What – We’re looking to raise £150k, ideally in the form of a loan
Who – James Governor, Jonathan Lister, Joshua Bradley
Where – Shoreditch
Why – We want to help startups grow, but also help local young people gain skills and find jobs in Tech City
History – Because I think stories are what really counts in making the case
When – NOW!
Shoreditch Works is raising funds to open a new event and co-working space in the heart of Shoreditch, epicentre of the UK web start-up scene. As someone that runs events myself I know how hard it is to find a space that can hold 200 developers, at reasonable cost. We’re not primarily seeking equity investment, because co-working is not like software. It is not a high margin business- it’s about cash flow and community. But of course the banks aren’t lending, and the high net worth individuals I know are looking to crush it with their money, not make 12.5% per annum on a loan (even though that’s an insanely great rate). The total amount we’re borrowing is commercially sensitive, but if you’re interested in helping we’ll happily share the business plan with you. Obviously we’re flexible, and equity is one of the models we have discussed with potential investors.
Our proposition has strong social value – the Shoreditch Works Foundation mission is to help inspire and train local kids in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham to get jobs in the Shoreditch economy. We need to work with a range of organisations, including partners like Hackney Council, to help create pathways for locals so they know what’s on their doorstep and how to succeed there. We plan to help start-ups take on apprentices, interns, and work placements. Shoreditch Works as an overlay so a bunch of small businesses can act more like a medium-sized one.
Investing in local skills isn’t all altruism – its also necessary for the creation of a sustainable business cluster. There are never going to be enough foreign visas available to make up for local talent lost to companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook, as they set up in Shoreditch and start hiring in earnest over the new couple of years, so we need to infill with the a tremendous and under-rated natural resource – London youth. Go out to schools and you’ll find tons of energy, aspiration, and skill.
The other three cofounders of Shoreditch Works are Jonathan, Joshua and Chris Sugden. Our community and comms manager is Ana Bradley. But our members are way more important than we are. Shoreditch Works already has some great companies and people working here – companies such as
Global Street Art (pay the artists)
thisismyjam (play the artists)
Poetica (playful editing)
Arachnys (reducing risk in emerging markets)
FutureGov (UX in public services)
Pivotal Labs (app dev for the next wave)
In 2007 I was looking for a new office space and, being the only UK employee of my firm RedMonk, the only way to do it was to co-work. Traditional serviced offices are not conducive to work, and include absurdly high service charges. I found a cheap space above a pub in Hoxton, with help from Hackney Council, and asked Matt Biddulph to join me there. Matt had cofounded Dopplr and moved in. Shortly afterwards James Stewart and Matt Patterson took another office next door.
In 2008 Dopplr outgrew the space and moved to Moo’s offices on Old Street. Shortly afterwards Matt came up with the self-deprecatory and wonderfully British “Silicon Roundabout”. The FT picked up on the meme, and there RedMonk was, listed as one of the 11 companies defining a new economic cluster. Shortly afterwards the Evening Standard published the map, and things went went a bit mad after that. You should read Matt on How Silicon Roundabout really got started. Everything was in place, but Matt gave it a name.
Shortly afterwards James and Matt (yes these names occur a LOT in Shoreditch) moved to a new, dilapidated place on Scrutton Street, EC2. One move later and we were in the building across the street. Then came another “exit” – James Stewart and James Weiner left to form the Alpha Gov team, shaking up government IT under the aegis of the Cabinet Office in what is now called the Government Digital Service. The common threads here were co-working and talent. The impact of this team on UK government IT is significant. Shoreditch startup culture has infected Whitehall – entrenched suppliers watch out.
Who was going to take on the lease when James became a civil servant? Certainly not me with my natural genius for admin. So into the breach stepped Jonathan and Josh of J&J. I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t need to move. But when the top floor of the building became available, I chivvied the guys to take than on as coworking space, and so Shoreditch Works was born.
Where and Why
I already run a company with my co-founder Stephen O’Grady and we are making a significant impact in our space and having a great time. So why get involved in something else? For one thing RedMonk is a virtual operation, with no physical presence, but I am a big believer in place. My wife is born and bred in Hackney, and I can’t think of a better place to live and work. I want to make a contribution to local communities. Jonny persuaded me to join Shoreditch Works as a cofounder by saying that we could establish a Foundation as a platform for social change. After the London riots I wanted try and to increase the engagement of local kids in the Shoreditch tech economy, but with limited time available hadn’t made as much progress as I would wish because of limited time and resources. The Shoreditch Works Foundation therefore made a great deal of sense.
None of us are in it for the money. Running a co-working space is a calling or vocation. Other founders I have spoken to share some common traits, and a strong belief in location is one of them. Its about supporting a cluster in a specific place. Why is the culture of coworking important to innovation broadly and specifically London’s Tech City? As Josh puts it:
“place/density = opportunity/serendipity: community of people in similar situations sharing knowledge, helping each other be competitive, a culture/ecosystem of mentorship/mutual improvement.”
Bottom line - successful clustering is about people, working in a well connected physical network. We’re looking for help. If you have access to capital and want to see Shoreditch crush it, then please get in touch.
We have all read the press release about all the awesome stuff coming to Shoreditch in 2015, which is excellent, but startups need help now, not in two years. Please help us to help them, and help local people to get jobs in the process.