London - some learnings
London is the older European startup hub that everybody is talking about, even if Berlin, Dublin and Stockholm are gaining a good reputation to launch businesses.
As well I’ve heard and read a lot about London, I’ve never been there (except half a day as I was in language school in Brighton!) and I’ve seized the opportunity of London Web Summit (happening today) to fly here.
I’ve managed to organize some meetings and discovered a bit the city following them. Many people have heard about the Google Campus, but I had never seen how it was looking. Here how the entrance look like:
Impressive? Nope. Need to be impressive and extremely modern (as our technology parks in Switzerland we are so proud of)? Nope.
Once you enter the building, you get a better sense of where you are when you’re looking to this:
I think there is no need to present the 2 first ones. The third one is kind of a coworking space. I had never heard about Centralworking and decided to go downstairs to find out what it is. I was directly stunned by how many people were in this restaurant/cafeteria in the middle of an afternoon:
Looks like a space for students, right? Centralworking is in matter of fact a free coworking space, where you can seat and work with a really good internet connection. I’ve heard that it was very recent and 6 months ago, it was less (over)crowded. And that you don’t find many developers / designers there anymore, but mostly business/visionary/product guys.
What also impressed me in visiting the Google Campus website is that there is almost everyday (or 2 or 3 times a day) workshops, keynotes, etc. And not from government organizations trying to tell how good they are.
The Campus is kind of unique and there are not many similar places, if any, at least in Europe.
And what’s about the price to get a desk there? It’s affordable, moreover for a place in the Center of London. GBP 275.- a month for regular workers. And GBP 375.- a year for occasional Campus workers, which are subject to a “fair use” (no fixed time like once a week, etc.). Interesting concept.
I’ve also seen that most restaurants let people have a free usage of their WiFi connections. What is too rare in Switzerland (even Starbucks make it too complicate – 15-30 minutes surf “offered” by the coffee chain… so generous, thanks) and what need to change once soon.
As well as there are many, many advantages to be established in London for a tech startup (presence of many investors, no talent crunch, big enough local market, many big potential customers, things move quickly
etc.), there are also some dark sides, as for instance:
- Software engineer salaries are extremely high, that is at least GBP 60k a year, even for purely juniors ones. Current conversion rate is 1 GBP = 1.5 CHF, so it doesn’t look so different from what were experiencing in Switzerland. But remember than around 2 years ago, conversion rate was CHF 2.3 = 1 GBP. Furthermore, I’ve learnt that most engineering teams of London-based startups are not local: they are kind of partnerships in Latvia or Serbia for engineering.
- A Swiss entrepreneur based since 15 years in London also told me that he thinks there is kind of a startup bubble. Everyone comes with an idea. And many are just crappy ones.
- Transport costs are extremely expensive. It will cost you about the same as a year with the Swiss General Pass, and for London only.
Please write your comments and share your knowledge of London startup scene. Swiss entrepreneurs need to know how it works in London!