Friday, 21 September 2012

Where is Silicon Roundabout?

Silicon Roundabout is a funny place. It's not like Silicon Valley. The Valley is a sun-soaked strip of Stanford start ups, Sand Hill legends, web world beaters and brash billionaires. The Roundabout is, well, a roundabout. Or so it seems at first glance...

We moved Noddle to Silicon Roundabout about six months ago. We are in a grey office block towering over Old Street Station and when we first moved here I remember asking somewhere where Silicon Roundabout actually was. He looked at me slightly blankly, turned slowly and pointed at Old Street Roundabout. I felt slightly cheated.

But over the months, I think I am gradually beginning to understand it. It's not just that there are lots of tech companies. There is actually a bubbling tech enclave here. If you ever want to find me, pop in to Eat, above Old Street Station and you are likely to see me having a meeting over a coffee. Along with loads of other folk. At any given time there will be five or ten meetings going on around you - people talking earnestly to each other about the next world beating idea, how to stop their servers from crashing or what evil things their investors are doing to them this week. Go next door to Pod and its the same. Wander up the road to Whitecross street food market and you will see a procession of geek-types emerging blinking into the daylight, buying exotic food and avoiding eye contact. Google opening here. Amazon there. Huddle next door. Latitude in the same office. Peer Index downstairs. VisualDNA friends up the road. Professor Shadbolt's world leading Open Data Institute is about to open its doors in very cool Shorditch offices. And on, and on. After work, the bars are full. Restaurants are lively. It's all going on around you in an excited, urgent way.

Silicon Roundabout looks a bit grey. But it's very creative. There are some awesome brains at work. And it's very British. Not Big and Shiny. Quirky, strangely confident, self-depreciating with attitude and brilliant in parts. You need to "get it" in the same way that you needed to "get" our Olympic opening ceremony. Not everyone will. But that's okay. Not everyone needs to.

I'm gradually "getting it" and I'm quite liking it. In fact I'm not sure we should call it "Silicon" Roundabout at all. That feels like we are accepting that we are a mere copy of the real thing, Silicon Valley. No, this is our thing. We are British and this is how we do it.

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