight people later this year.

"We're really keen to take the recipe we developed here [at the Trampery] and fill in the gaps and expand it," he said. "We could be doing 10 of these and we still wouldn't be meeting demand," Armstrong told

"Lots more software start-ups wanted to be here and I was hearing from a lot of people they couldn't find that first rung on the ladder.

Inside the Trampery

There's no place like gnome: inside the TramperyPhoto: Jo Best/

"It's the starter home syndrome - that first step is the hardest," he said.

The Tech City cluster grew up unaided, as start-ups were drawn to the area by the low rents and the like minds at hand. Now, the cheap rent has long gone as bigger companies, and those with better funding, come to join the party, and the kind of small businesses that kick-started the area are being driven out of it, no longer able to afford East London's overheads.

As Somethin' Else's Bennun puts it: "When we moved in here there was nothing around here - there was only one pub that was open. We moved in because it was a really cheap place to be. [Now] this isn't a place you go to because you want something cheap, this is the place you go because you want to be near Silicon Roundabout."

The government's flag-waving for the UK's tech scene can only be applauded - but could there now be a risk of it becoming the victim of its own popularity?

About Jo Best

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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