Croydon Tech City: Building a community that inspires

By - Monday 17th June, 2013

Proud Croydon transplant Ash Rishi explains why Croydon Tech City is as inspirational as Rocky


Note: This piece is best enjoyed listening to this.

Over Easter, I did my customary annual ritual of watching all six Rocky movies.  Yes, it’s an annual thing and even involves watching Rocky 5 (that was one bad movie!!). Anyhow, while watching the movies there were characters that jumped out at me, that made me think about Croydon Tech City.

Rocky is the perennial underdog story similar to Croydon. No one has given Croydon a chance, especially in the media, and why should Croydon be given a hope in hell of fulfilling its ambitions while the Croydon folk themselves do not believe in Croydon? But the message from the Rocky movies is… Never Give Up.

So where is the glimmer of hope? Is it Croydon Tech City?

I will admit it now, I was originally sceptical about the Croydon Tech City movement. I mean, it’s Croydon for goodness sake!! The negativity surrounding the area from within and outside is tantamount to bullying on a societal level. So surely there is no chance this movement will succeed.

My thinking changed very quickly. I attended a few of the events, started speaking to Jonny Rose, the CEO of Croydon Tech City, and then as I met more and more of the CTC players, I got my first taste of what community building is about; it has been one of my great pleasures this year to meet so many ‘Rocky’s, so many inspiring folk.

Rocky achieved his successes in his career by having a community around him to boost him, inspire him, and encourage him.

Firstly Rocky had Mickey the old grizzled bitter boxing trainer, who would inspire by fear: ‘You are a bum Rocky!!’ Mickey believed in Rocky, he knew Rocky had the key skills to be a great fighter. Some might think Mickey is Jonny Rose. You may get accosted and abused by Jonny, but it is for the greater good.

Jonny spotted the potential of Croydon, spotted that Croydon has over 600 tech start ups in the area. So he set about building Croydon Tech City and it all started with this blog piece. Jonny is creating something special, he is making us “Eat Lightning and Crap Thunder”

Rocky also had the hub, the boxing gym where he could go and train on a daily basis. This is Matthews Yard, which provides a space for start ups to work. I work out of Matthews Yard and I am fortunate to meet so many inspiring businesses and people on a daily basis. A community cannot be built without the hub.

Now that I have gotten my Rocky analogy off my chest (for the time being anyway), I can move on to the topic of this article: how to create a community that will inspire.

  1. Create something worth building a community around. Tech touches every part of our business, every part of our lives, and the key to evangelism and building a community is a great product. Croydon Tech City has that in spades – hello Smart Dresser, hello Famberry, to name just a few.
  2. Assign one person the task of building a community. Sure, a lot of people would like to build a community, but who wakes up every day and puts community first on their list of priorities?  Jonny does, and he has assimilated some superbly successful tech champions. Hello DotMailer and hello ICUK - again, only naming a few.
  3. Welcome criticism. Most communities feel warm and fuzzy towards their constituents as long as these communities toe the line by continuing to say nice things and never complaining. The minute that the community says anything negative, however, community leaders can freak out and pull back their efforts. This is a foolish thing to do. An individual cannot control its community. This is a long-term relationship, so – as Croydon Tech City has established – if you have any queries/issues/suggestions, open dialogue should be fostered, and is fostered, by Croydon Tech City.
  4. Foster discourse. The definition of “discourse” is a verbal exchange. The key word here is “exchange”. Any community that fosters community-building should also participate in the exchange of ideas and opinions, at the basic level of community building. That is what makes Croydon Tech City monthly meetups so interesting; yes it is a chance to network, yes it is a chance to hear from experts who have been there, done that. But it is also your opportunity to learn, grow, and exchange ideas with like-minded people – who knows what opportunities may arise from these exchange of ideas?
  5. Engage in change. One of the most interesting parts for me in Croydon Tech City is the effort to engage in change. It’s not a chest beating exercise that Croydon has 600 tech start ups. Croydon Tech City actively engages start ups or even pre-start ups to meet with experts to get the knowledge they need to succeed. So if you have an idea, get it touch with Jonny or Nigel and find they will get you in touch with the right people. If you are a start up with an existing product too, speak to them, see what investment/funding opportunities exist for you!

These are just a few reasons why Croydon Tech City has the potential to be a key player in the regeneration of Croydon. It is only six months old, but the community is growing on a monthly basis. Walk into Matthews Yard on any given day and you will see start ups meeting experts, experts meeting experts, talking, growing, engaging. It really is a beautiful thing to see.

