'Lots of failed startups came out of Campus': Google axes London hub because startup scene 'doesn't need' another 7 floors of workspace

It needs 'resources, mentors, and programs ... at scale, anywhere'


The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another casualty: Google Campus, the flash Shoreditch startup hub launched in 2012 to grow London's tech scene.

Google said the pandemic had "demonstrated" it could somehow support the startup community without occupying a seven-storey building in the heart of Central London. The shift to remote working, it added, had allowed it to support fledgling businesses beyond the perimeter of the Tube network.

Lots of failed startups came out of Campus, man. People went there assuming they'd find co-founders and investors. Sometimes it was true, but most of the time it wasn't...

Google also noted the existence of competition from other accelerators and co-working spaces. When the service first launched, WeWork hadn't yet reached the level of ubiquity it now enjoys, San Francisco was still the shining city on the hill, and London had more Angus Steakhouses than accelerators. Now the English capital is a tech hub - at least from investors' point of view - with its startups collectively raising £7.6bn in venture capital funding during 2020 alone.

"Today's founders in London are part of a vibrant ecosystem of 250+ coworking spaces, 35+ accelerators, corporate programs, and thousands of startups providing services to each other," Google said. "The UK startup community doesn't need access to a single shared physical space as much as it needs access to resources, mentors, and programs available at scale, anywhere."

Google said it remained "committed" to the UK's startup scene, and would continue funding initiatives including $2m Black Founders Fund and educational programmes like Startup School.

Unlike competing workspaces, literally anyone with a laptop could show up and toil from the Chocolate Factory's public areas, provided they'd registered in advance. Although seating was perpetually in short supply, if you arrived early enough, we have heard it was a decent place to spend a few hours working without worrying that your laptop would get nicked while you were in the toilets.

"I remember when the tech scene first started bustling in London it was the go-to for any kind of hackathon," said Shad Jahangir, product designer at JustPark.

"I worked in the TechHub on the first floor for a year too. It gave me a weird kind of insight onto the day-to-day there. Lots of failed startups came out of Campus, man. People went there assuming they'd find co-founders and investors. Sometimes it was true, but most of the time it wasn't."

Feeding our, er, minds

"Anyone who has had the opportunity of working on Google Campus will have a plethora of memories, but as any young person starting off their career might attest, it was the free food provided which made a lasting impression," added Heather Delaney, managing director at Gallium Ventures.

"Whether it was the fully stocked kitchen of drinks and snacks, or the bagels which you could grab and run, those coming out of university found a working environment giving away food a bit like Willy Wonka's factory of goodies."

Ahem.

Cathy White, founder of CEW Comms, told us: "Some of my earliest memories getting to know and navigate London's flourishing tech scene happened there. Whether it was attending a Silicon Drinkabout, mentoring, working with the Seedcamp team, or running a Meetup, campus was a space for everything and everyone...

"I won't miss the weird smell the café had or the dodgy lift, but I will miss that sense of community." ®

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