Silicon Roundabout – Shoreditch tax haven creates start ups, growth and innovation

Occasionally I pick up a copy of the FT Weekend – there’s normally something in it that is thought provoking. This week it was the article on Silicon Roundabout that got me thinking. As software & web developers we like to keep an eye on what’s going on around the UK and the globe with regard techy stuff so we’d caught the Roundabout story before – particularly when David Cameron climbed aboard the roundabout in November in an attempt to take some credit.  

For those that don’t know Silicon Roundabout is the name being rather incorrectly tagged onto an area around Shoreditch, London that has seen growth in the number of techy companies starting up (eg Tweetdeck). On the face of it cheap (all things are relative) accomodation seems to be the driver for the cluster – though there is another important factor that I’ll get to eventually. The Roundabout emerged with no apparent government intervention – it just sort of happened. New Start’s setting up in apparent serendipity in the same area.

If you read the latest article you’ll see that the word “hype” is used. That word helped me read the article with more interest than normal – it seemed to suggest a level of honesty and openness that is seldom the case in blatent PR pieces. We’ve sort of been here before haven’t we – Silicon Glen (when will we see your likes again) and Silicon Fen (is it still being called that?) prime examples.

Sadly though we are talking about London – a City that seldom needs any hype to generate interest. So why use the word “hype”  and why the need for the kiss of death “Silicon X” tag? Doing the google thing to find out a bit more reveals that the start ups that find themselves on the roundabout have concerns about the lack of funding. Sounds familiar. Scottish tech start ups have long complained about a lack of funding – but here are our Cockney (is Shoreditch cockney?) friends lamenting the same. Hmmm.

A  look at Techhub (just down from the A5201/A501 circle) reveals partners including Google. The Techhub partner page is quite funny – the normal list of supporters with a paragraph for each until you get to Google – it simply says Google, no explanatory text. Now thats being famous! Techhub is a cheap hot desk facility – a couple of hundred quid a month gets you in and mixing with other techy types. In London I’m guessing that’s pretty unique.

So we’ve had Valleys, Glens and Fens, but now we have a Roundabout – makes me wonder what next… car park, cul de sac, traffic island?  A case of ever decreasing circles? I hope not.

But what of Scotland – do we have a Silicon Roundabout or Silicon Traffic Island we can create hype about? I’m not sure – but we do have the odd cluster here and there. I think there is one near the Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow, there’s Appleton Tower in Edinburgh, and a few creative types hanging around Leith Docks, and I’d better not forget the Games thing in Dundee. Not bad – and thankfully none of them tagged “Silicon X”. We’re based in Stirling – clearly the epicentre of Silicon Bridge (copyright 2011 me, with thanks to William Wallace copyright 1297).

Hmmm Silicon Bridge – suddenly the Silicon prefix sounds ok – gather round everybody lets get Dave C and Alex S to jump on the Silicon Bridge bandwagon.

But just one last thing as the repeats of Colombo keep saying… and it’s rather important. Geographically sensitive Mrs O points out that Shoreditch is just outside the London Congestion Charge zone (though Techhub appears to be within it). I’ve no idea how many of these Start Up’s are outside the Charging Zone – but could it be a coincidence that Shoreditch is in a traffc Tax haven? And if it’s more than a coincidence that something as banal as a Congestion charge has made a difference  what does that tell us about the importance of taxes? In a few months the next Scottish Government will have the power to alter taxes – based on the Shoreditch example dropping taxes could have a significant and positive impact on the Scottish business start up rate and resultant economic growth.

If a tax charge on traffic near Shoreditch creates “Silicon Roundabout” surely lower taxes in Scotland would create “Silicon Scotland”. Now that would be a prefix worth having – however inappropriate to the type of businesses created.

Lets give tax cutting a bash – seems to have worked in Shoreditch. Surely it would work in Scotland.


FT Silicon Roundabout article

Dave Cameron gets aboard the roundabout

Thee economist take on Silicon Roundabout and Dave C


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