Experts say the growth in this sector in the capital has been phenomenal.
They say London’s reputation for digital tech innovation and excellence is unparalleled. More than a third of Europe’s tech unicorns, that is businesses valued at a $1 billion or more, are based in the capital. Blippar, the augmented reality company joined the ranks in 2016. Alongside, Shazam, Transferwise, Rightmove, Funding Circle and many more. 14 out of 47 of Europe’s unicorns now call London home, double the number of the next closest country.
London’s reputation is growing ever stronger as a world leader in digital tech. The City, which is seen as the global capital for finance, has growing fintech companies such as Transferwise, Algomi, iwoca and eToro are giving the big banks a run for their money.
London is now seen as the fintech capital of the world.Meanwhile, the East End has its fair share of start-ups. Kano, SAM Labs, and ROLI are on the frontline of a maker movement, while Plexal at Here East, part of the Olympic Games Park, has been transformed into a hub of digital tech activity with 68,000 sq ft of co-working space.
To the north, Abbey Road Studios – once the heart of the swinging sixties’ music scene, now runs an ‘Abbey Road Red’ incubator programme for music tech entrepreneurs.
The capital’s giant e-commerce industry – boasting platforms such as Farfetch, Matchesfashion.com, Depop and Threads, has spread its roots as far as Richmond, where Notonthehighstreet.com has its leafy headquarters. Co-working spaces can be found in all corners of the city, from Second Home, just off Brick Lane, to Interchange in Camden, via Bermondsey’s Biscuit Factory and TMRW in Croydon’s Tech City.
There are now close to 200 co-working spaces in London. London is home to four of the best universities in the world which are generating and attracting a rich pool of talent. They are the foundation of the city’s rich knowledge base, known as the Knowledge Quarter. It includes institutes such as the Alan Turing Institute, as well as tech companies such as Google.
Accelerator programmes spanning all sectors can be found in the city. One shining example is Entrepreneur First, which supports London’s emergence as a machine intelligence powerhouse.
The AIM on the London Stock Exchange performed well in 2016, with 39 IPOs raising almost £1 billion. What’s more, in 2016 alone London tech companies attracted £2.2 billion of VC and PE funding. Some of the largest rounds of funding were raised by Diliveroo, Citymapper and Darktrace. In January 2016, the £50 million UCL Technology Fund was set up to invest in intellectual property from University College London while in the same month, the £40 million Apollo Therapeutics Fund was created in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and UCL. King’s College London announced the first 20 startups to join its new accelerator programme, while food tech startups received a boost from the opening of Just Eat’s new accelerator programme.
Google plans to hire more than 3,000 staff in the UK, in what amounts to a major boost to the UK digital tech sector in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
The expansion of their King’s Cross campus would leave it employing 7,000 in London by 2020, making it the biggest development outside the US. Also expanding in the capital are Apple, Amazon and Snap, which has chosen London as its international HQ.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has launched a £7 million scheme to support young people, especially women and minority groups, into digital tech careers.
Finally, an important part of any city is its cultural offering. The Barbican Centre in Moorgate is working with other cultural organisations to form a Cultural Hub, a creative alliance which builds upon the City’s already internationally acclaimed cultural offer.