Economic confidence returns to Croydon. Thanks, technology sector.

By - Friday 14th March, 2014

Jonny Rose reports on how technology in Croydon is leading the economic recovery

Two new reports released on Friday

In case you didn’t see the nifty council-authored press release last week, it is now official that Croydon has “the fastest growing technology cluster” with Croydon Tech City’s startup cluster achieving 23% growth since 2011, higher than London (17.1%) and the UK (11.3%) averages over this period. (ONS: UK BIZ: 2011 – 2013).

This coincided with a same-day release of an independent study commissioned by personal data leviathan Experian whose latest report showed Croydon being amongst the top ten towns and cities in the UK for best environment for business success, based on how businesses in these areas have performed throughout 2013.

The index reviewed performance against four key measures including; the number of start-ups; rate of insolvencies; the level of financial health; and turnover growth compared to 2012, with Croydon eclipsing areas such as West End, Oxford, Sutton, Bromley and York.

Forget the naysayers, Croydon’s economy is doing well

With Croydon losing flagship companies in 2012-3 – most notably, Nestlé, Allders and Bank of America – it’s easy to labour under the impression that the borough is flatlining as a place to do business.

Yet in the midst of these headline-titillating exoduses, the media have been ignoring the quiet revolution of SMEs and startups that have been germinating in Croydon since the riots.

In The Financial Times’ recent article on Croydon Tech City, Jonathan Moules identified that “13,000 businesses have set up in the nine CR postcode districts, according to Companies House filings”.

The Croydon Advertiser’s recent report showed that Croydon was home to a 1,000 new businesses since 2011 with Croydon’s biggest growth industry “being information and communication, up 22 per cent, from 1,190 to 1,465… Professional, scientific & technical, the borough’s largest industry group with nearly 2,000 businesses, is up 12.6 per cent”.

Croydon is outperforming other areas

Perhaps more interesting than Croydon’s economy in and of itself is how it compares to other areas.

We know from the Inter Departmental Business Register (IDBR) – which lists all VAT-registered traders and PAYE employers across the UK – that Croydon has seen an 8.4% increase in new businesses established since 2011, compared to 3.3% across the whole of England.

The Experian report is particularly insightful: whilst areas of London performed well in the overall index (particularly South East, West Central and East Central London), it was the outlying areas such as Croydon that outperformed the capital.

Startups are eschewing the likes of Oxford, Brighton, Cambridge and Aberdeen to set out their stall in Croydon Tech City.

Croydon had an insolvency score of ‘4’ meaning that only 0.76% of business population are becoming insolvent (compared to, say, “East Central London” which is ‘1’ with 1.35% businesses becoming insolvent). Croydon’s ‘Financial Strength Score’ predicts the likelihood of a business failing in the next 12 months. At ‘4’, businesses are more likely to thrive in Croydon than in Ipswich (3), York (3) and Worcester (3); and for sheer number of new startups in the last two years, Croydon Tech City (5) is eclipsing Cambridge, Brighton, Oxford and Aberdeen, amongst others.

Croydon Tech City is leading the recovery

WINNING: The Croydon Tech City community is restoring confidence in Croydon.

Drilling down in the figures it’s hard to escape the reality that until Westfield is here, Croydon’s economic boom is very clearly being led by the technology, media and communications sector.

Recently, I looked at how Croydon has seen more new media startups established in the last two years than any other borough in London. However, statistics from the Office of National Statistics show Croydon’s growth goes well beyond new editorial propositions incorporating here.

Crunching stats around Croydon Tech City’s growth: 185 tech businesses with 1,384 employees in the city centre and there are a further 830 tech companies operating in the wider borough (source: ONS. Business Register and Employment Survey 2013).

It’s no wonder that International Business Times came down to interview Croydon Tech City to find out more about the borough’s tech boom:

There is still much to be done

Against this backdrop of unbridled optimism, it would be remiss to pretend that all is rosy.

Whilst Croydon Central and the town centre area is set to enjoy “five years of opportunity”, it is quite clear that not all of the borough is benefitting from the fruits of local industry.

This has not been helped by a political class that is profoundly incapable of governing and preparing London’s most populous borough for the seismic economic and infrastructure requirements for the next decade(s), and a wider population that is criminally underskilled and unprepared to withstand the rigours of the ‘knowledge economy’ and increasing global competition.

Croydon Tech City is adamant that for its influence to be as inclusive as it is effective; everyone needs to get involved.

Through initiatives such Future Tech City, upskilling locals through access to free coding classes and developing strong relationships with tech companies that can be current and future employers, we intend to make Croydon’s tech-led economic recovery something for everyone to be happy about.

Until then, whether you are on the outside looking in or right in the thick of it, don’t forget to say “Thank you” the next time you bump into the many tech entrepreneurs, developers and creatives that are making Croydon’s economic recovery possible.

Croydon Tech City FTW.

The next Croydon Tech City event takes place on March 20th with the theme ‘Politics and Tech’, from 7:30PM at Matthew’s Yard. To attend, please sign up as ‘attending’ here or to confirm your attendance.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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