Now let me finish with one more analogy please. The most important person in the Rocky movies was Adrian. Adrian was the love of his life, the woman behind the man who really pushed him to achieve his goals, made him believe, gave him the eye of the tiger.

Why do I bring this up now? We are Adrian. We are the community that makes Croydon Tech City, so keep on joining in, share things with each other on social media, and do not treat it like a monthly meet up. Be a part of the change in Croydon.

So do not forget to come and participate in the next Croydon Tech City meet up on Thursday 20th June at 7.30pm @MatthewsYard. Find out more here.

Ash Rishi

Ash Rishi

Founder and Managing Director of Couch, Ashish Rishi has worked with a number of large multinational agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather and Young and Rubicam. Integrated marketing has been an important part of Ash's career, especially to see how the internet has developed and is using this technology to expand the means and methods of communicating. Ash believes, online and offline marketing when done correctly is one of the most powerful strategies to grow a business. Ash started Couch an integrated digital marketing and communications agency in 2013 and his focus will now be on growing Couch to compete with the best.

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  • Fiona Stewart

    Aw, I love this Ash! As a proud Croydonian (or is it Croydonite?) I feel compelled to say that I think we’re on the cusp of something great here. I’m looking forward to looking back with pride and saying “I was a part of that” :-)

    • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

      It’s Croydonian, Jonny says Croydonite but I can’t help thinking its too close to Ludite lol. I’m gonna edit a well known saying, For negativity to win all it takes is for the positive people to do nothing. There definitely is a community of people with an invested bestowing the rest of the world about the merits of the town. Tbh we’ve always existed but I think we just never had somewhere to congregate.

      • Jonny Rose

        Er, I soooooooo do not say “Croydonite” or “Croydonian”.

        Everyone knows it’s ‘Croydoner’. FACT.

        • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

          There’s a play on in Matthews Yard called The Croydonians

          • Jonny Rose

            I know. And I was disgusted by it.

  • JQB

    For the first time today, I came across the paper “Croydon Citizen” on my commute from East Croydon.
    As a proud ‘CROYDONER’ (NOT Croydonian – like the final article reTech City; one would not say Londonian!!) I was left with a preconception of delight; “another paper seeking to highlight the best of our great home town”.
    Then, came the article concerning gentrification; I was less amused.
    However well intended that story was meant to be, to any discerning local citizen, it was not. Your article would; in an almost ‘blanket’ fashion suggest that we are a borough of hapless working class neighbourhoods in fear of takeover from outsiders and a shiny pound.
    You compound this with reference to areas, which one would question how much you really understand about them.
    I am a proudly born (and largely bred) local. I understand that mix; including the influx of those with a ‘different perspective’ can largely enhance for the benefit of all.
    May I suggest, the next time you prepare such an article, you revisit the definition of gentrification, and then compare that (INCLUDING with a closer look than before at Hackney) to ANY area of London. For those who haven’t ‘bought in’ but benefitted from rise in ‘non current’ fortunes, it is in part largely to their local contribution to stay and fight for the development of their communities, when others may have taken flight.
    Croydon. Forever proud

    • James Naylor

      Hello Mr JQB!

      Thank you very much for your kind comments on the paper.

      It sounds like the specific gentrification article you are referring to was mine – which can also be found online here:

      I think precisely what I was trying to do there, was show how much we are not a “hapless working class neighbourhood in fear of takeover from outsiders and a shiny pound.” We are a diverse, substantial place that can happily absorb new incoming folk – but many alarmists believe that we could go the way of many inner London areas where precisely this happened / is happening.

      I am originally from Croydon too (although I spent some time away), and think there is nothing better than people who want to stay and fight for their communities – that’s exactly how people are changing things for the better now. I couldn’t agree with you more.

      • JQB

        Desr James

        Thank you for your prompt reply.

        I’m not entirely sure thats how your article came across but , I accept your explanation and clarified intent.
        The paper is a welcome addition to our ‘landscape’. Perhaps it can be utilised to further attract visitors and businesses through highlighting our commercial potential as an alternative to the more expensive city and canary wharf, our varied dining establishments from central to south croydon, as well as attract a stronger arts and cultured base.
        It may also be useful, by in (whichever psrty governs) demonstrably holding them to account to sharing facts and figures on the ir plans not judt for parks and investment but helping achieve the above, more transpsrently regulating care for the Iinfirm ed, at risk or elderly in yhr borough, and the marketing of seasonal events which can help promote and bring our borough community together.
        Subject: Re: New comment posted on Croydon Tech City: Building a community that inspires