Ambitious For Croydon: #Croydon #TechCity January 2014 Review

By - Monday 27th January, 2014

Andrew Easter reports on a jubilant first birthday for #Croydon #TechCity

Image by Fluid4Sight. Used with permission.

With a whirlwind year of activity to reflect so positively on, #Croydon #TechCity met on Thursday 23rd January to celebrate not just an exciting kick off to 2014, but a most welcome first birthday. My attendance at the event was somewhat fortunate – a postponed knee operation saving me from the sharpness of a surgeon’s knife to instead spend the evening at the best birthday party in town. The relentless buzz that greeted me on arrival at Matthew’s Yard is a true testament to just how far the Croydon Tech City movement has come in only twelve short months. And the packed house of tech faithful – many were forced to stand during the presentations – was not to be disappointed as the evening’s agenda unfolded, the only downside being a lack of party bags to take home at the end of night.

The first presenter to take to the stage, welcomed into the spotlight by CTC co-founder Sarah Luxford, was none other than her fellow co-founder, the illustrious Jonny Rose. Given the special significance of the event, it was only apt that one of the co-founders had the opportunity to take the audience on a dizzying journey from CTC’s conception just one year ago, to the thriving, wide-reaching community that it’s now become. While Jonny declared himself a shameless self-publicist, those in the room were only too aware of the real truth – his mission is clearly not one of self-promotion but, just like his co-founders, a selfless desire to change the face of Croydon and ride the wave of exciting regeneration the borough faces. Here is a guy who truly believes in his mission, and the successes he reeled off, one after the other, are certainly not the work of someone who lacks conviction in his calling. It’s genuinely hard to believe, having digested all the amazing CTC initiatives, that barely twelve months ago, none of it existed.

Jonny handed straight over to Simon Bird, co-founder of one of Croydon’s most successful tech companies, DotDigital Group. While DotDigital Group precedes Croydon Tech City by some fourteen years, the lessons learned along its journey are still thoroughly applicable to those just taking their first steps in the startup world. It was particularly enjoyable to hear Simon reminiscing on anything from the early days of acquiring office space in South Croydon, to the critical changes in business strategy that led to the birth of the product oriented business that is DotMailer. A valuable lesson indeed – the journey you start out on may bear little resemblance to the product or service that marks your true success. Hailing from the iconic No.1 Croydon, and now extending its reach in New York City, DotDigital Group has formed a template we’re sure to see replicated many times over as the startup community shifts its attentions towards the welcoming arms of Croydon.

Regeneration plans for Croydon are intrinsically linked to the future of Croydon Tech City

Following a short break for some networking and refreshments, the crowd reconvened for the final main presentation of the evening. Taking to the stage was the youthful and exuberant Matthew McMillan from Croydon Council. Now, let’s cut to the chase, this is a man who seriously means business! Matthew is helping to shape the regeneration of Croydon (using the moniker Croydon London) and, given the passion with which he delivered the five year vision for Croydon, few in the room would leave doubting his ability to stubbornly persist until that vision is realised. It was quite frankly mesmerising to hear first-hand how Croydon is already started out on a journey that will see it rise from merely a town of potential, to one that will finally deliver on that potential. With more Grade A office space on the way, at prices significantly undercutting central London equivalents, more businesses will soon be travelling south. And their employees needn’t fear – a growing food culture, plans for twenty eight new public squares, and the arrival of Europe’s largest urban retail destination will provide plenty to do outside the office. To coincide with his vision of pop-up premises, Matthew concluded his presentation with a fried chicken tribute to Jonny Rose. Let’s just say that the world’s most popular fried chicken chain’s historic colonel has a new pretender to his throne.

To wrap up the presentations section, the last of the CTC co-founding trio, Nigel Dias, took to the stage. Rather than review where CTC has come from, just like Jonny had done earlier, Nigel set out the vision for the future. The regeneration plans for Croydon are intrinsically linked to the future rise of CTC and Nigel was able to map out how CTC can work with the council to maximise the opportunities ahead.

With the presentations wrapped up, the crowd moved back into the bar area for a couple of hours of networking. It would be absolutely wrong to underestimate, just as Nigel had reiterated, the importance of the these networking opportunities. It’s these informal discussions that can form the basis of longer term relationships, the enduring connections actively being built very possibly leading to the tech businesses of the future.

In 1989, Kevin Costner was to learn the infamous seven words “if you build it, they will come.” In the film of the same name, he realised his Field of Dreams. If the busiest CTC event ever is anything to go by, there’s a new field of dreams being built here in Croydon. They built it, and the people came. And that was without any party bags. Here’s to 2014.

The next #Croydon #TechCity event takes place on Thursday 20th February. To attend, please sign up as ‘attending’ here or to confirm your attendance.

Image by Fluid4Sight. Used with permission.

Image by Fluid4Sight. Used with permission.

Image by Fluid4Sight. Used with permission.

Andrew Easter

Andrew Easter

Andrew is a Co-Founder at Unroutine. He is an experienced (10+ years) technologist and software engineer/architect, formerly the Lead Platform Engineer at An active tech blogger and tweeter, you'll also be sure to find him engaged in many a debate on tech mailing lists, covering, amongst other things, framework implementation and software design principles. When Andrew is not writing code, and obsessively researching the best ways to build software, he'll probably be cycling, playing tennis, doing something musical, or watching Formula One.

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