#Croydon #TechCity: November Review

By - Wednesday 27th November, 2013

#Croydon #TechCity was back to its roots this month in Matthews Yard and with London’s Deputy Mayor on the line-up, you weren’t getting in if your name wasn’t on the list.


Image by Fluid4Sight

After a month away, Croydon TechCity was back in Matthew’s Yard and the anticipation of the biggest name yet meant that the event was ticketed – and completely packed out. Nearly 100 people packed out the Theatre all keen to hear how #Croydon #TechCity looks from City Hall.

Keynoting was Deputy Mayor of London for Business and Enterprise, Mr Kit Malthouse. This was his second appearance in Croydon in recent times, having spoken at the Develop Croydon Conference just the week before. Malthouse is quite unlike many politicians – he’s been involved in five start-ups over the years, two of which were successful and he still helps to run. Because of this, he uses his role to help small businesses, which make up over 99 per cent of private sector businesses and account for 59 per cent of private sector employment in the UK, the people he describes as real business.

Malthouse spoke about his current plans for London in his four steps: infrastructure, from great transport to fast broadband; skills, to ensure that businesses are leading the way in deciding what skills will be vital to learn for the future; small and medium enterprises, a passion for Kit who is constantly frustrated by wheeling out FTSE 100 business CEOs because they don’t represent most businesses; and the diversification of London’s economy, because frankly, finance is dull and we should celebrate the science and tech culture which is also prevalent in the city.

 Even Nicolas Sarkozy once said that he wanted the outskirts of Paris to be like Croydon.

So where does this leave Croydon? Malthouse said he was excited for Croydon and the next few years. “Investment in the transport system will shrink London further than it has done and development in Croydon will rejuvenate the city centre.

“What’s the best thing we can do for you? Leave you alone. The biggest lie is the statement ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’”.

But he and his team are working behind the scenes to promote Croydon. On a recent business trip to China, he and Mayor Boris extolled the virtues of Croydon – cheaper housing comparatively with London; 15 minutes commute to the centre of London; and big developments coming to the city centre. The image problems that Croydon suffers here in the UK simply don’t exist on an international scale. Investors see opportunity. Even Nicolas Sarkozy once said that he wanted the outskirts of Paris to be like Croydon.

The Deputy Mayor closed by encouraging us to celebrate Croydon. “Celebrate the acorns here as they become oak trees” he said, reminding us that big success stories can happen here too.

After a quick break, we were back to hear from start-ups Famberry and Chew.TV. Steve Bardouille of Famberry, who spoke to us a year to the event at the third ever Croydon Tech City, was back to update us on his progress and also to offer advice on starting a startup. For those who’ve missed it, Famberry is a private family tree building network, which allows you to keep in touch with your family, sharing specific information with them safe in the knowledge it will stay with their eyes only. Famberry has enjoyed success recently as the Royal Russell School have taken on the platform to use in their family tree projects.

Steve also spoke to us about how important it is to choose well when you start to work with someone on a project close to your heart. His business partner Ola Dada shared the same passion for connecting families as Steve, and together they’ve been able to grow Famberry into a compelling and popular family brand. Steve told us that they’ve recently partnered with the Royal Russell School and the Rainforest Café – and you have to be bold to get deals like that! Ola’s parting advice to us about business partners was clear: “If someone’s talking about shortcuts… you might want to avoid them.”

Image by Fluid4Sight

Closing the evening was Ben Bowler of Chew TV, ‘a live and video on demand platform for artists DJs and labels’. By day, Ben is a developer for online news company Vice, but he spends his evenings travelling across London setting up and filming sets for artists and DJs in clubs and streaming them live through his site. Ben is keen to fill the gap left in the market by YouTube being ‘in bed’ with major labels and shutting down live streaming even when it’s all above board. Ben’s pitch was confident and he received a warm welcome from the Tech City crowd who are known for their probing questions. Ben works with four brands at the moment but is looking to expand and keen to get more developer and DJs on board, so if it caught your eye, get in touch with him on twitter.

The next Croydon Tech City takes place on December 19th, sign up on Facebook. Or there will be a casual meetup on December 5th at Matthew’s Yard.

Becca Taylor

Becca Taylor

Becca is a newcomer to South London, currently living in Sutton and working in Purley, as ICUK.net's Head of Marketing. She has a background in politics and journalism, and is slowly learning the ropes in the tech world. A graduate of Swansea University, Becca is also a keen fitness enthusiast and a proud fan of Southampton FC.

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  • Gareth Lamb

    Being a tech consultant and working in Croydon I’ve often asked the same questions as above. What could they do to make Croydon more appealing to businesses? Build nicer offices maybe or more infrastructure perhaps? This is typically the approach for many politician and town planners, but I’ve come to realise that with most things in life they have forgotten the people behind the businesses they want to attract. Without skilled workers there is no business, so the question should be, how do we attract these workers to Croydon, not simply more businesses to fill the masses of empty office space already available. Why would someone that is living and working in central London want to come to Croydon to work? What can it office in terms of arts, entertainment and leisure? Where is the cafe culture that is at the heart of the London tech scene? In these areas Croydon has been found lacking and will not realise its potential until these are addressed.

    • Becca Taylor

      The point isn’t necessarily to be a mini East London – it’s to recognise Croydon for what it is and what it can do. Shoreditch isn’t perfect and neither is Croydon, but I reckon you’d find that in most areas, the businesses and families come first and then the cafes and the theatres come and survive afterwards because there’s a market there for them.
      We really don’t need to mimic anyone to be the next tech hub – and we shouldn’t try.

      • Gareth Lamb

        I’m not saying any one area is perfect but if you’re trying to attract talented people from central London to Croydon then it must have more than just good infrastructure and rail connections. The past 50 years of town planning in Croydon has shown us that this is not enough. There is a reason East Croydon is so busy come rush hour, its because everyone is leaving, there is nothing here to make them want to stay.